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Wedding Etiquette Question: My parents are divorced and remarried and have been for the past 15 years. This means I have 4 sets of grandparents on my side of the family alone. I am getting married on 8/15/09 and need to know the proper wedding etiquette and traditional ways of walking down the isle. Who walks first…the grooms parents or the brides and in what order? Should grandparents walk the isle and in what order? Last year my brother got married and because of the order of walking down the isle some people were offended and have not spoken to each other since then. I do not want this to happen at my wedding. I have read many articles none of which coincide with my dilemma. Please help!! Luvetta

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10 Responses to “Wedding Ceremony: Seating Divorced Parents and Grandparents”
  1. Jamie Jamison Adams Says:

    Luvetta,

    Pleasing all members of a blended family while following proper etiquette is a tricky task. The best way to handle this situation is to have it all planned out well before the day of the ceremony.

    You must first understand seating protocol in order to decide how it applies to your situation.

    First – the brides parents always sit in the first pew on the left and the grooms parents in the first pew on the right. Grandparents or special family members in the corresponding second pews. In years past this was sufficient etiquette but with the emergence of blended families more detail is need.

    Second – Processing the grandparents down the aisle has no real basis in etiquette. This is done because the bride or groom wants to not because protocol dictates it.

    Third – The grooms parents are escorted down the aisle first. The usher will escort the groom's mother with his father walking behind them. Then the usher will escort the bride's mother. Then of course the groom's attendants will take their place and then bride's attendants and so forth.

    With all of that said, you must now apply those principles to your blended family needs. The Emily Post's wedding etiquette book outlines several options based on how the families relate to one another.

    However, after reading several other sources this is the option I find the most appealing.

    As guests arrive have the grandparents seated but not processed. When you have several grandparents processing them down the aisle can be time-consuming. Instead, either have them in their seats before guests arrive or seat them as guests arrive. Place all grandparents and step-grandparents in the second and third pews on their respective sides. If you have a particular grandparent whom you are very close to make sure they are seated closer to the aisle. By using two grandparent pews on each side they can chose where they want to sit yet still be in a place of honor. You can also use these pews for special family members.

    As for parents seat them in the first pew. Process the bride's step-mother first where she will sit away from the aisle position. Then process the groom's step-mother with the groom's father(if not a groomsman) following her and the usher away from the aisle position. Then the groom's mother with the usher and step-father following behind. Then the bride's mother escorted by the usher with step-father following behind. The step-father will slide into the pew first followed by the bride's mother who will sit next to the aisle. After the bride's father escorts her down the aisle he will take his place next to his wife (a trick for this is to enter at the opposite end of the pew). This format fulfills the etiquette requirements yet allows for more than one set of parents on each side.

    However, if the parents can not set aside their difference for one day and can not be seated together there is another option. Use the first and second pews to seat the parents during the wedding ceremony and the third and fourth pews for grandparents or other distinguished guests. The proper etiquette would then be to seat the mothers in the first pews and the fathers in the second with their respective spouses. Maternal grandparents are seated before paternal grandparents according to traditional etiquette.

    The main consideration is to place the people whom you feel the closest to nearest to you during the ceremony. So follow the etiquette as closely as you can but it is your day and your preference. However, you need to make your preferences know in advance to all parties involved. This will elevate confusion on the day of the wedding.

    This is where a wedding coordinator can be very useful both will deciding the protocol and implementing it. The wedding planner can make your wishes know while removing you as the bad guy should someone not like the protocol you have chosen.

  2. Luvetta Says:

    This is truly the best answer and it really helps simplify a complicated situation. Thank you so very much.

  3. Kim Ziegler Says:

    Thank you so much for your help. My daughter's fiance's family is divorced and re-married and I didn't have a clue what to do.

  4. Audrey Loycano Says:

    My step daughter is 29 and has a 4 year old and lived with boyfriend 5 years. They are getting married. My husband the father has been divorced from the mother for 25 years. My husband the father have been married for 16 years. The brides mother my husbands ex-wife want's my husband (father) to walk her into the reception and sit with her at the head table. I feel this is very wrong and I don't think I will be able to go to the wedding now. I don' know if I can forgive my husband (father)? Please answer asap.

  5. Jamie Jamison Adams Says:

    I can appreciate how you feel. After years of dealing with a ex-spouse every family function becomes a territorial dispute. But the real issue here is not what the mother of the bride wants but what the bride herself wants. This is the bride's special day and despite what you or her mother want it should be all about her.

    However if you follow etiquette protocol, the parents do not sit at the head table. The head table is reserved for the bride, groom and their attendant (& spouses). There should be separate tables for the parents and grandparents. These tables (one for each set of family members)are placed nearest to the head table.

    As for the entrance to the reception hall, divorced parents should enter separately and in order as they will appear in the receiving line should there be one.

    Receiving line etiquette goes as follows:
    In a traditional line, the members goes in this order – wedding hosts (brides parents with mother first then father) groom's mother and father, the bride and groom, the maid of honor and bridesmaids. If a small wedding party groomsmen can be included after bridesmaids.

    However, if the parents are divorced they do not stand in line together. Instead the line goes like this – The parent & step-parent who host the wedding are nearest to the bride and groom. Divorced couples are separated by couples from the other side of the family – Usually in this fashion bride's mother & step-father next to groom's mother and step-father then bride's step-mother and father followed by groom's step-mother and father.

    The best way to handle this situation would be to take your and the mothers wishes and feeling out of the equation. Ask the bride what she really wants. If for one day in her life she would like the undivided attend and united support of her parents, what harm can it do?

    Remember at the end of the day her father will be going home with you and her mother will be going to her own home.

  6. simone Says:

    If the parents of the bride are divorced but get along well and the mother of the bride has a fiance where would the fiance sit during the ceremony? The father of the bride is not bring anyone to the wedding. also, should the mother of the bride be escorted by her fiance when the wedding party is announced at the reception?

  7. Elaine Forbes Says:

    This is very helpful and sensitive advice.

    Other sites have said to sit the parent you like best in the front row and the one you like less in the third row. With the grandparents in between. A bride posted that her and her fiance did not much like his mother so she would be in the third row. That may be the bride's wish, but I would hope they are not counting on any inheritance from the mother's side of the family in this life time.

    Kidding aside, the couple have a long life ahead of them and may wish that their parents in turn act as grandparents to their own children and using the wedding as an opportunity to punish a parent by means of public humiliation might not be the most prudent choice and is certainly not the kindest.

  8. Kelly Curtis Says:

    Simone,
    Pleasing all members of a blended family while following proper etiquette is a tricky task. Since the bride's parents get along, I think it may be appropriate if the fiance sits with the mother of the bride during the ceremony and escorts her during the wedding party announcement. However, if you're somewhat concerned on how the father will feel, talk with him first. You can always sit the father in the first pew and the mother and her finance in the second pew as well. The main consideration is to place the people whom you feel the closest to nearest to you during the ceremony.

  9. Renee Says:

    My parents are divorced and my father is remarried. My father feels as he is paying for the wedding he should sit on the aisle seat. Now the problem is when my mother and stepmother are seated which one is seated first. I've heard answers to both. My stepmother has planned my entire wedding and has been disrespected and taken advantage of the entire time so my father feels she should be seated before my bridesmaids but my mother feels like I'm taking away her day. I'm not sure which one to please.

  10. gary Says:

    I am widowed grandparent. My ex wife was seated with an escort in row 2. I was to precede her and sit by myself in row 3. Is the proper protocall or would it be acceptable that I sit/escort with ex wife. I would prefer.

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