Planning your wedding is a huge undertaking, but those weeks and months are also some of the best and most exciting times you’ll probably ever have.
Of course, that doesn’t mean you’re not going to hit a few snags along the way—you know, like figuring out how to ensure your divorced parents and their significant others get along on your big day, or the right way to let your guests know their precious little ones aren’t welcome at your sophisticated affair. As a result, you may find yourself moaning with misery when you should be humming “Here Comes the Bride.”
Need help sorting things out? You’re in luck. Meet six women who’ve successfully solved some common pre-wedding problems.
“I don’t know who should walk me down the aisle—my father, or my stepfather?”
Who would escort Gina Yager on her trip to the altar? Her father and stepdad both dreamed of that honor for the Las Vegas publicist’s September 2001 wedding to Ian Yager. Though Gina’s parents had divorced when she was two, her biological father, John, while often unable to support Gina financially, had always been a presence in her life. “He was there for me emotionally,” says Gina.
Yet, when Gina’s mom remarried, her new husband, Ken, became a loving and devoted parent to the now-five-year-old girl—cheering her on in gymnastics, helping her do homework and giving advice as she grew up. He also offered to foot the bill for her wedding when her birth father said he was unable to help out. The result: Ken and John both felt they had the sole right to give their daughter away. “I was caught in the middle,” says Gina.
Her solution? Both fathers would walk her down the aisle. “First, I took my father aside and told him, ‘You may not like it, but I want you and Ken to split the walk,’ ” says Gina. “ ‘I’d like you to start it and Ken to give me away. Ken loves me, he’s given me so much, and I want to reciprocate.’ Next, I told my stepdad, ‘I want to give you both this opportunity since you both are a part of my life. I’m his biological daughter and you developed me into who I am today.’ I also asked him to answer the officiant’s question, ‘Who gives you away?’ with ‘Her mother, father and I do,’ not just ‘Her mother and I do.’ ”
Despite some initial resistance—the two fathers quibbled over exactly how many steps each would take—Gina’s wedding day went off without a hitch. “Both of my dads came around, realizing it was my day and that this is what I wanted,” says the bride. “Everyone was so happy at the wedding, especially when I did two father-daughter dances. It was a truly spectacular day.”
“My fiancé insists his son be in our ceremony, but I’m worried he’ll steal my thunder.”
When her fiancé, Louis Goldberg, first requested his then-seven-year-old son Matthew, a child from Goldberg’s previous marriage, serve as best man in the couple’s June 2002 ceremony, Staci Vernick, of Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania, wasn’t thrilled with the idea. “First of all, I wasn’t sure he could handle the responsibility,” says Staci. “I thought he might feel shy or uncertain taking center stage, or even act out if he felt his dad wasn’t paying enough attention to him, which is a normal reaction for a kid who’s about to get a new stepmom. But I admit I also didn’t want to share the spotlight: An adorable child might be too much of a scene-stealer.”
After discussing her worries with her fiancé, Staci and Louis decided to name Matthew co-best man alongside family friend Frank Carney, who would be there if Matthew got anxious or forgot what he was supposed to do. Then the couple assigned Matthew additional jobs that would make him feel like an extra-special part of the celebration, and prepped him for months.
On the wedding day, Matthew greeted guests and handed out yarmulkes before the Jewish ceremony, then stood next to his dad through it, even placing a glass under his father’s foot for the traditional glass-breaking ritual. “He carried it off with great maturity for a seven-year-old,” says Staci. “Matthew felt important and proud that we’d trusted him with such big responsibilities, and because he was so well-behaved I never felt like I was competing with him for the spotlight.”
Looking back, Staci realizes Matthew’s role helped unite the three of them as a family. “We now have cherished memories that we wouldn’t have had if Matthew hadn’t been a part of the wedding,” says Staci. “If involving your fiancé’s children is important to him, you have to make it work. Think of it this way: This is your first step as a married couple—and a family—and you don’t want to get off on the wrong foot.”