Planning A Wedding With Divorced Parents (Part I)


by Meg Keene, Editor-In-Chief

Planning A Wedding With Divorced Parents (Part I) | A Practical Wedding

Today we are finally talking about planning a wedding with divorced parents. When I decided it was high time to write a post about this, we discovered that every single APW editor has married parents and partners with married parents (Weird, right? But I digress). Anyway! We searched out some of the smartest ladies we knew to write a little on this subject, and came up with a two part post. Today’s post comes from Rachelle (who you’ll remember from her Royal Tenenbaums engagement shoot) talking about the emotional aspects of wedding planning with a divorced family. Next week, Maddie will be here sharing her practical tips on the subject. But mostly, let’s discuss this, in all its complexity.

Planning A Wedding With Divorced Parents (Part I) | A Practical Wedding

When both your parents and your future in-laws are divorced, planning a wedding sometimes feels like walking through a minefield. Although the divorces were both finalized a decade ago and everyone can handle being in the same room together for our wedding, there are still a lot of emotions in play for everyone involved, myself and Stephen included. How do you have an anniversary dance when your mothers would have to sit and watch their exes dancing with their new wives? How do you include one mother in the processional when the other does not want to walk down the aisle, much less alone, and there’s no clear answer for who should escort her? How do you figure out the seating for the ceremony for the mothers, fathers, second wives, step-siblings and half-siblings so that everyone feels honored but no one is forced to sit next to someone who causes them pain to be near? This is the tip of the iceberg, my friends, and it feels never-ending. I can’t begin to imagine what it’s like for couples whose parents are unable to be in the same room at all.

I was never one to dream about my wedding as a little girl, but certainly not after sitting down to dinner with my family one night during my freshman year of high school and being informed that my father was leaving to stay with my grandparents and would not be coming back to live with us again. To say that my parent’s divorce shattered my views of romantic relationships would be hyperbolic, but it definitely had an impact on how I perceived my chances of staying with someone “til death do us part.” I doubted the words “forever” and “always.” I poured over statistics that could prove to me that being older, more educated, wealthier – namely, anything different from my parents – when I got married could somehow help me hold a marriage together for life when they could not. For all of my adult life, I tried to make peace with the idea that I might one day walk down the aisle and get married, but I would probably never truly believe that it would be forever.

This isn’t the part where I say that I met Stephen and everything changed. Because nothing changed when we met. He is also a child of divorced parents who split up when he was in early high school, that time when young adults are just learning how to date and fall in love. We met after college, and we dated tentatively. We fell in love tentatively. We talked about moving in together “one day” for over a year before we finally felt comfortable doing so. Every move forward was risking getting hurt bigger, more spectacularly. We had almost no one to model a healthy and happy relationship for us. We didn’t have any way to know that we weren’t doing it completely wrong, doomed to fail miserably at some inevitable future point.

And then one day, we took a leap. We had to step away from the past, from our parent’s marriages, and take a chance on us. We were ready to look into our hearts and trust what we knew existed in our relationship, despite what experience had shown us before. We were ready to get married.

Planning A Wedding With Divorced Parents (Part I) | A Practical Wedding

Reading over some of the APW archives on divorce, I saw a comment from Meg’s dad with a quote from Samuel Johnson, who said that second marriages are “the triumph of hope over experience”. And even though this is our first and only marriage, that is sure what it feels like. It feels like we are going to stand at the altar and give the middle finger to divorce. It feels like we will look into the unknown future together and shout, “Come and get us! We are not afraid!” And while I can’t know what will happen to us over the course of a lifetime (which yes, could include getting divorced) I know that I’m not scared anymore. I know that I can promise truthfully and with all my heart to be part of our marriage for my whole life. In some ways it doesn’t matter what happens after that, because I have conquered the fear that I could never love someone so wholly and completely. I can. I do.

But despite reaching this point together, planning a wedding – a celebration of love and marriage – is hard when your parents are divorced and so many traditions center around honoring the bride’s and groom’s parents as couples. We had to call our parents and tell them we were engaged over the phone because we couldn’t figure out how to tell four different people in person without choosing someone first and someone last, and getting them in the same room without ruining the secret would have been impossible. We had to have four different (and awkward) conversations about who is contributing to the wedding, and then had to keep the details of those conversations confidential from the other parents lest this turn into some kind of competition or bidding war. We had to think carefully about whom to invite so that all four sides of our families are relatively equal and evenly represented. We will probably have four parents’ tables and four speeches. We’re finding ways to divide our wedding by four, like we will have to divide our holidays and vacations and time by four for most of our lives, while trying to preserve the day as the start and celebration of one marriage and one  family.

Planning A Wedding With Divorced Parents (Part I) | A Practical Wedding

It hurts a little when we attend weddings where both sets of parents are still married. Those couples are able to celebrate in ways that we can’t – more casualties of divorce. But that’s what life has dealt us and we have to do the best that we can with it. Life doesn’t stop or change for us so that we can get married in the perfect way we want, anymore than life stops or changes for us to do anything else. In the end it’s worth it to us to do whatever it takes to make sure that all four of our parents get to have a joyful day and enjoy watching their child get married to the love of their life. In the end all we can do is hold on to the people we love, who love us back and who we are lucky to have, and throw the best damn party we can.

Title photo by APW Sponsor Kara SchultzRachelle & Stephen unmasked as shot by the amazing Elissa R Photography in Austin, TX

Meg Keene

Meg is the Founder and EIC of APW. Her first book, A Practical Wedding: Creative Solutions for Planning a Beautiful, Affordable, and Meaningful Celebration, was published in January 2012, and has been a top three bestseller on the wedding bookshelf ever since. Meg has her BFA in Drama from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and son.

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  • Moz

    I can only imagine how hard this must be. I hope your day, and your lives, are filled with joy x

  • http://oversized-cliches.blogspot.com Zan

    My parents and Hubs parents are together, so this doesn’t apply to me in the obvious way, but I still loved this post. There’s enough divorce around to make even us — both children of “intact” families — nervous about the whole “for life” thing. Marriage is scary enough as it is, and even more so when you know how things can go so horribly wrong. It’s like what they say, “courage is not the absence of fear, courage is being afraid and doing it anyway.” (I can’t remember where that quote is from, Abraham Lincoln? Then again, it seems like Abe said every other inspirational quote that someone types on the internet.)

    Well done for handling such a tough subject with poise. I know this was a difficult post to write, but it is excellent. And thanks for spreading the courage around.

    • Heather

      Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear. ~Ambrose Redmoon

      Is that what you were thinking of?

  • fleda

    Thank you. I’ve been in your shoes! And shared many of the same feelings.

