Celebrating Your Stepparents On Your Wedding Day

Honoring Stepparents at my wedding

Stepparents are a special part of your life. So you might be wondering how to including them on your wedding day. Your wedding day is a time to celebrate your love. It’s also a time to bring your family all together. If your parents have separated, there may be step-parents and step-families to include in your special day. There may be a lot of family dynamics to juggle, but with a little planning you can make all of your family feel special and also honor your feelings and comfort-level.  

Parents normally play a significant role in most weddings. But where does the stepfamily fit into your wedding day? They’re part of your family whether or not you’re close with them. Here’s an opportunity to get creative. Since there’s not as many traditional roles for them in wedding ceremonies and reception traditions, you can make things how you want them to be and find a place for them that works for everyone.

How Do I List My Stepparents On An Invitation?

According to tradition, normally only the parents’ names appear on the wedding invitations. But if you want to include your stepparents, it’s totally fine to add their names as well. Proper etiquette would dictate that you place your mother first (and her partner if she’s remarried) and then include your last name. Here’s an example of what that could look like:

Francis and Jamie Brown

Ian and Michelle Smith

request the honor of your presence

at the marriage of their daughter

Kathryn Page Smith

However, you may not want to stick to this standard at all. Plenty of couples have ditched outdated invitation language to make certain it reflects their life and values. So don’t feel stuck trying to fit names into an etiquette formula that doesn’t work for you. Remember, your wedding, your invitations, your choice.

Who Should Walk Down the Aisle And In What Order?

It’s your ceremony so you can set it up in any order you please. Normally the procession goes in the following order for hetero couples: The bride’s stepmother, seated next to the usher because her husband is preparing to escort the bride down the aisle. A U.S. standard order for the processional (as long as everybody in the family is okay with it!) is: groom’s stepmother, grooms’ mother, bride’s stepmother, then the bride’s birth mother. 

Same-sex couples can adopt a similar processional order, with each partner getting to walk down the aisle separately and have their time to be seen. Alternatively, another popular option is for one person to walk down the aisle alone and stop halfway. Then the other person can have a moment to walk down the aisle before joining their partner so that the couple can walk together the rest of the way. 

How To Handle Stepparents With Tricky Dynamics 

Experiencing family drama at your wedding can get the better of people from time to time. Don’t feel you’re alone with these types of issues. It’s family. It happens — like pretty much all families have something. Every family has personalities and dynamics to navigate. Remembering this can help keep you from comparing your family to the carefree images of families that are all smiles in Instagram wedding photos. Trust us, every family has some challenge they’re figuring their way through. 

Deciding who to include in your wedding is solely your decision. If your stepmother has been in your life since you were a child it’s perfectly acceptable to include her in your special day. 

If the relationship is a bit strained between your stepmother and your biological mother, you may want to make a few adjustments to the ceremony to make the day a bit easier for everyone involved. 

Honoring both parents can easily be part of the ceremony. Asking your family to put their differences and opinions aside long enough to enjoy the day is perfectly acceptable. You want them there to support you and be a part of this landmark moment in your life.  

Where Should I Seat Everyone During the Wedding Ceremony?

Here’s another tricky situation. Let’s take this opportunity to cover the whole family. You can set it up however you like, but traditionally this is an example of how it can look.

  1. Have all of your elderly guests seated near the front so they can better see what’s going on. Any guests who have mobility challenges should be seated at the end of the row. It’s just easier to get in and out for everyone this way.
  1. The next four or five rows are for extended and immediate family, like godparents, cousins, uncles, and aunts. You can also place special guests in this section like the parents of a child attendant. You can accomplish this by tying a ribbon across these rows. Both wedding parties usually reside in the first row after they come down the aisle if they’re not up at the altar with you and your partner.
  1. Your immediate family should be seated just before the ceremony begins. Your brothers and sisters, (the ones that are not part of the wedding party) are seated before the grandparents and the great-grandparents. They normally sit in the first row with their parents or in the second row with their grandparents.
  1. In the case of a stepfamily, it’s important to let the ushers know who they are. They should be brought to their seats first. For clarification, here’s an example: step-grandparents precede your birth grandparents. You can reserve a couple of rows right behind your immediate family for your step-grandparents and step brothers and sisters. But remember, it’s your wedding. You don’t have to separate your stepfamily from your blood relations if you’d like to have them all intermixed.
  1. If there are divorced parents present, seat the parent who primarily raised the bride in the front row with their spouse. Then seat the other parent and their partner in the third row. Or, you can have the birth parents sit together in the front row and seat the stepparents next to them sharing the front row. This is a situation you want to discuss well in advance of your wedding day. By bringing up the seating arrangements early in the planning process you’ll avoid any awkward moments or issues when your wedding day arrives. 
  1. Finally, the brothers of the couple normally will seat their mothers. But, if the brothers are in the wedding party, the ushers can handle this task. A best-case scenario could be, a brother seats his mother and then joins the rest of the wedding party along with the other groomsmen. 
  1. Another option is to not have “sides” for one family and the other. This can help you space out your step-families easier and may offer more options for allowing everyone to get into the coveted first rows. It can also help avoid awkward interactions that may come from strained relationships. 

