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Handling Divorced Parents On Your Wedding Day

by Jill Curtis,

If your parents are divorced, there are areas which need very careful handling when you come to plan your wedding.

As a "child of divorce" you will already be all too aware of the delicate balancing act you have learnt to adopt over time. Although it is often said parents divorce each other and not their children, you will know it is not as simple as that. You will have developed your own strategy for dealing with a mother and father who do not live together, and established your own pattern for coping with the tricky problem of divided loyalties.

If the break-up of your parents has meant the loss for you of either a mother or a father, then there may well be grief that once again both your parents will not be there to witness an important day in your life. On the other hand it may be that this is a new problem for you, since some couples now seem to get divorced at a more advanced age: your parents may have decided to "stay together for the children", and remained a couple until they felt their parenting was done. It is not generally realized that a boy or girl starting college or even his or her own family and quite independent, still needs to believe they have parents who are together.

This is most important at the time when you are planning your wedding. The traditional scene of father shuddering over the bills, and the mother in a flap over arrangements can be overshadowed if the bride or groom are grieving over a broken family. Great distress can be caused by the extra problems this involves, like having to decide whether to choose between having mom or dad at the wedding.

These are just the sort of things that do happen. It is surely unfair for a bride to be told, as Val was, by her mother, "Your father decided to leave me and go to another woman. If they are invited, count me out." The presence of a partner of one parent often poses dreadful difficulties for the bridal couple.

The golden rule for the smooth running on "the day" is that everything is discussed in good time before the event. At all costs embarrassment must be avoided by grasping the nettle well in advance, and if your father wants to bring along his new wife and this is against the expressed wishes of your mother, then a decision must be made, and notice given, early on in the planning stage. So what are you to do if one parent will not attend if a former spouse wants to bring a partner? What if you have to decide who will "give away" the bride - a father not really involved over the years, or a loved stepfather? Where will everybody be placed in the photographs or in the table plan?

The first step is to ask the advice of the parent you do feel closest to, and talk about your dilemma. You may be surprised to find that a parent will give way a lot to let his or her child have the day of their dreams - a wonderful wedding. I know of couples who have been at daggers drawn for years, but who will come together to give a child a very special gift, by being parents together if only for a day. If this is to happen, then it is up to you to ensure that any partner is also taken care of that day, and not left out in the cold. Perhaps the help of a cousin or close friend can be enlisted.

If a mother or father begins to lay down the law about who plays a major part and who does not, it may be time to call the tune, and to say that although you can understand their position, it is your wedding day and you want it planned in such a way. If a parent finds it impossible to bend at all, then sadly it must be their loss. Your wedding day is not a day for old grievances and wounds to be reopened. So be up front with all the people who will be affected and tell them what you have planned in the greatest detail.

The day may be hard for divorced parents. Perhaps they will remember the hopes and joy on their own wedding day, and the sadness of the dream shattered. But, I repeat, this is your wedding day and a time for looking forward. I hope the sun shines for you both.


Jill Curtis
London UK


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