Feud-Free Family Weddings

Involving parents and stepparents so that they get to play a part in your day without treading on each other’s toes can feel like a daunting task. After all no one wants an Eastenders’ worthy family feud unfolding on their big day.

Whilst sticking firmly in the domain of weddings manager, not relationship expert, Angela Carruthers, Weddings & Events Manager at Doxford Hall, has seen her fair share of ‘potentially complicated’ weddings and shares her advice based on what’s worked well for other couples.


How to involve both your parents and stepparents in your wedding


Everyone’s family dynamics are different and it’s important that you respect the feelings of both your parents and stepparents. Even if relationships are tense, it is possible to be civil and keep things as inclusive as possible. My advice comes only from listening to the steps that couples have taken to keep everyone happy on their wedding day – clearly these aren’t one-size-fits-all tips, but they may perhaps be of use.

It’s your day and it’s therefore up to you to “eat the frog” and have the conversation about how much involvement each party wants as soon as you can. Involving them early in the planning process will give you many more opportunities to keep both parties on side as you divide the tasks ahead of you.

There are so many ways to make people feel part of the celebrations in the run up to the wedding (should they wish) and being included in the little things can make a big difference to how someone is feeling by the time your wedding day comes around.

Consider every step of the planning process as an opportunity to be as inclusive as you feel comfortable with:

  • Visit your venue with parents/ stepparents so that they can visualise the day more easily. Bring them along to a show round and arrange separate meetings if necessary.
  • Dress shopping. You may want to take your mum shopping for your wedding dress, but research bridesmaid’s dresses with your stepmother for example.
  • Share colour scheme ideas with stepparents so that you can guide them to complement but not match your palette when choosing their outfits. Suggest you go shopping together for your stepmother’s outfit if appropriate or meet for a coffee in town after a dress or suit fitting. And remember to give them corsages or buttonholes if other family members will be wearing them.
  • The menu tasting offers another opportunity to involve parents and stepparents either together or separately. If the latter, you could also set up a wine tasting session so that each party plays a role.
  • If appropriate, include both parents and stepparents on the invitations particularly if both are contributing financially.
  • Flowers and favours. Again, another shopping trip, or perhaps if you have someone green-fingered or crafty within the bridal party you could ask if they would like to help arrange table centres or create favours.
  • Discuss the practicalities of seating plans well in advance. If parents and stepparents are barely civil then don’t run the risk of seating them near each other. Let your venue know your concerns.
  • Talk to your photographer before the wedding and explain your family structure. Yours won’t be the first wedding they’ve worked on where relationships are difficult, and they can really help you to be as inclusive as possible.
  • Walking down the aisle. If you’re keen to involve both your father and stepfather, then providing you talk to both dads well in advance there’s no reason why they can’t both be involved in your day. We’ve had ceremonies where both dad and stepdad have walked the bride down the aisle, and other occasions where the stepdad has escorted the bride from her bedroom and handed her to her dad at the top of the aisle.
  • The ceremony. You could consider asking your parent/stepparent to do a reading in the service or perhaps be the official ring-bearer, another hugely symbolic gesture. Asking them to witness the signing of the register is also an option.
  • The speeches offer more opportunities to involve both dads – if you don’t feel comfortable asking your dad to give the sole father-of-the-bride speech, then maybe you could have two, or he could give a toast or a blessing? And after your first dance with your spouse, make sure to dance with both dads.

As with all occasions, communication and perspective is key. Don’t lose sight of the fact that it’s your day but do be prepared to pick your battles and let the petty things drop. You can’t always keep everyone happy but ultimately your wedding is a celebration of your love and not a battlefield. Your parents and stepparents will more likely than not do whatever it takes to make you happy.