    I feel a pang when I go to friends’ weddings where there are wedding pictures of parents and grandparents on display: frankly, I am so envious that those friends have that support and that foundation, that they can feel they are entering into a healthy tradition with the other adults in their family. In our families (including generations farther back than parents), there is basically not one marriage I would hope to emulate. My husband and I felt like we were rebuilding the institution from the ground up. It was absolutely terrifying. I hate to say it, but weeks leading up to the wedding were pretty miserable. Even the day of the wedding was tense and stressful–that is, until the the ceremony was over. At that point, we suddenly felt tremendous relief and happiness (and had a great party). We had taken the leap, and it felt right. Some people find it easy and joyous to get married; for us it was real work. Work that was important and totally worthwhile. And the wedding itself was a forum for that work and also (as you suggest) a celebration of the love we feel for the people in our families.

    I found the APW post about having faith rather than certainty about your marriage very helpful; I also found “The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce” by Judith Wallerstein helpful–it’s one of those great books that makes you say, “hey wait, I’m actually normal!” :) And lastly: we did have four parent’s tables: one biological parent at each of them. It worked well.

    Best of luck to you!

    • http://www.twitter.com/kahlia kahlia

      While I don’t doubt that it was difficult and often not fun, I think that “rebuilding the institution from the ground up” might be a good thing. You get to decide how things are going to work in your baby family, and you get to decide how to make that happen. So good job putting in that work, and I hope it’s helped you to shape the kind of marriage that fulfils you both!

  • Rachael

    My parents divorced about 10 years ago, which makes things awkward and sometimes awful. Husband’s parents announced their divorce the same month we got engaged. That went way beyond awkward and was just simply awful all the time. I can say that my engagement was one of the worst times of my life- simply because it felt like the future in-laws divorce infected everything about the wedding. Divorce was a constant presence in the room with us- it was in the air when we made decisions, when we were in premarital counseling, and especially when we talked about our hopes for the future. I definitely felt like something had been taken from me- that my engagement, my happy time of planning my life with my partner, had been taken away and now we just had to endure it until it was over. Nothing about the wedding we had was what we would have wanted, but we made sacrifices in order to make things easier on everyone.

    But then you realize that it is still your wedding, and it is your marriage, and you can grieve for “what might have been” if everyone’s parents were still together, but that is wasted energy. They aren’t together. They just aren’t. So you cry and throw things (if you want, just not at anyone) and then you try your damnedest to be happy that you are starting a family with someone, and maybe, just maybe, this branch of the family tree won’t get broken.

    • Marie

      Hi Rachel.

      “Divorce was a constant presence in the room with us- it was in the air when we made decisions, when we were in premarital counseling, and especially when we talked about our hopes for the future. I definitely felt like something had been taken from me- that my engagement, my happy time of planning my life with my partner, had been taken away and now we just had to endure it until it was over.”

      This is verbatim what I am experiencing right now. I’m 39 days away from my wedding and I’m terrified that both my wedding and marriage are going to explode into the Chernobyl- sized disaster that my parent’s has… apparently my father gleefully rushed to turn his divorce papers in and my mother has repeatedly called me close to or in tears, several times as she completed and sent hers off two weeks ago.

      The timing could not be worse and I’m equal parts resentful, scared and angry… Our entire relationship has had the shadow of their messed up relationship hanging over it and now they’re taking this day over too…

      I also love my fiancee and feel that he deserves better than this constant anxiety from me…

      I’m so grateful to know I’m not alone in my feelings.

  • Franny

    Thank you for putting some of this into words that can be hard to find — my parents are divorced and remarried, his have only ever been married to each other. It makes things hard going both directions — He doesn’t understand why its hard for me to tell my parents everything, I get tired of telling the whole story over and over, I either get yelled at multiple times, or it loses magic having to be retold, or there’s difficulty in picking who gets told first, and guilt for not being able to tell everyone at once. Its stressful just thinking of it, and I have trouble explaining my feelings on the matter in a way that makes sense to him.

    Add to that an overly sensitive stepfather who has decided I’m his daughter even though I didn’t even meet him until I was 16, and I dread making decisions for holidays, much less a wedding.

    It also doesn’t help that while his family is 5 minutes away mine are all 12 hours away. I keep angling for a lets go get married at Disney where they can handle it all and we show up in pretty clothes, but so far no dice.

    • AnotherCourtney

      I’d love to hear more about your point of view. An undergraduate post, maybe?

      I’m your partner in this story – my parents are celebrating 30 years of an awesome marriage a couple months before our wedding, and his have been divorced for about 10. His parents are civil to each other, at least (now that his dad just got divorced for a second time and got rid of the “overly sensitive” step mom that complicated everything), but I have so much trouble understanding his family dynamics when mine is so close (emotionally) and far (physically) while his is the opposite. I want, badly, to honor my parents on our wedding day as roll models and as a couple, but he and I are both stumped about how to do this without calling attention to the fact that we’re not celebrating his family.

      Just remember to be patient with your man (as I’m sure you are). You’ve had years to adjust to a divorced family, but for those of us thrown into the middle of one, it’s hard to understand.Divorced in laws are tough stuff!

      • Quela

        I’ll chime in too and say I’d love to hear more on APW about the married/divorced parents/in-laws dichotomoy.

        I have a somewhat unique situation. My parents are married, while Mr Q hasn’t had contact with his mother for about ten years and has no plans to change that. His father found a new lady when Mr Q was about 5 or 6 years old, so he ended up with a very volatile stepmum and a half brother who is 14 years his junior. Stepmum has referred to herself as Mr Q’s mother for many years now, and has often competed with his paternal grandmother for supremacy in Mr Q’s life.

        Then, his dad left Stepmum a couple of years ago, reasonably amicably. Stepmum is fierce about her side of the family being recognised by Mr Q as his family, even since the separation (oh, and her parents are separated too). So, Mr Q has these non-relatives, a Nan he really despises for her lifelong apathy and contempt for his dad’s family, and a Grandpa who he doesn’t mind so much (but who is a very unsavoury character and unpleasant company – read: ex-con).

        They are so far apart from Mr Q’s paternal grandparents, who have been quasi-parents to him his whole life and provided the only really solid foundation Mr Q had as a child. The problem is, Stepmum has always been touchy about his natural closeness with his paternal grandparents as contrasted to the status of she and her family in his life.

        Mr Q wants to invite Stepmum’s father to the wedding (the ex-con) because he lived with him for a time during university. He is adament that Stepmum’s mother (Nan), however, will not be invited, nor will Nan’s second husband. Stepmum WILL be furious at this snub.

        I’ve encouraged Mr Q to think about whether he is going to honour Stepmum as “mother of the groom” and if so, whether that might warrant just sucking it up and inviting the loathed Nan. Nan is unlikely to cause any trouble (her problem is apathy). The other side of the coin is that Stepmum WILL cause trouble, come hell or high water, so this would just be another drop in the bucket. There is also the issue of whether his paternal grandparents should be recognised for their contribution to Mr Q’s upbringing and their ongoing support.

        Okay, long story over – I’d love to feel I’m not the only one totally perplexed as to how such delicate family relations can be managed in a wedding context!!

        • C.

