How to Handle Difficult Family Dynamics at Your Wedding

Wedding Planning

May 11, 2021

There is NO SUCH THING AS THE PERFECT FAMILY DYNAMICS! As much as we all wish we have the perfect family and everyone gets along, it’s just not common.  That’s ok.  Winner Circle Events is here to help!

Many family members may say they will put their differences aside on your wedding day, unfortunately this isn’t always the case the day of the wedding.  In many complicated family situations, emotions tend to always peak around major family events-and your wedding is no exception. You’re not alone in wanting a drama free experience, it may be helpful for all involved to stop and recognize that a wedding isn’t always the ideal time to put an end to a family feud. If you hired a planner, it’s important for the planner to be aware of the family dynamics prior to the event or wedding day.  Otherwise, if you don’t have the budget for a planner to help diffuse the situation, from difficult parents to estranged siblings, here are four of the most challenging circumstances you and your family may face on or before the event / wedding day.

How to handle seating at the ceremony when two parents do not speak to each other.

We get it and we have experienced this before with a few of our WCE Couples.  The parents refuse to sit next to each other at your wedding.  Try to place someone between them as a buffer. That person or couple could be someone like a grandparent, aunt or uncle, niece or nephew, or anyone else who could be seen as a neutral party in your immediate family. Traditionally, your mother would be seated in the first aisle closest to you. It’s usually best to follow this tradition and seat the buffer person, or people, between. You may also ask your father to sit in the first seat along the aisle of the second row. His immediate family would sit in that row as well, while your mother’s immediate family would be seated in the front row with her.

What do about estranged siblings at an event or wedding?

If you or your partner has an estranged sibling, this could make for sensitive territory when planning a wedding. The majority of etiquette books will encourage you to send an invitation and leave it up to the sibling to decide whether to join the festivities. However, leaving the ball in their court may be how you ended up here in the first place. Give yourself and your sibling some time to plan ahead. If you’d like to see them at your wedding, it may be worth extending an olive branch in the form of a more personal phone call or email. Reach out, be genuine, and take it slow. You’ll know what to do based on the response you get.

How to handle estranged parents at an event or wedding?

If you or your partner haven’t spoken with a parent in many years, well, this may be the right time to make peace or at least try to be civil.  Best piece of advice, make plans to meet them in person soon after the engagement should be your first step.  Then, give yourself plenty of time to decide how to handle the situation so you can make a level-headed judgment call. It may help to have your fiancé or a sibling along with you when you get together, or you may feel it’s best to face this solo. Something to keep in mind is that you don’t want to be on alert throughout the whole event or wedding, so it may be best to invite them only to the ceremony depending how your conversation goes.

How to handle a divorced parent’s request not to invite the other parent’s new spouse or partner.

This situation hit home for me.  My Mother could not set aside her pettiness for our wedding day and argued about us inviting my step-mother to the pre-events and the wedding.  So, you’re not alone! It’s unfortunate, but it’s also very common that one parent may insist that their ex-spouse not attend the wedding and even bring a guest (despite if they are remarried).  Whatever their reasoning, your parents need to see the bigger picture and how this kind of request impacts your stress level.

While you may be comfortable catering to their request, it’s important to make sure your parents recognize that they’ve put you in a difficult position, and one that doesn’t have a simple solution. Take the time to talk it out with them and you may be able to convince them to come around, but be sure to stand up for your own preference.  After all, the only guests who should be at your wedding are those who fully approve of and support your new union.

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