The modern family can be complex, and dealing with step parents or absent parents can be a challenge. In the case of my sister’s wedding, my mother walked her down the aisle. When it came time to answer the question, “Who gives this woman to be married?” my mother answered, “Her family and friends.” Our side of the family thought this was a great way to handle things since our mother raised us while our father lived halfway across the country most of our lives. To our chagrin, he was offended and was vocal about it. After many long, angry, tearful conversations the matter was never truly resolved. My sister’s intention was to honor my mother, not dishonor my father, but to this day he is still angry about it.
Would Emily Post or Miss Manners approve of the way that situation was handled? It would have been nice to have had their input at the time. Luckily, you can simply go to the Etiquette section of our Wedding Neighborhood. We may not have all the answers, but you will find plenty of thoughtful advice from experts who can help you decide how best to handle these sensitive matters.
In her book Simple, Stunning, Wedding Etiquette, Karen Bussen recommends that once the bride and groom have decided what is most important to them, they then share their objectives with family and friends diplomatically, “Take the time and effort to be tactful, even if you must refuse an offer or deliver unwanted news.”
Emily Post’s Wedding Etiquette includes a very helpful chart on page 334 showing the most appropriate way to seat family, including step parents. “Divorced parents may or may not get along, or the bride may be close to one parent and not the other. Tact and diplomacy will be critical to keep the peace.”
In her Guide to a Surprisingly Dignified Wedding, Miss Manners saves most of her advice for the step parents rather than the bride or groom, “Step into parental roles when invited to do so but refrain from sulking if not.” If only guests were expected to read Miss Manners before attending your wedding.
These authors all agree that you can include everyone you love, and even a few you don’t, while still having the wedding you want if you deal with these touchy issues head on with love and respect.