Weddings are one of those rare occasions in life where everyone you love is in the same room. Which depending on your loved ones, could be a beautiful thing…or a disaster waiting to happen! Not everyone has the same family dynamic, and it can be tricky figuring out how to respectfully and appropriately represent the people that are most important to you on your wedding day! We reached out to some of the experts to see what advice and tips they had for keeping your families happy and civil during this special time for the two of you. From step-parents to blended families to parental figures, here’s how to make sure your wedding feels right for you and YOUR family.
Rethink tradition whenever possible.
“Besides open and honest communication, I think the most important thing you can do when dealing with sticky family dynamics is to rethink tradition. Consider walking down the aisle solo. Give all of your parental figures the opportunity to make a speech. Nix the parent dances entirely or make it a family dance with your kiddos. Give yourselves the freedom to do whatever works for your particular family dynamics—regardless of what formal wedding tradition or etiquette suggests!” -Jenna Miller, Creative Director of Here Comes The Guide
Get the families onboard.
“As an experienced wedding team who specializes in planning multicultural, interfaith, interracial and fusion weddings, we have learned that the secret to respectfully navigating any family dynamic begins with getting the families onboard. This is most successful when all persons feel heard, understood and represented. Work with event professionals who can provide expert guidance on etiquette and traditions while honoring the couple’s distinctive requests. Have foresight of the needs of the families and effectively communicate ensuring everyone feels valued and that ultimately the couple is celebrated with love.” -Donielle Warren, Owner & Lead Planner, Elegant Events Planning + Design
Try to create equal representation and participation for each family
“Planning a wedding is stressful enough with managing guest lists, deadlines, and budgets, add in family to the mix, and the stress can feel magnified. It’s important to find ways of trying not to alienate members of the family, while making sure your wedding vision remains uncompromised. We recommend there be equal representation and participation from both sides of the family. When you have blended families, you have to consider step-parents/ siblings, parental figures, and even grandparents. The couple can assign tasks or special roles to these loved family members that they want to acknowledge in a special way during the celebration. They can be Ushers, Attendants for the Processional, escorts for a grandparent or VIP family member, someone can read a poem or bible verse, or even bless the meal.” –HoneyFitz Events
Don’t forget about the traditional formalities.
“Respectfully representing each family as it relates to non-traditional couples does not mean that you can break all the rules. On the contrary, there are many instances in which some formalities must take place to be considered acceptable. For example, in some interfaith marriages there is more than one wedding officiant so that the marriage is validated by both parties. We suggest implementing unique family traditions by either blending customs during the wedding celebration or hosting multiple wedding events where each family can display their preferred customs or traditions.” -Donielle Warren, Owner & Lead Planner, Elegant Events Planning + Design
Keep your planner looped in.
“Whatever your family dynamic, make sure that you inform your planner of this very clearly ahead of time and reiterate it along the way of the planning process. Your planner will keep this in mind and will ask you regularly if and when there may be friction points. I always ask for a photo list of bridal parties so that I can recognize all essential guests, but I also ask for any family dynamic friction specific images so that I can pre-empt any issues on the day. Take the time to think carefully about photo moments, dance moments, table settings and of course ceremony seating, so that no situation arises that could make you both or anyone around you uncomfortable.” -Charlotte Ricard-Quesada, La Fête
Make it your own!
“While respecting traditions is important, we also suggest mixing things up! Show off unique elements allowing both families to learn and embrace one another. Better yet, create new traditions that will be long remembered and celebrated for generations to come!” Donielle Warren, Owner & Lead Planner, Elegant Events Planning + Design
Remember: seating charts are your friend here.
“When you have a tricky family situation at your wedding, seating charts will be your best friend. Don’t leave open seating to chance for conflict to stir; instead, take the time to thoroughly map out where you want your guests seated around the reception. Similarly, if you are a family with multiple sets of parents or special relatives, you can find ways to include them in a special moment outside of the standard dances or toasts. Allowing someone to give a reading during the ceremony or blessing prior todinner gives different family members a special role and time for them to dedicate to you.” -Ari Busch, Operations Manager and Lead Planner at Bridal Bliss
Keep in mind that “family” can be whomever YOU choose.
“Family” in today’s age can cover a wide variety of definitions. I encourage my couples to identify the chosen family they would like to engage in the happenings of the day. As an example -a bride whose father has passed may choose to do a parent dance with her mother, uncle, grandfather, or another special father figure. A groom whose parents are divorced and remarried may choose to have his mother and step mother escort him down the aisle. A couple who shares a very special extended family friend may ask them to perform the ceremony or to be a reader at their ceremony. There is no wrong when it comes to how you envision your wedding day -traditional or unconventional -as long as it reflects the couple, it’s right!” -Alexandra Denniston, Owner & Lead Planner, Eventlightenment Planning