How Do I Honor Everyone including Stepparents on My Wedding Day?

There are many ways you can honor your stepfamily in your ceremony as well as the reception. There are several things you can offer to make sure everybody is happy and no one feels awkward or left out. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Seating Arrangements. If someone is a plus one to either the mother or the father, this can be an advantage. They get the best seats in the house. But be careful when you’re setting up the seating arrangements for your ceremony and the reception. Assess the relationships of all family members. If one of your parent’s new partners gets along with your other parent then you can probably seat them together. Use common sense. If they don’t get along with the other parents, keep them separate. Maybe consider giving each set of parents their own row at the ceremony and their own table at the reception. Then you can fill in the other seats with the right friends and family to keep the tension level at a minimum. 
  1. The Procession. You can have your stepparents proceed down the aisle at the start of the ceremony if you want to include them in the actual ceremony. You can have them walk with their partner before the wedding party comes down, they can escort either of the couple-to-be, or you can alternate the order and find an alternative to include them in the procession. 
  1. The Toast. If you’re close to your stepparent, but the relationship doesn’t warrant a stepfather-daughter dance, you can always have them do the reception toast. (You can certainly do both!) This will significantly involve them and they can reflect on memories and say a few words about your relationship. This is a great way to kick off any of the other speeches that have been lined up for the evening. 

Easy Ways to Make Stepparents Feel Included

The good part about weddings is that there’s plenty of opportunities to make everyone feel special and a part of your day. Here’s a few easy ways to honor your loved ones:

Include your stepparents in the planning process. If your stepparents all get along, it’s an easy process to include everyone in tastings, tours, etc. But if you need to do some diplomatic distancing, you can divide up tasks and outings. Assigning each a special part of the day can make sense. Delegate something simple to a stepparent to make them feel included. This could be getting favors handled or managing your Guestie profile. Bonus on the latter, this can make it super easy for your stepparent to get to know everyone coming to your wedding

Keep Your Photographer in the Loop

Although your wedding day will only be a few hours long, the photos will last a lifetime. That’s why it’s important to make sure everyone is included in them. Give your photographer insight into your family dynamics. They are skilled in understanding nuances and keeping things moving smoothly. So let them in on the details of your family — who will want to be together for photos and who will want to be on their own.

Set Your Own Traditions

No one says you can’t have two dads walking you down the aisle or your mom walks you down the aisle. There are plenty of ways to make each person that matters to you feel honored. This could be a gift, a toast, a dance. Take some time to trust your gut and what feels right for you. 

Communication is Key

Let everyone know the plan ahead of time. Even if some aspect of your day doesn’t go over 100% well with a family member, having time to digest and become cool with it makes a big difference. Although we all have a tendency to procrastinate on delivering unpopular messages, it’s much better to have these discussions beforehand. Processing time helps and removes any shock of a surprise at the wedding.   

Your Wedding is Your Special Day

Your wedding is your moment to share love and special moments with everyone that means something to you. When you take some time to plan for the tricky parts of your special day, it can give you the tools to be better equipped to handle the intricate family relationships we all have. This little bit of pre-planning and communication will help empower you to feel care-free and in-the-moment on your special day.

Guestie helps you create a more connected, more personal wedding experience. Sign up now so you and your guests can start the celebration today. All it takes is a quick upload of your guestlist to kickstart the party. Think of Guestie like the pre-game to the wedding of your dreams.   

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