During the wedding planning process, I think children of divorce get the raw end of the deal. They didn't ask for their parents to split up and their natural instinct is to love both of them. Therefore, adding even more pressure to an already new phase of life -- their impending marriage -- can be strenuous for all involved.
I once worked with a bride I'll call Tracey who brought her divorced parents and her sisters with her to my salon for her gown appointment. Her parents had been divorced since she was 12 and they did not get along very well, to say the least. Neither her mother nor her father could put their own feelings aside. In fact, they spat remarks at each other over the course of the entire appointment. I was in awe of Tracey and her sisters for the way they were able to take their parents' outbursts in stride.
Of course, not all divorced couples conduct themselves like Tracey's parents did. And, even if parents are no longer married, they can still come together to help plan their daughter's (or son's) special day. Where there is a will, there is a way, after all!
The problem is that even when it comes to planning a happy occasion like a wedding, it can be very difficult to take feelings and treat them like inanimate objects -- you can't just put them in a drawer or lock them away for a period of time.
I find that separating most of the planning into categories of strength, skill or funding is a good way to draw the lines in the sand. Make decisions regarding who does what with whom and stick to it. Maybe Mom goes dress shopping with a budget agreed upon in advance and splits the cost with Dad. Then, maybe Dad goes back to see the final choice during a fitting. Brides can work out a system with their parents for every aspect of the wedding, not just the dress: Dad pays for the music, but Mom is invited as a courtesy to hear the potential bands, or Mom comes along to pick out flowers and décor, while Dad signs off on what you choose.
In short, if either parent has a preference when it comes to some of the items, then that parent should take on those tasks. If parents can come together and tolerate each other, then they can unite on some fronts. Either way, the person paying for the specific item(s) should be courteously involved.
When it comes to the actual wedding, I suggest that brides give each parent individual honors and involvement -- go over the plans for each wedding-related event and pick out opportunities to make these events special. Perhaps you can make a toast to Dad during the rehearsal dinner, and thank Mom at the bridal shower. And take the time to create individual special memories: Have a mom/daughter, father/daughter lunch or, if the wedding is out of town, perhaps a golf day with Dad and a spa day with Mom.
Above all, once a decision has been made between a bride's parents to behave themselves in a fashion conducive to the best interests of their beloved child, it's important that they stick to it -- no matter how difficult that may be.
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A version of the blog originally appeared on TLC.com