Wedding Ceremony Q&As

Answers to who walks when, who stands where, and other ways to make sure your ceremony is perfect.

Q: My parents are divorced, my father is remarried, and my mother has a live-in female partner. How do I handle the seating arrangements at the wedding? I am close with my stepmother, but I am not close with my mother's partner  however, I am including her in the festivities.

How do I acknowledge everyone without drawing undue attention to my mother's guest? And how do I honor my stepmother without slighting my mother's partner? My father will not sit in the same row as my mother and her guest, and my father is helping us pay for the wedding (and my stepmother is heavily involved in the wedding planning), so I don't think it is fair to sit him in the second row. Also, what do I do about the receiving line?

A: You certainly do have a unique situation and I applaud your sensitivity and concern in wanting to do the right thing for everyone involved. Let's start with the church seating arrangements. As you know, the bride's mother sits in the front row and, if your father were amenable to it, he and his wife would sit in the same row with her. However, since he's refused to sit with your mom and her partner, I don't see any option except to have him and your stepmom sit in the second row. You risk hurting your mom if you ask her and her partner to sit in the second row or even if you ask her partner not to sit up front with your mom. (Although, this is an option and if you think your mom and her partner would be agreeable to it, then broach the subject. But I'm sure it will cause some conflict.)

You might want to explain to your dad how upset you are about the situation and that you don't want him to feel in any way slighted by where he sits in church. You just want everyone to feel comfortable. Does he expect you to ask your mom's partner to make herself scarce during the ceremony? It puts you in a very difficult situation. Discuss it with your dad and see if he gives you any leeway.

Now, you want to know how to acknowledge everyone without drawing undue attention to your mother's guest. No doubt, most of your guests are probably already aware that your mom has a live-in female partner and I don't think you need to worry too much about drawing undue attention. But if you want to acknowledge your stepmom's help, ask her to do a special reading during the ceremony. This is a lovely way to single out those with whom you have a special relationship. She can read a favorite poem or a verse from scripture. Also, when everyone is seated, and the music starts for the pre-processional, have an usher escort your stepmother to her seat before you and your fiance's grandparents and moms are escorted. (Just have your mom escorted during the pre-processional, and not her partner.)

As far as the receiving line, keep it simple - your mom, your fiance's parents, your dad and you and your fiance, in that order.

One last thought, be sure to work out just what photographs will be taken that day and with whom and give your list to your photographer. You might want to have a photograph of you with your mom and dad. You and your fiancé with your mom and dad and then again with his mom and dad. Take separate photos of you two with your dad and stepmother and again, of the two of you with your mom and her partner. Better to prepare ahead of time and let all sets of parents know what you'd like. Good luck with all your plans. I'm sure everything will run smoothly considering you're giving such attention to detail now and all your efforts to make sure that no one is slighted or offended in any way.

<< More Wedding Ceremony Advice