Whether your parents got divorced before you could even remember them together, if it happened during your childhood or teen years, or since you’ve been an adult living out of home, getting them together in the same room can often feel like a nightmare.
When couples with kids get divorced, in an ideal world they’ll get over themselves and put their feelings towards each other aside for the sake of the kids. This means when the kids are adults and getting married, they should suck it up, behave themselves, and act civilly for the day. But real life doesn’t always work that way and sometimes our parents can be absolute thoughtless, selfish jackasses.
For every set of divorced parents who can get along fine after they part ways, there’s another set who just can’t get over their hatred of one another, this can drag on for DECADES and their kids get caught in the middle. The fact they will maybe have to be in the same room as their ex for a day when their kid gets married should be no surprise to them. As a child of divorce you might have spent as much as your entire life walking the tightrope between two parents who hate each other, so this isn’t going to be news to you.
Here’s some tips to minimise the drama.
1. Discuss what you need from them in advance
Your parents need some tough love. You need to very firmly set ground rules, boundaries and expectations about what you need from them on your day. The key to reducing the drama on the day is communicating with them. Maybe you’ll get through and they’ll feel some self awareness?
Go to each parent individually and ask them if they can set aside their own issues for the day for your sake.
Also let them know what you want them to do on the day. Do you need them to appear in a family photo together? Are you hoping they can BOTH walk you down the aisle? Don’t spring this on them at the last minute. Tell them from the get-go and keep reminding them. If they aren’t comfortable with it or are refusing to do it, you also have a long time to adjust your own expectations.
2. Tell them about the guest list
Not only are your parents possibly not going to want to see each other, they probably aren’t going to want to see their ex’s new partners or their ex inlaws either. You need to let them know well in advance who you plan on inviting so they get used to the side.
3. Don’t allow threats or boycotts.
It’s your wedding. It’s YOUR day. Do not negotiate with terrorists! If one of your parents is being a petty child, threatening that they will not attend if the other parent attends (or brings their new spouse or partner) you need to very firmly shut it down. Do not allow them to manipulate you. Say something like “I’m sorry that you feel that way, but x is invited and we’re not changing that. You’re invited too. I’m sad that you don’t want to come along and we will miss you on the day.” Chances are they’ll stop being an ass and get over themselves and attend anyway.
If your parents cannot be civil at all, don’t put them on the same table. Just don’t. Sit them with members of their side of the family and maybe even appoint someone like a sibling or aunt or uncle to babysit them and keep them in check.
5. Make sure you tell your wedding vendors about potential for drama
As a wedding photographer, I always discuss this with all my couples. I’ve seen it all from parents who get on so well post divorce they still spend Christmas together, right through to a father of the bride exploding with rage at being asked to be in a photo with his ex wife. Knowing these dynamics is so important so that vendors don’t put their foot in it and cause more conflict than is necessary. But see point 2 above – if you tell your vendors that you want your divorced parents to do something, like be in a family photo together, please don’t spring it on your parents on the day.
6. You get to choose who to walk you down the aisle
This might piss your dad off, but if you hardly ever saw him growing up and you were much closer to your stepfather, it is 100% your choice who you get to walk you down the aisle. You can also get your mum to walk you down the aisle. Or both your parents. Or if you think you can pull it off, your dad AND your stepdad. Or a sibling. Or nobody at all. The choice is yours and yours alone. Do not let your parents’ bullshit guilt you into doing something that you don’t want to do. This also applies to the father and daughter dance, if you’re having one.