1. Wedding Dress Shopping
When your mom dreamed of the day she would be helping her daughter pick her wedding dress, she didn't imagine that her ex-husband's current wife would be sitting next to her on the bridal salon's sofa. "Before you invite your stepmother along for the ride, it would be best to speak to your mother in private and ask how she would feel about your stepmother coming along," say Heather Bivona and Jamie Damante, co-owners of Cheeky Details, an event planning company based in Long Island, NY. "You wouldn't want to take any joy out of this for your mother. She has more than likely been waiting for this moment her entire life!" If your mom makes it clear that your stepmom is a persona non grata during the dress-shopping expedition, you'll just have to realize that having her come along "will simply create much more tension with your mom than it is worth," says Dr. Patricia Papernow, psychologist and author of Surviving and Thriving in Stepfamily Relationships. "It is really important in these cases to let your stepmom know that she matters. Say to her 'You have been very important to me and I would so love to have you with me when I pick out my dress, but my mom just isn't going to be able to manage that graciously. I am so very, very sorry but know that you will be with me in spirit.'" Once you have the dress you can carve out some time to have a special viewing with just you and your stepmother.
2. Seating Assignments
You don't want to re-create a dinner scene straight out of the Real Housewives playbook so think carefully when deciding where to seat you mother and stepmother. Papernow suggests that you use a long table and place your mom and stepmother on the same side of the table but on opposite ends, with the maid of honor and best man on either side of you and your groom to provide extra spacing.
3. Assigning Planning Tasks
Everyone likes to be involved when it comes to planning the wedding, but in order that no one steps on anyone's toes, sit down with your mom and stepmom (separately is probably best if they are not friendly) and assign them separate tasks. If your mom likes invitations, put her on invitation duty. If your stepmom loves flowers, assign her the job of your co-pilot for your floral design decisions. "Letting them own a special piece of the day will make them happy and comfortable during the planning process," Bivona and Damante say.
4. Dressing the Bride
"Dressing the bride is often a sore place," Papernow says. "A mom may really want to be able to be with her daughter while she dresses without your stepmom present and stepmothers can find this very painful." If you want your mother and stepmother to help you get dressed and see you before you walk down the aisle, remember that you get the final say. If you can't trust them to get along in the same room, one way to get a chance to spend time with both is to stagger the times they are in the bridal suite with you. "Make sure someone like the maid of honor is the time keeper and can escort them out of the room graciously when their time is up."
5. Walking Down the Aisle
Chances are your parents will be the ones walking you down the aisle. "Stepmoms often have to sit on the sidelines and watch their stepdaughters be walked down the aisle by there mother and father," Papernow says. Papernow suggests that to help your stepmom cope with the flood of emotions you may want to offer her the chance to invite a friend to attend the wedding as her guest. "That friend's job will be to sit next to the stepmom and to just be there through the whole wedding to gossip, hand tissues, and give hugs to the stepmom." Also, consider giving your stepmom another special role at the wedding.