From the time you decide to tie the knot, to your wedding day, until the very last day of your honeymoon, is supposed to be a joyous, fun, happy and memorable era of your lives for you and your fiance! 

But wedding planning with divorced or separated parents on either side of the family can complicate things a little. Meaning an engaged couple might also need to also potentially navigate an emotional minefield of unspoken rules, misunderstandings, hurt feelings, with added stress and tension. 

For many couples these days, it’s increasingly common for one, or both, of them to have divorced parents, bonus parents and step Brothers and Sisters. And, seeing as they may not have separated or divorced on good terms, the situation is likely to call for increased sensitivity, diplomacy and boundaries!

Whether they’ve only separated recently or have been apart for many years, your wedding and your loving relationship can bring up a lot of strong, and sometimes unresolved, emotions for them. And, these feelings might take them by surprise in their strength and persistence!

Often this is not only the case for you, your fiancé and your parents, but close family and friends may also experience the tension as both parties try to navigate each other, their emotions and the decisions that need to be made in the planning stages and also on the wedding day itself. 

It’s no wonder that wedding planning and trying to involve your divorced or separated parents can feel like it creates a lot of added pressure on you. It does! But, here’s a few ways to help take the pressure off!

Planning a Drama-Free Wedding

Enjoying your dream wedding day is still possible without unnecessary family drama stemming from your divorced, separated or remarried parents. 

First comes our absolute number one piece of advice! 

Decide, Set and Share your Expectations Early On!

Cutting through the sometimes complex dynamics between divorced, separated or remarried parents requires forward planning, with a healthy dose of sensitivity! 

To that end, generally speaking, when people are surprised or put on the spot, they’re more likely to bring other unproductive/unhelpful emotions out in the open too, especially on a grand, formal occasion like a wedding. 

The key is to be upfront with everyone as early as possible, meaning:

  • Keep tensions low by openly and honestly communicating your expectations to your parents and your wedding planner (if you have one) at the start of your wedding planning, or even directly after you announce your engagement.  
  • Talk individually with both of your parents and be upfront about your hopes and plans for them on your wedding day. 
  • Do not, in any circumstance, spring decisions and expectations on them in a group setting or with their ex-spouse in attendance.
  • Give a heads-up to your bridesmaids, wedding party, siblings, and other key family members who may be able to help to make any uncomfortable situations a little more bearable in the leadup and on the day.
  • Think about the pre-wedding gatherings and their impacts too; engagement parties, the hens/buck’s night, bridal shower and wedding dress shopping are also times and occasions you will need to consider the emotional impact of including (or excluding) one parent might have on the other.

Give Everyone Jobs

Humans can be strange! If you give them too much responsibility, they’re likely to be unhappy, but on the flip side, if you don’t give them any responsibility, they tend to feel like their contributions are unimportant or the relationship is not valued! 

So, for those parents not included in the ceremony entrance or processional, make sure to give them the opportunity to help with a different, but equally important, job and try to include your step-parents too, if applicable and possible!

From readings during the ceremony to toasts at your wedding reception, to helping set-up decor before the celebration, ask your parents and step-parents to help with tasks that make them feel involved and valued during the leadup to and on your wedding day. 

Be Strategic With Your Seating Plan

Allocating specific seats for (at least) your immediate families, from the ceremony right up to the reception, means that: 

  • Everyone knows where they need to be, 
  • No one is trying to second-guess what you want
  • Uncomfortable/problematic interactions are minimized
  • Everyone’s anxiety and/OR sense of authority is kept in check.

Bottom line: The less all they need to interact, the less there’ll be to worry about.

Be Mindful of Your Parent’s Feelings

Even though the wedding day is your day as a couple, it doesn’t happen in a vacuum! So, if you value your relationships with your parents and/or stepparents then it’s important to be sensitive to how they feel within reason! So, give everyone ample time to process their feelings and step away from your wedding planning, or your parents, for a while if you need to! This can really help to give you a little perspective when strong initial reactions to your decisions feel hurtful to them. Keep as calm as you can and try not to get caught in the middle of any high emotion or drama, and hold strong to the boundaries and list of non-negotiables you have decided on as a couple!