Bride and Groom with parents on wedding day

Step-parents and their role in your wedding

Step-family weddings have the biggest potential to kick off, especially when your real parents don’t get along. So how do you involve both your biological and step-parents in your wedding without rocking the boat?

In the run-up to the wedding

Money

If both your parents and step-parents want to contribute to the wedding, keep the amounts even. And if you can, keep your contribution higher than everyone else’s. That way you’ll be able to have the last say without feeling any guilt.

Organising

If your step-mum wants to help organise the wedding, be sure to give your actual mum first dibs on duties. Just make sure your mum isn’t biting off more than she can chew. If they don’t like each other, you might be faced with either of them overstretching themselves to keep the other one out.

Hen/Stag parties

It’s traditional to invite your mum or dad to your hen or stag party. And if step-parents are involved and everyone gets on, you can still do this. But if they don’t, it makes sense to invite your biological parents to the main event and do something separate with your step-parents, if it’s important to you.

young men and women celebrating

At the ceremony

Giving the bride away

If you’re the bride to be, deciding who walks you down the aisle is probably the toughest decision you’ll have to make in this whole ‘step-family wedding’ scenario. Traditionally, it’s the bride’s father that plays this role. But in today’s wedding world, tradition can sometimes be an archaic constraint.

Ultimately, the person who walks you down the aisle is someone who’s played a significant role in your life. If that’s your step-dad and your real dad won’t get annoyed, give the honour to him.

Or it might be your mum because she raised you as a single parent – or your brother, sister or granddad because they’re awesome. Whoever it is, if it’s someone you have a special bond with, you’ve made the right choice.

Seating

Unless you’re in the (rare) situation where your parents and step-parents get on, working out who sits where during the ceremony is tough. Sit them too close together and they could spend the ceremony scowling at each other, rather than watching you get married. Sit one closer to the front than the other and you’re seen as picking favourites. So the best (most adult) thing to do is to sit them apart but on a level pegging.

Photography

Who you have in your photographs is completely up to you – they’re your wedding-day memories after all. But if your parents struggle to be in the same room together let alone the same picture, remain sensitive to their feelings. You might have a picture taken with your new partner and your dad (and his partner), and then one of the same but with your mum (and her partner). However you keep the peace, make sure you brief the photographer before the big day. We don’t want them mistaking your step-mum for your actual mum now, do we?

Image courtesy of Quinn Burke Photo

Image courtesy of Quinn Burke Photo

At the reception

Seating

During the reception, your parents will both want to sit in places of honour. But if they don’t get on, putting them at the bridal table isn’t an option. Instead, ask them to host two separate tables. Make sure the tables are far enough apart so they can both relax and enjoy themselves. And like our recommended approach to the ceremony seating, keep the tables at a level pegging.

Toasting

Toasts are always a wedding highlight, and traditionally, the father of the bride goes first. But if you have an awesome relationship with your dad and your step-dad, and they both want to do a speech, avoid a mic squabble (a la Bridesmaids) by letting your biological dad go first. You might also want to get someone impartial to read over their speeches beforehand because – let’s face it – even adults can’t resist one-upmanship.

Bridal dance

Traditionally, it’s a father’s honour to dance with their daughter after she’s married. But if you have a close bond with your step-dad and want to share that honour, you could split the dance between your real dad and your step-dad. If you do, make sure you let them both know ahead of the big day. And definitely don’t forget to tell the DJ or MC on the day, so they know what to announce to the rest of the guests.

For the most part, planning a step-family wedding can feel more like a ‘keeping the peace’ process rather than a ‘boo-yeah, I’m getting married’ process. And after one too many parent-step-parent squabbles, it’s easy to throw your hands up and say, ‘Stuff it – it’s my day I’ll do what I want!’

But hang in there. If things get tough, remind your parents and step-parents about how important it is that they are all present at your wedding. And if you’re worried there might be issues on the big day, ask your best man or bridal party to be on the lookout for any hiccups, and to step in if things get out of hand. If your parents are decent human beings, they’ll snap out of it and put their differences aside. If not, you could always elope

Seating plan sign

Are you in the middle of organising a step-family wedding and struggling to juggle all the opinions? Or have you successfully been part of such a wedding and want to share some tips? Let us know in the comments box below.

About the author

Jo Wigley

From her word-nerd studio (way) down under in New Zealand, the copywriter in Jo crafts websites, advertising campaigns, scripts, blogs and brochures for businesses across the world. While the creative consultant in her helps brands, big and small, find their voice in one heck of a noisy world.

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