          OK so this isn’t my story, but hey, may make you feel solidarity because of the sheer complexity… One of my friends from an ‘intact family’ married a lovely guy, who’s family was complicated in other new ways. At 18 he discovered he was adopted and made contact with his birth parents. Both his adoptive parents and birth parents are divorce. None of them get on with each other. In addition:
          * He had a good relationship with his adoptive mother but a strained one with his adoptive father
          * He got along with his birth father now, but his birth mother had been umming and ahhing about whether to recognise him publically, since she was an unwed teen when she had him and was now high up in a religious organisation.
          … It all made for quite a lot of stress around seating arrangements and other things I’m sure… but they got through it and are now creating their own, much more secure family unit :)

          • Quela

            Solidarity felt! Thanks C.

    • http://blametheweatherman.wordpress.com Melissa

      Not to add to the stress pile, but I would like to say in defense of the step-father who met you at 16: it truly is a wonderful thing that he cares so deeply about you despite meeting you at such a late age. Not a lot of people would do that. <3

      • http://www.moodeous.com Kristy

        This would be a brilliant undergrad post. The divorced/married parent dichotomy can be really difficult.

        My partner and I have chosen not to get married. His parents are divorced. One is remarried. The other is remarried and divorced again. As you saw yesterday, my parents are (pretty) happily married after 32 years and while I’ve never wanted a wedding or a marriage, (due to early thoughts that monogamy was implausible and later convictions that marriage wasn’t necessary for me as a legal contract) I still have a very hard time wrapping my brain around the pain that multiple divorces have cause him. I have a great relationship with my parents, he does not. If we were ever to try and plan something akin to a wedding together I think our heads would explode.

      • Franny

        Oh I know its all in love, but its was hard to accept as a 16 year old grieving for my parent’s marriage, and even now there are times where its all I can do to keep from telling him to just back off already.

        • Franny

          ps I’m working on putting thoughts into words that are coherent-ish, but as I try, I’m discovering its much more about relationships than anything else.

  • http://www.cmorrisphoto.com Lauren

    Yes to every single thing in this post! My parents are divorced (and are of the “barely able to be in the same room” sect and I, like you, never allowed myself to consider marriage. Then I met my fiance and learned that sometimes you just have to say “f it – lets do this thing anyway.” I can’t wait for the post about practical tips! Man, I could use a whole book on practical tips for weddings w/divorced families b/c those etiquette books are a bunch of hooey.

  • http://blametheweatherman.wordpress.com Melissa

    I come from divorced parents, who each came from divorced parents, and I myself was married at 19 and divorced by 22. The hubs comes from a long line of For Life marriages.

    Matter of fact, after we got engaged, his parents sat me down and said, “Melissa, we want you to know there are no divorces in this family. But there are a lot of ‘accidents’.” Which, you know, haha – but also HOLYCRAPOMGNOPRESSUREORANYTHINGKTHANKS. Husband’s oldest sister is her husband’s second wife, and apparently he got full on interrogated after they announced their engagement 9 years ago. So I got off easy?

    Anyway. I was positively mortified about the very prospect of marriage. My parents couldn’t make it. Both of THEIR parents couldn’t make. Hell, I COULDN’T MAKE IT. I would break out into a cold sweat just thinking about white tulle and confetti.

    And I met Adam. And the world didn’t change. And my mind didn’t change either, like yours. But I loved him. And that love gave me the strength to realize mistakes are mistakes and divorce isn’t a sign of failure, it’s a sign of strength – of taking risks and shouldering the consequences. Then to love again? Magic.

    Love gives us strength. The future is 100% unknown. Divorce happens. Separations happen. Death happens. Infidelity happens. But it takes strength and courage to love. Find someone who can give you that strength, while you give them that courage? Magic.

    • http://www.twitter.com/kahlia kahlia

      strength and courage and magic… sounds like you’ve found a great way to make it all work for you (both). Good for you!

  • http://dearwedding.wordpress.com/ Andee

    When we told my future in laws that we were getting married in the town where we currently live, my mother in law was dissappointed because she was hoping we would get married in my childhood hometown so that her ex-husband’s family couldn’t attend. Ouch. To top it off my future husband’s real dad died several years back so it is extremely important to me that his family comes to the wedding so we have representation and support from that branch of the tree. I feel for you, boy can it get complicated fast!

  • Erin

    Thank you for this. My story is a little different: my husband’s parents divorced when he was 13, and his dad isn’t in the picture, and my parents separated a year into our engagement. No one has remarried, but navigating wedding planning was difficult. And there’s nothing like your parent’s marriage falling apart while you’re about to embark on your own to make you reconsider what your relationship (and the institution of marriage itself) mean to you.

    We ended up having our wedding two years later than we initially planned. In some ways, even with all the pain, the process was inspiring, because we truly understood what it takes to make a marriage survive, and without having expectations/examples from our parents, our marriage could really be what we wanted it to be.

  • http://sociallyconstructedkaytlin.blogspot.com Kaytlin

    I’m about a month and a half away from getting married (really?! eek!) and this has been by far the most difficult part of the planning, especially because my partner and I aren’t traditional in any other way. His father passed away a couple of years ago and my parents went through a nasty awful divorce in which my mother’s family had all but vowed to never speak to or see my father again. If there is anything I learned through this whole process, it’s to go with what feels right. Having my dad walk me down the aisle doesn’t feel right, having my older brother do it does. Having a mother-daughter dance in addition to a father- daughter dance feels right, not having either doesn’t, etc. I can’t wait for the practical tips, if only to see what I haven’t thought of yet. Thank you, APW, for broaching this difficult topic yet again.

    • http://blametheweatherman.wordpress.com Melissa

      My parents split about 7 years ago and I haven’t spoken to my father for most of it. My gay uncle walked me down the aisle (he’s my favorite relative EVER). Instead of a father-daughter dance, we combined forces to have a Mother’s Dance – him with his mom, me with mine. Then we switched partner’s a few times :) It was one of my favorite parts of the entire wedding.

      I wholeheartedly agree, go with what feels right. Some situations may require a more delicate approach, but family is family. Once they get over their own shoulder burdening chips, they’ll see this is a time to love you and keep their own blubbering affairs out of the wedding planning.

      We had ways to honor all of our families – deceased and living – and we were immensely blessed that everyone respected us enough to realize despite THEIR OWN harbored feelings, these were still OUR family members. We didn’t shove anything in anyone’s face (my father not receiving an invitation no doubt helped – but we aren’t on speaking terms, so I could do that) and they didn’t shove their opinions in ours.

  • http://www.thinkingwedding.blogspot.com Rhiannon

    It’s not so strange that you all have still-married parents. Statistically people are more open to marriage if their parents’ marriage was successful.

    Can’t remember where I read that but it was almost definitely when I thought it would be a good idea (it wouldn’t) to marry my ex whose parents were divorced.

