Wedding Etiquette for the Blended Family
Today's families are full of interesting mixes. More often than not, it seems like brides and grooms have to decide what to do about divorced parents, feuding siblings, or other family dilemmas at their weddings. In an ideal world everyone would be courteous enough to put aside their differences and smile nicely for the photographer, but just in case they're not willing...
Mothers Take Precedence
Unless either the Bride or Groom's mother is the only one with the problem, tradition dictates that the Mother's (and specifically the Bride's mother) comes before the rest of the family. You should announce your engagement to mother's first. If Your parents are divorced but both parents are hosting the wedding, the mother's name along with her husband's will appear first on the invitation. A Bride's mother- and her husband if she is remarried, will be seated in the first row at your ceremony and placed directly after the bride and groom in the receiving line. If your divorced parents don't get along, a father may be asked to sit in the second row, or possibly in the third row behind the the bride's maternal grandmother; and in the receiving line will be placed after the groom's parents.
Stepmothers on good terms with the bride and the rest of the family need not worry, although traditionally there is not a large role for you, a polite bride will try to include you. Stepmother's should be sat first in the processional and will be seated next to their husbands. It is considered the mother of the bride's right to choose her dress first and the step mother should follow suit and choose something a little more understated. And even if the Father of the Bride and his wife are paying for most or part of the wedding, a stepmother will not have too much say in the guest list, but a courteous bride will listen to suggestions.
Since fathers don't generally hold a large role in planning the wedding, the most controversial subject is who will walk the bride down the aisle. Go with your heart on this one. It is perfectly acceptable to choose your stepfather if he is the man you consider “Dad”. It's also fine to allow them both to walk you down. Treat the father-daughter dance the same way, if you're closer to your stepfather dance with him, but don't forget to give your biological father a dance at some point in the night as well. Or you can dance half it with your father, and half with your stepfather.
At the ceremony, seating is never predetermined so guests who are not on good terms may avoid each other simply by not sitting together. And as if a seating chart isn't stressful enough, family feuds can only make it worse. Separate guests who don't get along as much as possible but talk to each side and let them know how important this day is to you and that putting differences aside would mean the world to you. As far as seating your other guests, don't drive yourself crazy over fusing two different families together. Pair people together that you think will get along well but don't worry if people don't line up exactly, everyone has something in common... you!
Just remember, that a discussion on “the hard things” long before the ceremony will ease tensions the day of. Just calmly explain how you would like the day to go and why, and ask for your family's cooperation. If they're just as excited as you are about the big day, then they will behave and everyone will have a great time.