I carried a stash of tissues in my clutch just in case either the bride's mother or I started to cry. Earlier that day she had asked me if it would be alright if my husband (her ex-husband), Richard, would mind changing his only line in the wedding ceremony. In the front row, we sat next to each other, the mom and the stepmom. We watched as Richard walked my beautiful step-daughter, Katie, down the aisle. I could feel the well of tears begin to bubble up when Richard placed Katie's hand in the hands of her waiting husband-to-be. When the Army chaplain asked, "who gives this woman to be married?" The bride's mother grabbed my hand and held it tight.
Richard responded with his brand new and unrehearsed line, "Her mothers and I do."
I felt honored by my husband's ex-wife but I understand that not all moms and stepmoms have the type of relationship that we do.
Stepfamily weddings can be stranger than fiction and create more drama than TNT could ever fabricate. When my husband and I got married, his best man was his ex-wife's oldest brother. His ex-wife's parents and step parents are in my extended family wedding photographs. When the best man gave his toast, he explained, in fifty words or less, why my husband's entire "ex" family was in attendance. If I could make up what happened at my wedding, I'd be a New York Times best selling novelist.
When my youngest step-daughter got married we had to declare one reception table "Switzerland" or as my husband called it, "The Wasband Table." Both of my husband's ex-wife's ex-husbands sat there...did you follow that? On top of that, we had my son-in-law's stepmother to contend with as she was an invited guest who RSVP'd "NO" because no one in her family was invited. On the day of the wedding she decided to show up, which caused a minor seating chart catastrophe. Drama. Chaos. We got that.
I've never read a wedding etiquette guide. Which means I've never read a step family wedding etiquette guide, so I'm sure I'll catch some flack from Emily Post.
Eight Tips For Mothers and Stepmothers to Help Make the Bride's Day Her Day
- This is the bride's wedding - it's not about you or the guests she didn't invite. Don't make her day a battlefield.
- If there are multiple stepfamilies involved, I advise the bride and groom to contribute an equal share of the budget plus1.00 extra. And then follow the Golden Rule: She who has the Gold, Rules. My step-daughter had a financial stake in her wedding, which allowed her to make decisions without feeling guilty, bad, or filled with angst.
- Check out wedding invitation templates for stepfamilies. It will save you hours of agonizing over wordsmithing and you'll avoid potential conflicts if you accidentally leave a name out. For example, we went with Bride's name, Groom's name, "along with their families..."
- Declare one reception table Switzerland, or as I named my table, "The Island of Misfit Toys and Ex-Spouses." My husband referred to it as "The Wasband Table." Whatever you decide to call it, the table is neutral or "safe." Depending on your own stepfamily dynamics, you may need more than one neutral table (and possibly duct tape.)
- You, the stepmother, may be called upon to help with the planning. Only do what you are comfortable with. When you agree to help, do so without expecting something in return. Do so knowing that no matter what you do, mom still holds the trump card (even if she has passed away.) Be OK with that.
- Be gracious.
- Be yourself.
- Enjoy the wedding and don't drink (too much).