  • http://justneedthisspace.wordpress.com ddayporter

    Rachelle! you’re awesome. my hubs parents are still married, but mine are long divorced and can hardly be in the same room together. my wedding ended up being easier than it could have been, since my dad just didn’t come (no feud, he just doesn’t travel really). we had our moms escort each other down the aisle, which they really enjoyed, so that took care of that awkwardness.

    my main problem was with the engagement news sharing. my dad is pretty old fashioned, and he lives far away, so I thought it would be a nice gesture for zach to ask for his blessing before we got engaged. we didn’t tell/ask my mom in advance because she lives near us, and I wanted to be able to be there when she found out, I thought it would be more fun for everyone. wrong. of course my mom ended up being offended by not being able to give her blessing in advance, since my dad did. I guess I should have considered that, I just didn’t think she would care about giving blessings! but of course she only cared because she wanted equal footing, and that’s valid I suppose.

    • Steph & B

      Exactly again. This happened to us. Ben asked my dad, well not necessarily asked, but just gave him a heads up. We didn’t do that with my mom. Mostly because my dad, like yours, is a little old fashioned and very protective. And my mom isn’t. And then dad lives nearby and mom doesn’t.

      It’s a logistical nightmare. At times, I can’t wait until this whole wedding bit is comletely over.

    • marbella

      Ha ha… our mothers must be the same. My parents are divorced, with my father happily remarried for almost 10 years, and my mother single. There is much bitterness and they had not been near each other for over 5 years since my graduation, which was not a fun day. T’s parents on the other hand have been together 40 years this year and are amazing role models for a marriage.
      When T asked my dad for his blessing, he knew my mum would want to be asked too, so he called her and did so (she lives in the UK). She then messaged me straight after and basically fished around to find out if I knew he had called her, almost giving away the surprise proposal (it wasn’t really a surprise engagement, but we hadn’t told anyone and he wanted a ‘proper proposal’ and refused to propose without the ring, which hadn’t arrived yet). When it was announced, she wanted to know who had been asked first, my dad or her….!!!!
      Our entire relationship (9+ years) we have talked about the awkwardness of our wedding and what we would do about seating etc. In the end we did 3 long feasting tables and had my mum, his parents, and my dad/step-mum head one each, then we sat at a sweetheart table near all of them.
      For walking down the aisle we had our mums accompanied by one of their sons because they were lighting a candle (his dad was best man) and had my mum sit with his mum on one side, with my dad and step-mum on the other.
      I think all turned out pretty well actually. One thing I regret is I didn’t have anyone accompany my step-mum down the aisle, I forgot totally, I am not sure if she was bothered or not.
      The stress of having my parents in the same room, and my mum and step-mum (who have never even met) was something that bothered me for years and massively before the wedding. In the end it was actually fine. In the week leading up to it, we had my mum/step-mum meet and both came to the rehearsal dinner and the hen night, which I think took pressure off the wedding day itself.
      For anyone stressing about it, I would say it will probably turn out to be nothing to worry about at all, and their attention will most likely be on making sure you have a great day, not themselves.

  • Clare

    This is why I love APW- I would never have heard a story like yours if this site didn’t exist. Sometimes we really just need to hear someone’s been where you are now, and come out the other side.

    I’m 21 and my parents separated last year. My whole idea of what marriage, love and commitment mean just cracked. I’ve got a man who I know will be my husband someday (who’s parents are still together, but have a housewife/workaholic dynamic I don’t wish to emulate), and my image of how a wedding would worked got trampled on.
    You just helped mend it and gave me hope, that I can be kiss a**e and practical like you someday, even with divorced parents and any future step parents.
    Thank you

    • secret reader

      Clare, I was in the *exact* same boat. Not that I’m much farther advanced from that now. But my parents separated very suddenly when I was 19, and I had been dating the person I now live with for a year when it happened. One of the first things I remember thinking is that overnight (literally) I went from pretty much blindly accepting life-long commitment to doubting how in the world ANYONE could say married til death.

      My partner and I are not engaged or married, but we’ve been together 5 1/2 years. Earlier this month, my parents spent the day in each others’ company for a sibling’s graduation, and it was okay. I didn’t have trouble breathing.

      My partner and I will still have a lot of thinking to do when/if we get engaged. I think there are two big puzzle pieces, which APW has already pointed out: the emotions and thoughts that come up when dealing with divorce and a wedding, and then the logistics of “how the heck do we pull this off”

      Luckily (or perhaps unluckily) the emotional component isn’t limited to wedding planning. By that I mean that these are things you’re already working on at your own pace, when you have the strength. It’s not as if you’re not processing this at all until you get engaged and the emotional starting gun goes off. Certainly deciding to get married, if you do, will bring things, new and old, to the surface, but you don’t have to start with a blank slate.

      For instance, the way I get through most holidays is by literally standing in front of a mirror a few days before I see my family and telling myself, out loud, “This is my holiday, and no one is going to take that away from me.” (Can you tell that I tend to be focused on other people’s emotions and have a hard time validating my own?) Since I know this strategy actually helps me, I’m sure I’ll find a way to incorporate said strategy into any future wedding planning. So that means I already have some safety nets set up, before I’m even engaged. Ta-da!

      Okay, this comment turned out WAY longer than I expected it to be! But my closing thought, which is the important thing I wanted to share with you, is that when my parents separated and I was already a “grown up”, I found it difficult to find resources for adult children of newly-separated/divorced parents. We know a fair amount about supporting children through a divorce, but not as much about supporting adult children. I felt really uncomfortable talking about it with anyone outside my extremely close friend circle for about a year. When I finally opened up a bit more to the peers in my college community, I found some resonance with others. But it was hard to do that.

      So, in conclusion, you’re not by any means alone, it will gradually start to feel less actively awful on an everyday basis, and big hugs.

      • Clare

        That is EXACTLY want I told myself this Christmas just gone

    • KEA1

      SO with you on “my whole idea of what marriage, love, and commitment mean just cracked.” I was 27 (!!) when my parents divorced after 34 (!!) years and I am *still*, at 36 and not even engaged, dealing with the fallout. It may still get worse before it gets better; and, unless I wait until I’m about 75 or so to get married, I’m going to have a #@%!load of family dynamics mess to deal with, and that’s not taking into account any stress from the groom’s side of things OR, you know, the general stress of organizing whatever kind of wedding it might be.

      I wish I could say I was optimistic. But it helps to read posts like these *and* their comments, and at least know that I’m not entirely alone.

      • Amy*

        My mom got divorce papers from my dad on their 25th wedding anniversary. (Turns out he had been with another woman for years. Happy Anniversary!) I am also in the category of becoming a non-believer in forever, despite the fact that I had been with my fiance for 8 years.

        After we got engaged, we waited a long time before we got married. I had a lot of emotional healing to do. I had a non-existent relationship with my father for a while. Eventually, I forgave him. Not for his benefit, but for mine. I still have a hard time separating myself from my parents relationship. (Just because he does bad things to my mom doesn’t mean that I have to hate him. If that was the case, he’d never be in my life.)

