Tips for step-parents @ child's wedding
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|Wed, 10-04-2006 - 11:06pm|
Stepping Down the Aisle
BY MARTHA WOODHAM
Illustration by Michael Witte
Here come the mother and father of the bride and (often) their new spouses. An expert answers common etiquette questions.
Here is a sampling of the etiquette questions I often receive from brides:
What responsibilities does the stepmother have in the wedding-planning process, particularly if her husband, the bride's father, is paying for the wedding?
Unless she raised the bride, a stepmother should not expect to have any control over the wedding. She can, however, offer her assistance in running errands and handling mundane tasks for the bride and her mother. Money issues can lead to resentment from first wives, who usually think their children are owed elaborate weddings, and subsequent wives, who may struggle financially to subsidize them. To avoid misunderstandings, the couple should agree to a budget with the father of the bride and stick to it.
What if the stepmother is younger than the bride?
She should act older than her years and never, ever try to upstage the bride. If she was a factor in the breakup of the bride's parents' marriage and there is lingering bitterness, she should offer to do the right thing and stay home on the wedding day.
What is the role of a biological parent if he or she has not been a continuing presence in the bride's or groom's life?
Absent parents should not show up just before a wedding and expect to be greeted with open arms. The stepparent who has been a real father or mother to the bride or groom should be given the traditional parental honors of escorting the bride down the aisle and sitting in the front pew.
What is appropriate wedding-day attire for the mothers and stepmothers?
Just as the mother of the groom takes her fashion cue from the attire of the bride's mother, so should stepmothers.
What if a bride has more than one stepparent? And what if she feels closer to stepfather Number Two than stepfather Number One or even her own father?
The bride has several options: She can be escorted down the aisle by a brother or another male family member; she can walk with her mother; or she can walk alone. Some brides opt to have one father escort them part of the way down the aisle before switching off to another ‑- just like a baton in a relay race.
Who gives the bride away if she has a close relationship with all of her "fathers"?
It is an honor usually given to her biological father, but only the bride can decide the answer. When the presider asks the congregation "Who gives this woman to be married?" the one who has escorted her to the altar can be inclusive and say, "Her family and I do."
Who sits where at the ceremony?
The front pews are reserved for the mothers of the bride and groom and their husbands, with the bride's family on the left and the groom's on the right. If the relationship is friendly, stepmothers are seated along with the fathers in the second or third row. If not, they are seated farther back. By the way, unless the bride and groom request special treatment for them, stepmothers are escorted into the service by an usher and seated just like any other wedding guest.
Receptions bring another set of problems, but limited space prevents me from exploring them here. However, "The Gracious Stepparent's Ten Commandments," from my book Wedding Etiquette for Divorced Families, offers a quick guide. Here are some of my favorites:
• Do not insist that your name be on the invitations, even if etiquette dictates that it should be.
• Do not fret when your spouse is asked to pose for family photos that include his or her ex.
• Do not insist on standing in the receiving line.
• Do not implore that your children be part of the wedding party.
• Do throw a party for the couple, but don't upstage the festivities hosted by the father or mother.
• Do not try to outdo the parents in any way by dressing or acting in a manner that draws attention to yourself. Remember: This is not your day.
But perhaps the best commandment is the simplest: Life's short; play sweet.