Ask The Celebration Advisor: What is the proper order of the wedding processional if the bride's grandparents and groom's parents are divorced? Does the bride's paternal grandmother or step grandmother go first? Does the groom's mother or stepmother go first? ~ Marcie W.
The Celebration Advisor: Marcie, great question! The order of the processional can be tricky, as can be balancing blended families, so it's very important to make sure that no toes are stepped on. Thankfully, wedding etiquette is constantly evolving to represent the shift from nuclear to blended families. In your situation, the order of the processional isn't as tricky as you might have thought.
Typically, it is polite to seat immediate family members as they arrive to the ceremony. This includes grandparents. In this way, there are no toes to step on with grandparents. (For seating advice, see Wedding Ceremony: Seating For Divorced Parents and Grandparents.)
With parents, the order of the processional is pretty similar. The host (usually the mother of the bride) is seated last. This is to represent that all of her guests have been seated first. This is true even if the bride and groom are hosting the wedding. So, the order would be groom's stepmother (escorted by groom's father or an usher), groom's mother (escorted by new spouse or usher), bride's stepmother (escorted by an usher), and finally the bride's mother (escorted by her new spouse or an usher). Even brides estranged from their mothers follow this order but alter the seating arrangements.
The bride's stepmother is seated by an usher because her husband (the bride's father) is busy preparing to walk the bride down the aisle. He will join his new wife when seated, however, typically in the second pew on the left.
Wedding processionals, seating, and hostess duties tend to favor the bride, the maternal side of her family, and the maternal side of the groom's family after that. Therefore, the order of the processional (if all family members remain amicable) is as mentioned: groom's stepmother, groom's mother, bride's stepmother, bride's mother.
Thanks so much for your question Marcie!