        Despite all the bad blood, my wedding went off without a hitch. (My parents divorce was two years in the past, but my brother doesn’t speak to my dad, my fiance’s parents are divorced, and his brother doesn’t speak to his dad.) And my wedding was small – immediate family only! Everyone played nice, and I think it actually helped my family. I’m so glad that when I was ready, I took the leap of faith to tie the knot.*

      • Clare

        It is so comforting and inspiring to hear people talk about this. Sometimes I feel like I’m drowning in a sea of friends who’s parents are still together.

        Thank you, again

        APW is truely great

    • http://as-food-to-life.blogspot.com meredyth

      Clare! My parents got divorced when I was 22, and in the first *real* relationship of my life. His parents were still together and it made it hard for him to understand what I was going through. To make it more difficult, my dad, whom I’ve always been really close to, had been cheating on my mom with the woman he would eventually marry. Talk about cracking my concept of marriage and trust. It was incredibly hard to move forward in a relationship with my dad even though I knew I didn’t want to lose him.

      Six years later and the woman who “broke up” their marriage (although it was already only on life support) is a trusted, funny, kind woman who loves my dad in a way my mom was never able to. I love talking to her and spending time with my dad.
      My mom remarried and to a man who lives a life much more like the one she always wanted. She even gets to be back in SC near her remaining family and near his sweet, loving family.
      My parents are civil to each other (they still support my sister in college) and my mom has even met my stepmother. All this looks good for the wedding, but it was a long, tough road to travel. I’m sorry for how your parents’ divorce has affected you and your future marriage, but from someone who has been through it, time and effort do heal many wounds and I’m hoping for the best in your situation.

  • Susan

    I’m writing as a divorced mother to lend another perspective to this important discussion. My daughter married a man who is also from a divorced family last June. I was surprised by the intensity of the memories that washed over me at odd moments in the ten months leading up to her DIY wedding. As parents, we dearly want our children to be with the loves of their lives forever – just what we wanted for ourselves, too.

    I am remarried and so is the groom’s father. Both other parents have significant others in their lives. All of us were devoted to this young couple embarking on the journey of a lifetime together. Love brings it’s own kind of magic to life and to see your children taking the leap is extraordinary. The ceremony was beautiful and their love filled the room. So much so that a couple of months after this wedding, the bride’s father became engaged and is now married. The groom’s mother became engaged, too. Love is a grand thing and something to be celebrated hugely!

    Warm regards,
    Susan

    PS. I became a fan of your blog when my other daughter pointed out the posts about second weddings/marriages and how special they are, too. Thank you for sharing all that you do here.
    It makes a difference.

    • http://oversized-cliches.blogspot.com Zan

      Hey! Thanks for chiming in! I love it when we get to hear from the Moms!

  • http://www.piecesofanna.com/ Anna

    Props to you for figuring out how to split your wedding four ways and keep everyone happy. It sounds like a delicate balancing act, and I really hope it works out for you.

    My parents are divorced, and both remarried. I thought it was ridiculous that my mom insisted that it should be she and my dad who walk me down the aisle together during my wedding. Everyone knew they were divorced. Everyone knew they were remarried. So why the charade? And the silliest part was that as a result of this, my stepdad and my dad’s wife then had to walk down the aisle TOGETHER. Anyway, I think that was definitely not the right way to balance a wedding, and it sounds like you’ve figured out a way that works for you.

  • SpaceElephant

    I hear you on being tentative about things because of the past. My mother is currently on her third marriage, my bio father is out of the picture and my ex-step-father (yes) and I have a tenuous relationship at best. Am having a fun time figuring out how to introduce him to others at the wedding. Meanwhile my fiance’s parents divorced when he was young, his mother remarried pretty quickly and his father passed away a month after we got engaged. He has a good relationship with his stepfather, but the logistics of navigating traditions and how to even recognize the people who are important to us is all kind of a nightmare.
    With a past like ours, it took us a long time to do things. We waited 2.5 years into dating before moving in (and even then OHMYGOD it was a huge terrifying step), and didn’t get engaged for another 2 years after that.
    Thank you for putting into such eloquent words a lot of things we are dealing with wordlessly.

  • Harriet

    Thanks for this post. I’m getting married in about 10 days, and my partner’s parents are divorced (mine are not). The divorce was long ago, and his father has been remarried for many years, but it’s still a very difficult situation. The most important thing to me has been respecting my partner’s feelings. For example, he did not want his parents to give toasts at our wedding–it would just be too strange and uncomfortable for him. So my parents and his siblings will be giving the toasts. I honestly do not know if his parents are sad about this arrangement (though they haven’t said anything to us about it), but this is what makes my partner happy and that’s what matters most to me. I want them to enjoy the wedding, and so does my partner, but mostly I want him to be happy and comfortable.

    • http://blametheweatherman.wordpress.com Melissa

      HAPPY UPCOMING WEDDING DAY!!!!!!!!!!

  • http://thissaturnreturns.blogspot.com laurabalaurah

    Thanks for this, Rachelle!
    I, too, found the thought of marriage daunting after having divorced parents. And yes, the logistics of planning a wedding, too, when it came time to do that. I’m very happy to report, though, that I got married May 14, and that an incredibly beautiful and drama-free day was had by all! Having parents that behaved well and that were able to make space for my happiness amidst their difficult pasts meant the world. I wish you a very happy wedding!

  • Lauren

    My parents separated when I was 7 and divorced a few years later. (That was a long time ago!). Luckily, my sister got married several years before I did so she had the first go at dealing with some of the awkwardness that can accompany bringing divorced parents together at a wedding. She had both of my parents walk her down the aisle and I remember how much that meant to my mother since she had raised my sister and me. When it was my turn, I also asked both my mother and father to walk me down the aisle. Of course, this is only feasible if they can stand to be in close proximity of one another, but I think it goes a long way toward honoring that something good (you!) came out of a relationship that ultimately did not last.

    Also, while I was nervous at my prospects of having a healthy marriage, now that I am married, I’ve found that it has really helped me to let go of some of the pain I still held on to about my parents’ divorce-and to see their shortcomings in a new, more understanding, perspective.

  • Anon

    I haven’t read the comments but thanks SO MUCH for writing this. My parents are divorced, his are very happily married so thankfully my family was the only one with divorce baggage (this isn’t to say that all divorced families have baggage but mine certainly does and did).

    There were a lot of Oy moments in our engagement but it got better for us and I think it’ll get better for you. As hard as the conversations about finances were (also kept confidential btwn my parents but they accidentally found out and there was drama b/c one could afford to contribute much more), and the aisle walking (we almost didn’t do a procession but his parents wanted one and neither of us felt it was right for them to miss out on that because my family was dysfunctional), and the guest list (my mom’s family is MUCH bigger) I can tell you that it was totally worth it. People rallied in unexpected ways to intercede when there was drama and on the wedding weekend people just knew to behave. We learned a lot about setting boundaries in our new family our wedding weekend was so much better than anything we could have imagined.

    So I want to give you a virtual hug and tell you that your wedding can be awesome even if your engagement is fraught with divorce drama.

