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How to Handle Difficult Family Dynamics at Your Wedding

And minimize your own stress level in the process.

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Photography by: Siri Stafford/ Getty Images

While many family members may agree to put aside their differences on your wedding day, this isn't always the case. In many complicated family situations, emotions tend to peak around major family events—and your wedding is no exception. Since you'll likely want a drama-free experience, it may be helpful for all involved to stop and recognize that a wedding isn't always the ideal time to put an end to a family feud. From difficult parents to estranged siblings, here are four of the most challenging circumstances you and your family may face on or before the wedding day.

 

The Right Way to Let Family and Friends Know You've Eloped

 

How to handle seating at the ceremony when two parents do not speak.

If your parents refuse to sit together at your wedding, you may be able to place someone between them as a buffer. That someone could be a grandparent, aunt or uncle, niece or nephew, or anyone else who could be seen as a neutral party in your immediate family. Traditionally, your mother would be seated in the first seat on the aisle, closest to you. It's usually best to follow this tradition and seat the buffer person, or people, between. You may also ask your father to sit in the first seat along the aisle of the second row. His immediate family would sit in that row as well, while your mother's immediate family would be seated in the front row with her.

 

What to do about estranged siblings when planning a wedding.

If you or your partner has an estranged sibling, this could make for sensitive territory when planning a wedding. The majority of etiquette books will encourage you to send an invitation and leave it up to the sibling to decide whether to join the festivities. However, leaving the ball in their court may be how you ended up here in the first place. Give yourself and your sibling some time to plan ahead. If you'd like to see them at your wedding, it may be worth extending an olive branch in the form of a more personal phone call or email. Reach out, be genuine, and take it slow. You'll know what to do based on the response you get.

 

What to do about estranged parents when planning a wedding.

If you or your partner haven't spoken with a parent in many years, it may be the right time to make peace or at least try and be civil. Making plans to meet them in person soon after your engagement is step one. Give yourself plenty of time to decide how to handle the situation so you can make a level-headed judgment call. It may help to have your fiancé or a sibling along with you when you get together, or you may feel it's best to face this solo. Something to keep in mind is that you don't want to be wary of their presence throughout the whole wedding, so it may be best to invite them only to the ceremony depending how your conversation goes.

 

How to handle a divorced parent's request not to invite the other parent's new spouse or partner.

To the disappointment of many a bride and groom, not all divorced parents can set aside pettiness for their son or daughter's wedding day. It's unfortunate, but it's also very common that one parent may insist that their ex-spouse attend the wedding sans guest. Whatever their reasoning, your parents can't see the bigger picture and how this kind of request impacts your stress level. While you may be comfortable catering to their request, it's important to make sure your parents recognize that they've put you in a difficult position, and one that doesn't have a simple solution. Take the time to talk it out with them and you may be able to convince them to come around, but be sure to stand up for your own preference.

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