Every family dynamic is different. Whether your parents are still together, divorced, or remarried, including them and their potential new spouses in your wedding may be on your mind. There are a lot of circumstances to consider—namely your relationship with your stepparent(s). As with so many wedding planning topics, communication is key. There are right and wrong ways to lay out expectations and manage feelings. Here’s how to tackle including your step parent or parents in your wedding.

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Consider the relationship.

As we said, communication is key and that communication will largely depend on your relationship with your step-parent(s). You may be close to them—they could have helped raise you—you may be just getting to know them, or you may not know them at all or simply not care for them. Your dynamic can also rely heavily on your relationship (and theirs) with your biological parents. There are these situations and many in between. Here’s a little on how to navigate these more common scenarios:

  • Your stepparent helped raise you. If your stepparent took on the responsibility of a biological parent, you may feel as if they deserve the same attention and acknowledgment. Express this to them. Depending on how close you are, it may be assumed that they’ll be included. That’s great. Still, let them know you want them to take on the traditional mother or father role in your wedding. See how they feel and edit the role as necessary to make you both comfortable.
  • Your stepparent and biological parent get along. If your stepparent and parents get along well then that’s great. However, it could also raise some issues when it comes to designating roles. Assuming your biological parents are still involved in your life, as well as any stepparent(s), you’ll have to figure out who will do what. Gather everyone together (preferably in person), and discuss the best ways to move forward with incorporating one another into the wedding day activities. Whether it’s splitting traditional responsibilities or adding more, it’s your wedding day, so you’re allowed to make up the rules.
  • Your stepparent and biological parent don’t get along. It’s important to see how everyone’s feeling. Sit with each parent individually and feel out the vibe. Share how you ideally would like to include (or not include) each person. Again, depending on your relationships, your stepparent or your biological parent may be expecting to be included or excluded. So, you may not have to set too many boundaries. If you do, however, communicate them early and firmly. You can’t please everyone.

How To Deal With Hard Conversations

For some, stepparents fit naturally into wedding planning. For others, that’s not the case. Manage relationships and expectations without losing your cool or hurting feelings by taking each scenario case by case.

  • You don’t want to include your stepparent in the wedding. This isn’t an easy topic, especially if the stepparent in question doesn’t already assume they won’t be included. But don’t let that stop you. Sit with your stepparent (and your biological parent if you’d prefer) and talk it out. Address the topic up front and early on. Lay out your reasons, be kind, and move on.
  • Your stepparent doesn’t want to be included in the wedding. For any number of reasons, your stepparent may decline involvement in your wedding. If this doesn’t bother you, great! If it does, talk to them. You may find out they’re worried about overstepping and backed out to avoid conflict. A conversation can usually lead to a solution and less confusion.
  • You don’t really know your stepparent. If one (or both) of your parents remarried later in life and you haven’t gotten the chance to know their new spouse, take this opportunity to do so. You don’t need to give them a role in the wedding, but finding time to bond a bit before the wedding will help make everyone more comfortable—which will cut any tension on your day.

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How To Involve Stepparents In Your Wedding

Beyond just standard wedding roles, there are a lot of ways to include your stepparents in your ceremony and at your reception. Plus, there are a handful of things to consider to maximize comfort for all parties and dissipate any discomfort.

  • Make the appropriate seating arrangements. Being a plus-one to either the father or the mother of a bride or groom has it’s set of perks—like prime seating, for example. Be calculated and respectful when putting together the seating chart for your reception, though. As always, assess the relationships. If your parent’s new spouse gets along with your other parent, they can sit together. Alternatively, if they don’t, keep them separate. Consider giving your parents each their own table and filling it with appropriate friends and family to ease any tension.
  • Include them in the procession. If you want to include your stepparents in the actual ceremony, have them process down the aisle at the beginning of the ceremony. They can walk with their spouse ahead of the wedding party, they can escort the bride or groom, or you can find another way to alter the order to include them.
  • Let them make a toast. If you’re close to your stepparent but not close enough to, say, do a stepfather-daughter dance, assign them a reception toast. They can say grace or a few words about your relationship along with any other speeches lined up for the evening.
  • Mentioned them on the invitations. If your stepparent is contributing to hosting the ceremony or reception, it’s customary to include his or her name on the invitation and programs. It’s in good taste and also lets your guests know he or she played a role in creating your day.

At the end of the day, those in your family who care and love you will accept the decisions you make when it comes to your wedding day.