  • Miss O

    “Why get married if I know how nasty divorce can be?” is the reason I ended up on APW in the first place. My parents got divorced when I was very young; it was nasty-ass and and still flairs up nasty. My boyfriend’s parents are divorced as well, and his mom just remarried. Add to mix several best friend’s getting married and my dad’s remarriage falling apart with the same nasty as when I was little, and it really stirs up the emotions. *Why* marriage. Heck, *why* consider long-term anything and bother to move across the country with this person and raise the stakes when nothing is certain and there is no guarantee. The potential nastiness, bitterness, hurt, and hate of the divorce is scarier than the actual divorce itself. It’s one thing to end an emotional relationship, but another thing when you add all the material goods and money into the mix; people get WEIRD about money. Seriously weird.

    But I am NOT my parents with their nastiness, and the same goes for my partner; this is *why* I have hope and do these things. Marriage is something special, and there’s a reason everyone gets excited about it even in the face of such unpleasant statistics. I have been able to look my fears in the face and put words to my fears so I can address them out loud (thanks to APW for helping with that :) ).Yeah, I can see the potential for nasty, but I can’t forget I also see the potential for loving commitment. I can learn or draw inspiration from the past and be stronger for it, but we have our own hurdles and issues. We’re in a rather awkward engaged-to-be-long-term state with a lot yet to talk about and learn. Maybe we will not be together in a few years, but I will at least be able to say I gave it everything I had and my fear of my parents’ legacy did not prevent me from trying. I learned “what not to do” but I also learned “what to do if I might have to cross this bridge.” As scary as it can be, I would rather try and part ways with as much love as I can muster than to not love at all.

    • Clare

      Exactly. Like you crawled inside my brain and read my mind exactly.

      “I/we am/are not my parents” is my mantra for my parents separation, any time those type of thoughts pop up.

      Good on you for seeing the love in spite of the nasty

  • Tegan

    Yet another reason why my guy and I are basically eloping, and throwing a big party afterwards. Less drama! More food! :-D

  • http://www.3upadventures.com Beth

    We’re not engaged (yet) but both of our parents are divorced as well. For F. the wounds are reduced to scars (he was 10 when his parents divorced) but for me the trauma is just beginning (my parents, who had been married for 38 years are going through a divorce in the wake of my dad’s alcoholism).
    We’re planning on a someday destination wedding. It seems a little cowardly but going somewhere is US and in all likelihood my mom will probably be the only one of the four parents to make it. (I love my dad like nobody’s business and would buy him a plane ticket to come if I only believed he’d make the flight and not make a mess of himself…he missed my sister’s wedding and it was only about two miles from his apartment). We’ll both be surrounded by people who love and continue to support us (lots of my extended family, his siblings, the people who just became like an adopted family for him, our friends, etc) so everything should be fine but there is just this sense of melancholy that comes with the issue for me.
    I never wanted to emulate my parents marriage but how sad to see a marriage that lasted and appeared happy for so long dissolve. Hmm…that makes me think…gonna have to put something in those future (imaginary) vows about promising to be honest with each other and confront our problems together…not just sickness and health…

  • http://www.thehandmadeevent.com thehandmadeevent

    I thought that this was wonderful and bravely written. I had the same debate about where to seat folks (it later turned out to be a wash, but we did have a plan!)

    I found that the stress of seating extended beyond my divorced and remarried parents, to the parents of my mom and dad who both attended – and hadn’t see each other for 20 years. In fact my maternal grandmother introduced herself to my paternal grandmother with “Thank you for coming, I am the grandmom of the bride” and the other replied “so am I” Awkward.

    My husband and I found a way of planning the seating chart so that the divorced spouses didn’t have to sit together and neither was slighted by only one sitting with us. We had a table of only the newlyweds and our bridal party and dates. No feelings hurt, no perceived slight – and it would have been a super fun table. I recommend it as an alternative to the seating problem (only one of many potential danger zones with this thing, but you can always get through it)

  • http://ohioonpurpose.blogspot.com Evie

    My parents are still married, my partner’s folks divorced more than 25 years ago but even though I have known his family for six years, it has surprised me how much a wedding stirs up bad feelings.

    I think that because a lot of the planning (showers, etc.) is so woman-centric culturally, the divorced dad’s extended family can feel really shut out (the notion of the mom being in control of information, guest lists, etc.)

    So while my dad doesn’t care if he knows where we’re having the rehearsal dinner, etc., if I don’t tell my future father-in-law it’s a political act.

    That being said, I am pretty stoked on getting three more parents! (MIL, FIL, StepFIL)

  • http://koruwedding.blogspot.com Koru Kate

    “the triumph of hope over experience”

    I adore this as a positive thought for someone of divorced parents getting married. I’m a child of divorced parents, although it was nothing I worried about in the planning stages because my Dad died when I was younger & my parent’s families get along. But I thought about being a product of divorce a lot during our marriage prep, especially since there is not one single divorce on my hubs’ side. On top of that, they told us children of divorce are more likely to end up divorced. I felt deflated & destined for failure. I came to realize I believe in us & we will prove those stats wrong. Now I can keep the “hope over experience” thought close to my heart too!

    I’m sorry that your engagement is tainted with divorce drama. I hope your wedding day & every day is full of love & beauty like you deserve.

    • http://www.ohdeerio.com Rachelle

      Yep, I ran across that quote and knew that it summed up exactly how I felt about getting married!

      Also, there are a LOT of confounding factors that contribute to children of divorce being more likely to divorce, like attitudes toward marriage and expectations. It’s certainly not a stamp of doom! Remember that statistics like that only make sense when applied to a large group, not to individual relationships. Statistics don’t define you.

  • Anonymous Sorry

    This post is very important to me. I really value all of the stories in these comments and I feel compelled to share mine as well.
    My parents divorced when I was 6 months old and my entire childhood was filled with custody battles and name calling between all parties involved…including my grandparents. My mother would describe my father as a drunk and tell me all the horrifying details of their dysfunctional relationship from the time I could read. My father would tell me how much he had to spend on child support and send me home from our summer vacations asking what a “queer” was because that’s what my dad had been calling my grandfather all summer (My grandfather is not gay). My grandfather recently told me with a stone face that he expects my father will “Graciously Decline” an invitation to my wedding based on his behavior in the past.
    And where do I fit in all of this? Well, I have relatively good relationships with all parties. I have these relationships because of a lot of bending and pushing my own feelings out of the way. If I didn’t do this, I would be left in the middle of the boxing ring, alone.
    It’s because of these separate relationships that I am having so many sleepless nights. Part of me feels it would be easier for me to say “Well, I’m not on speaking terms with my father” than to have to tell him that it will offend my grandparents beyond belief if he is the one walking me down the aisle and having my mom and dad do it together? Out of the question. Will I walk down alone?
    We are getting married in a small town with only 2 hotels and I’m stuck orchestrating 5 groups (who all hate each other) lodging situations, so that they see each other as little as possible.
    I have an amazing and relatively new relationship with my step-mom and a strenuous emotional relationship with my biological mother. How do I include my step-mom as much as I’d like without shoving my the “on the rocks” relationship I have with my mom in her face? Do I allow my father to give a toast at the risk that he will say something A) Racist B) Embarrassing C) Ignorant as he has in the past?
    So many things are swarming around my head constantly. I cover them up with DIY invitations and time spent collecting candle holders for our centerpieces. I smile widely when people ask me about my wedding because I really do think it will be a great time and I don’t want all of these issues to be on the minds of all my other guests all night. But they are there and I’m not typically a worrier…but I’m worried.
    My fiance is great. But he doesn’t truly relate because his side of the family is amazing and supportive. I’m grateful that he doesn’t completely understand because it makes him able to be a strength for me. And I’m grateful to be becoming part of a strong, kind and supportive family. I feel I’ve paid my dues so to speak. Phew, long winded, but it feels nice to get it out.

