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Communicate when wedding planning with divorced parents
By Karen Templeton
MSU Ag Communications
MISSISSIPPI STATE – Planning a wedding can be stressful for any couple, but when the bride or groom has divorced parents, the process can be even more challenging.
“Communication is key to successful planning when the bride’s or groom’s parents are divorced,” said Carla Stanford, Mississippi State University Extension child and family development area agent in Pontotoc County. “The couple needs to sit down with their parents and look at ways everyone can participate. This can be tough when there is animosity involved. I suggest that couples develop a script ahead of time so they make sure they hit all the important points.”
An unbiased, outside person can help couples develop and communicate a plan to their divorced parents. A wedding planner, clergy member or trusted friend can fill this role.
“As a wedding planner, I’ve been involved in a lot of these discussions with couples and their parents,” said Deborah Simmons, owner of Signature Occasions in Jackson. “I always encourage the parents to put their negative feelings aside and focus on what the bride and groom want. In all my years of doing this, I’ve never once had parents refuse. They generally take the highroad and do what is necessary to make the couple happy.”
Simmons said there is no reason to forgo tradition just because one or both sets of parents are divorced.
“It isn’t about changing the way things are done; it’s just a matter of making sure everyone is included,” she said. “If the bride’s family is hosting the wedding and her parents are divorced, it is still possible to include both of their names even if they have different last names.”
Couples can help avoid hurt feelings and build stronger relationships by including stepfamilies in wedding activities.
“Couples can designate two rows for family rather than just one. Parents can sit in the first row, and their current spouses can sit right behind them,” Simmons said. “It is important to include parents’ current spouses as it helps foster relationships that will last many years.”
Incorporating new family members into a traditional wedding ceremony and reception can be challenging, but it can also mean more help for the bride and groom.
“Sometimes, the more the merrier,” Stanford said. “Brides and grooms can call on all family members to help with planning and getting things accomplished when preparing for a wedding. By giving everyone a role, the bride and groom will give each of them a true sense of belonging.”
Stanford said wedding vendors can also help things go more smoothly and take pressure off the couple.
“Couples can inform the wedding photographer about their parents’ divorce, new spouses and stepchildren so the photographer can make sure everyone is included in the photos,” Stanford said. “Brides and grooms can simply make a list for the photographer, and he or she can then make sure everyone is represented and that everyone is posed appropriately. For example, the photographer can arrange to have the father and stepmother together in a photo to ensure that no one is left out.”
The wedding officiant, caterer, band or disc jockey should also be aware of the family’s situation if the couple is concerned about anyone feeling left out.
“Having everyone on the same page can help when it is time to make toasts, give special acknowledgement in the ceremony and announce the wedding party or special dances,” Stanford said. “There is a place for everyone in the wedding celebration.”
Simmons encourages couples not to fret over planning a wedding with their divorced parents.
“The bottom line is that everyone wants the couple to be happy,” she said. “The feelings of joy can easily overpower any negative feelings from the past.”
Contact: Dr. Carla Stanford, (662) 489-3910