Dear Wedding Maven,
Both my parents are remarried and they all hate each other. My stepparents have been in my life for 10 years and I want to include them both. My mom has already made a comment about how my stepmom is not my “mom” and didn’t raise me but she also thinks my step-dad should be included. I want my stepmom to be a part of the unity box, where my mom, his mom and my step-mom carry two glasses and a bottle of wine instead of the candle. My dad is in a wheel chair so he cannot walk me down the aisle so I thought my step-dad could walk me up to my dad and then my dad can give me away. I really just want everyone to be included and to get along. It’s only one day but seriously everyone acts like if I pick this person to do something, then I don’t love him or her and I don’t know what to do PLEASE help!!
Seriously Stressed Out
I think that tension between divorced parents is one of the most common sources of stress for engaged couples. Not only does a wedding bring up age-old hurts between people (both the divorced couple and the children and parents), but having an example of a divorce thrust into their face on a regular basis makes the engaged couple worry about their own chances. That’s when everyone involved behaves well, when people don’t, it gets magnified, as it is for you.
I think it’s wonderful that you want to honor your stepparents. They’ve been a part of your life for a long time, and while your mother says they didn’t “raise you,” they are partly responsible for the person you’ve turned out to be.
That being said, given that there is tension between all parties, I think it might be easier for you if you clearly defined roles for your parents and your stepparents instead of including your stepparents in “parent activities.”
For example, just because your father is in a wheelchair, there’s no reason he can’t “walk” you down the aisle. If the aisle isn’t wide enough for you to walk next to his wheelchair, you could walk behind him, or he could meet you at the end of the aisle and you could walk down the aisle by yourself to meet him. If your dad and stepdad or mom and dad got along then I’d suggest having two of them walk you, but since they don’t, give this honor to your dad alone.
Similarly, if the “unity box” is for moms, then let your mom have the “unity box” to herself with your new mother-in-law. She’s sensitive about being your only mother, so make it clear that she is. This leaves the question about what to do to honor your stepparents.
The easiest ways to make sure everyone knows how you feel about your stepparents is to put a note in your wedding program that says “We couldn’t have made it to today without the love and support of our parents Bride’s Mom and Stepdad, Bride’s Dad and Stepmom and Groom’s parents. You can also have your stepdad walk your mom down the aisle and have your stepmom escorted down the aisle by a groomsman or usher before the start of the processional. If you’re having readings or prayers, choosing your stepparents to deliver these is another great way to honor them.
Whatever you decide to do to honor your stepparents, please remember what you were hopefully told as a child: Your parents’ divorce is not your fault or your problem. You are not responsible for causing the divorce, and you aren’t responsible for making everyone happy. These people do not get along, there’s no wedding plan that you can come up with to make them do so. Honor your parents and stepparents in the way that makes sense to you.
Do you need wedding advice? Do you have a question about wedding related traditions or etiquette? Write the Wedding Maven at firstname.lastname@example.org