    • http://www.ohdeerio.com Rachelle

      I want to reach through the computer and hug you! I realized while writing this post that we are still very lucky because there isn’t a huge amount of drama between our parents anymore and everyone tries to stay respectful. I can’t imagine how hard it must be for you to deal with this. Sometimes it feels like the ramifications of divorce will never stop coming. Please be kind to yourself and try to remember that you cannot control anyone’s actions but your own, so if someone makes rude or inappropriate comments or something like that, try to remember that no one is going to judge you for it.

      I truly wish you the best in your wedding planning and know that you’ll get through it and have a wonderful day, marrying the person you love.

      • Anonymous Sorry

        Thank you Rachelle. I take to heart the comment “Please be kind to yourself and try to remember that you cannot control anyone’s actions but your own.” And I will live the next few months by this mantra. As long as I treat everyone with respect, I have done all I can do and I have broken the chain reaction of negativity. Thanks for the web hug too. Most days I am so stoked for the wedding, but today, this post brought out some healthy feelings of realization.

      • Anonymous Sorry

        It also helps to hear you say that people won’t judge me for the actions of my family. This is something I am constantly battling. Like I have to scream “I PROMISE I’M NORMAL IN SPITE OF ALL THIS!” I’ll have to remind myself that it’s because of my families idiosyncrasies that I am an understanding and loyal person today and those that know me best, know that about me. Without my family, I’d be totally different and I’m actually proud of who I am in spite of all this mess. Cheers to that.

        • C.

          I find this part really helpful too. All our parents are still together, but while his are a very much still in love super couple who ACTUALLY GOT AN AWARD FOR BEING GREAT PARENTS, mine are… well, I love them, but they have their moments. And it is entirely possible that my dad would say racist / sexist / explicit / anti-religious things in his speech in front of my racially diverse friends and our very religious community. Hmmm.
          My dad is really passionate about speaking on the day, and hey, it could be wonderful (he gave an amazing eulogy at his brother’s funeral, much to everyone’s surprise). but it could be terrible, and I’m just trying to remind myself this – it’s not my fault and people who know me know I’m not like him in that respect. Also, he’s speaking with my ma (sorry, i know that won’t help you in this case) and is speaking first so we can enforce a rule that he can’t have alcohol until the speech is over…
          The fiance btw is supportive but doesn’t really get it – he thinks my dad being totally inappropriate would be hilarious and doesn’t quite realise that it is likely to make me cry and give me nasty childhood flashbacks…

    • Anonymom

      Wow – you have your hands full. At risk of giving unwanted advice about the lodging: if they are all adults, they are old enough to know how to make reservations and also how to make nice. Keep remembering that they have had their turn(s) to have weddings and this is Your Turn and Your Wedding! At the end of the day, you and your dear one will be married and sometimes that’s what will keep you going.

      • Anonymous Sorry

        Thank you Anonymom…I will keep in mind that it is my families responsibility to me to help me make this work. If they can’t do that, I’ll just need to move on. But if they can, I’ll be pleasantly surprised. I should give them the benefit of the doubt unless they prove me wrong. Thanks for the kind words.

    • charm city vixen

      Awwww, good luck! It sounds like your situation is a tough one…

      I don’t have any advice for you as I have not been through your situation, but it would seem to me that telling your family to put the big kid pants on and walk through your wedding with respect for you and your groom would possibly be a conversation worth having — with every single member of your family.

      When I think of who to invite and how to place them in roles within my wedding, I think of who I want to have as a part of my life, for the rest of my life. And to me, that means family — my FH’s family and my own. As for placing them in roles in my wedding? I would do THAT based on who it is you want standing up with you when you are making the biggest commitment in your life. Is it your Mom? Your Dad? Or is it your childhood bestfriend who has been through everything with you? Your sister? Your brother? Only you know what feels right to you <3

      That being said, good luck!!! And congrats on your future wedding ;)

      • Anonymous Sorry

        Thank you Charm City Vixen (cute name btw!) I agree with the comment about picking people you want to be a part of your life for the rest of your life. This is family and I do want them around for all of my life. I just need to remember that this is the only time they will ever all need to be in the same place at the same time EVER AGAIN. That will keep me grounded and help me to realize that from here on out, I can continue to have separate relationships with each one of them, but for now, we must try to work as a unit. :)
        Thanks again.

    • http://www.greenandcarefree.com huebscher

      deep breath, sweetie. my family’s situation was similarly complicated and toxic. and similarly, I felt there was no reasoning with the folks likely to cause problems (and actually that it might, in fact, reveal a vulnerability to be exploited). here’s what I would do: make those damned arrangements. call the two hotels, and let them in on (a little of) the situation. no need to be too specific, but it’s in the hotel’s best interest to place problem parties in separate areas of the hotel. then do a gut-check on the rest as it comes.

      • Anonymous Sorry

        That’s a great idea. I’ll have them put a note on file saying to put different parties on different floors. Then the likelihood of uncomfortable elevator encounters will be eliminated. Thanks!

        • http://www.greenandcarefree.com huebscher

          for me, at least, it was easier to take that bull by the horns. then at least I knew it had been addressed.
          … and incidentally, there were no flaming bags of doorstep-poo reported at our wedding hotels. ::grin::

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    • http://www.agaishanlife.blogspot.com/ Revanche

      Oh gosh.

      My situation’s completely different in that my parents aren’t divorced but I do relate to you on the level of wondering what to do about how family will behave and worrying about it. Half of my immediate family is just not ok. My mom’s mentally unstable and I can’t tell my brother I’m engaged (there’s only two of us siblings, too) because I can’t invite him. His behavior of the past ten years has been completely atrocious.

      My mom, well, she’s coming and that’s going to be one worry I keep worrying at. I’ll probably have to ask at least two close family members to keep a close eye on her, maybe but I’ll feel awful doing it because they’ll have to babysit, essentially. Otherwise perhaps I’ll have to hire a nurse for the day. She can’t eat or drink without choking (medical probs with her ability to swallow), she can’t walk without tripping or falling suddenly, she has poor judgment (regresses to a childlike state most of the time) and sometimes under stress will become very verbally abusive even though she won’t remember any of it later.

