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How to avoid divorcee drama at your wedding

by | 15 October 2016 | Couple

There’s nothing quite like a wedding to inflame the old wounds from an acrimonious divorce. Let’s have a look at the best ways to avoid a full-on divorcee catfight on your big day.

Some divorcees can sit happily together at a wedding, perhaps with their new partners either side of them, and rejoice in tandem at the sight of their child tying the knot.

Others have a relationship so toxic they’ll see the entire day as a battle of wits, which could spill over at any time into a full on, screaming, cake-flinging brawl.

If you’re getting married and you have divorcees in your family who fall into the second category, this one’s for you. Here’s how to make sure their lingering resentment stays firmly shelved throughout your wedding day.

Place names for seating

Don’t let anything sneak up on you

Before we get specific, let’s just run down a quick list of all the things that can cause disagreements between divorcees. This stuff mostly applies to when it’s the bride or groom’s parents, but some of them can cause friction in the extended family too.

  • Seating plans for the wedding and reception
  • Who pays for what
  • Who walks the bride down the aisle
  • Who should be invited (in cases of major animosity)
  • Who gives speeches
  • Family photos
  • Who rides in what car
  • The first dances
  • Bridal showers, engagement parties, stag and hen dos
  • Who’s where on the morning of the wedding
  • General behaviour (and booze intake) at the reception

Don’t shy away from big decisions

Sometimes your choice of who walks the bride down the aisle or who gives the speeches will leave someone disappointed. But dancing around those decisions will only make it worse. Just like when you choose your head bridesmaid or best man, it’s tough because you know you’re having to publicly declare who means the most to you. But it needs to be done.

There’s no reason you can’t be flexible. If you’re a bride with a really close relationship with both your fathers, the sensible idea would be to have them both walk you down the aisle. But if you’re much closer with one of them than the other, don’t suggest they share duties just because you don’t want to upset anyone. That just shifts the likely disappointment to the person who means most to you. Imagine you’re a devoted father who’s magic moment is being gatecrashed by some guy your ex wife has met and married within the last few years. That’s going to hurt.

Don’t think of it as just an on-the-day thing

Divorcee conflict can crop up long before you all get your fancy frocks and suits on.

In fact, it can start almost immediately after you announce your engagement. And it usually starts with a parent, talking to a friend, saying something like:

Yeah, I’m really looking forward to it. My only worry is [ex’s name]. I know exactly what [he/she] is like – [he/she] will try to…blah, blah, blah.

If you think that’s a danger, you’ll need to address it quickly – not least because they could start bickering behind your back, while trying not to ‘drag you into it’.

It’s also worth thinking about whether lingering divorce tension could come into play at bridal showers, engagement parties, stag and hen dos. Step brothers and sisters with fractious relationships can be a worry, especially when the booze starts flowing.

Who should be invited?

If there’s been a really acrimonious divorce involving someone you don’t consider family, you’re totally within your rights to say you don’t want them at your wedding.

Let’s say your wedding comes less than a year after your mum left your dad to shack up with 28-year-old Brett from the golf club. You’d be under no obligation to invite Brett to your wedding if you think his presence will cause friction or sadness. As long as you word it carefully and honestly, it would take a very self-centered person to criticise your decision.

But most importantly…

Vintage white seating board with pink decoration

Make sure everyone knows the deal

When we chatted to all our friends about this, most of them said words to the effect of: “Tell them that if they love you they can put their petty squabbling aside and act like adults for one day.”

If it can all be that simple, great. But if not, you’ll need to make some very deliberate arrangements to keep the friction to a minimum. And it’s important to tell the right people what’s happening.

If you have a wedding planner, they’ll need to know all the gory details. Your photographer will need to know who you want included in the family shots. If you’ve said a specific person isn’t invited, explain your decision to all the most important people in your family and wedding party – so it doesn’t become an elephant in the room.

It might lead to some awkward chats, but just remember that each one is an awkward moment you’re getting out of the way before the day that matters.

Have you seen divorcee disputes threaten to derail a wedding?

What happened? What did the bride and groom do? Tell us all about it in the comments.

About the author

Matt Phil Carver

Matt’s a copywriter and blogger from West Sussex, England. He spends his days helping people simplify their writing and give their words more punch and personality. At weddings, Matt’s always quick to get up and dance, even when the vicar’s telling him to wait for the reception.


Couple How to avoid divorcee drama at your wedding