      My brother’s been sponging off the family for years now and won’t earn a living on his own, and the last time we were celebrating something for me as a family together, he completely embarrassed me in front of an entire restaurant and my family and friends making a big announcement about my birthday because he knows I hate attention.

      It took me a bit of a breakdown to realize that I need a linebacker. Only one or two of my very closest friends know the depths of our poor relationship and only one would really be able to handle it, I think, so the only solution I could think of was to ask him to run interference should anything go awry, specifically with my brother. He trusts me with his family, I can trust him with mine. I think that might be what I need to ask of him to preserve that shred of sanity.

      Could you do something of the same? Designate close friends who understand the situation and know each of the parents involved to step in and defuse and deflect as necessary so that you know you have a go-to during the day/weekend?

      • Anonymous Sorry

        Thank you for sharing your story. It sounds incredibly complicated and you sound very level headed about it all, although, if you’re like me, you have your moments. I’m happy to hear you have a friend that gets it. It seems like a great idea to have someone (or a whole bridal brigade) on the lookout for potential upsets. A few of my closest girlfriends, and even some sane aunts have already volunteered their services on this front as well. I’m feeling more and more confident that things will turn out to be ok in the end, at least on my end. We just have to keep our eyes on the prize! Our HUNKY future partners! :)

    • RLeah

      Anonymous, thanks so much for sharing your story! I can relate to this in many ways, and I can’t tell you how much I feel for you. I get so frustrated when adults put children in situations like the one you’ve had to grow up in, forcing you to behave more grown-up than the adults. You’re in such a difficult situation, trying to keep the peace.

      But I also hope for you that you can let go of feeling like you’re responsible for keeping the peace. They will behave as they choose, and as long as you are reasonably considerate to not put anyone in a severely awkward situation like seating sworn enemies at the same table, you don’t need to feel responsible if someone ends up picking a fight. You can’t control it if they choose to create problems.

      I don’t know if it would feel right for you or not, but I think you should at least consider walking yourself down the aisle. When you mentioned this as an option, I got the sense that it made you a little sad to think of that, but see if you can view it as a demonstration of the beautiful strength you’ve shown, coming out of a situation full of other people’s drama without holding grudges against them. If you can see this as a self-empowering act of personal independence, rather than an act of solitude, I wonder if you might see that option as more positive.

      Whatever you decide, you can’t please everybody, so focus on doing what feels right to you and your future husband.

      • Anonymous Sorry

        Thank you for your thoughtful advice about walking down the aisle. I have played out every scenario in my head and am still not sure what I will end up doing. One day one thing seems right and the next it seems completely insensitive and very wrong. I’ve considered walking myself down the aisle and sometimes it feels empowering, but sometimes the thought of it feels very lonely. I’ll figure it out and whatever I chose in the end, I know that my fiance and friends will be supportive even if not everyone in my family is.

        I also take to heart your advice about not being responsible for my family acting a certain way. I’ve actually never thought of it that way…doh! I guess I have been feeling like if they aren’t happy or something goes wrong, it will be my fault. But really, it’s not on my back, it’s their choice to behave how they will and it is not a reflection of me. Hmmm…starting to feel a bit clearer. Thank you APW once again.

        • http://www.greenandcarefree.com huebscher

          best of luck to you, and don’t be afraid to look for solutions outside the (beautifully wrapped gift)box.
          I really liked the idea of everyone walking together to a ceremony site, all at once, for deflecting father-of-the-bride attention. but we streamlined down to one location, so that idea went out the window. we ended up flipping the layout around, discarding the concept of an “aisle,” and I walked in from the side.

          at least the shorter walk *felt* less conspicuous.

  • http://foxandtoad.com/blog Nadine

    Here’s another thank you in the chorus of thank yous for this post. I’ve commented here before about my parents’ situation, and how I stood my ground on my father attending this part of my life and the rest of it, and she actually acknowledge his presence at our engagement party (held at the house we live in together to keep it on neutral ground), and said she would be fine with sitting at a table with him. This is light years from how she acted at my sister’s wedding years ago.
    Still, it’s not easy. There are so many decisions to make and you have to find ways to include everyone as equally as possible, and ways to honor each of your parents without stepping on someone’s toes…
    My dad’s reaction to our engagement was incredibly depressing. He has never remarried since my parents’ divorce (my mom has), let alone dated anyone at all. He was blindsided by the news, even though we’ve been together for six years and live together. He said he just “didn’t see it coming.” And then recently he asked “How’s the wedding planning going, are you still getting married in November or have you postponed it?” Sometimes he just says things awkwardly, but it was hard not to take it personally anyway. He just doesn’t see why we would venture into marriage at all.
    My fiance’s parents are also divorced – his dad made a joke about fidelity when he called to share the news and that was, um, fun, but at least we understand how difficult it is and can talk it out if necessary.
    It is absolutely a leap of faith into uncharted territory for us to get married, and it was refreshing to read that sentiment here today.

  • http://onwardfulltilt.blogspot.com/ Caitlin

    Thank you for sharing this Rachelle. My parents separated when I was a freshman in high school and divorced several years later. I am 31 now but can still remember what that felt like, and what it felt like for years afterward. I found myself nodding my head in agreement to your points on announcing the engagement, finances, day of details. It is hard, but best to talk about the practical day of stuff before the wedding day. My mother in law passed away the week before our wedding so we neglected a lot of the little details that we meant to go over with people and so on the morning of the wedding were left with my mom storming around the hotel room saying she would not walk down the aisle or sit in the same pew as my Dad and stepmom. It was, quite literally, the last thing I needed to be dealing with at the time.

    I loved your last few lines, and the truth is, for all the messiness, we are lucky to have all these extra people in our lives that love us. I say that on good days, but I understand that it’s not always how it feels. But on your wedding day it will. My mom got herself together and sat next to my Dad and stepmom and acted like a perfect grownup. You are going to have an amazing wedding and a hell of a party. I look forward to seeing your graduate post!

  • http://www.ohdeerio.com Rachelle

    Thank you, everyone, for reading my post! I hope it was helpful to those of you in similar situations. Writing this post definitely helped me realize that I still have some resentments and issues about everything, so I recommend that anyone going through the same thing find someone to talk to about it. Whether it’s your partner, sibling or a good friend, acknowledging these feelings and fears makes it less scary and hard.

    Also, thanks to everyone for sharing their stories here! Divorce is one of those taboo wedding topics and I’m so happy we have APW to talk about it.

  • Michelle

    So great to see this topic discussed here. I’ve been a reader since 2008 (I think?) and am finally removed enough from my wedding (2009) to comment on this topic – so, great timing.

    While my husband and I only had one set of parents divorced (mine, and they had been for 20 years), it certainly does add an entirely new element to wedding planning. I/we considered how each “side” would feel about financial contributions, where the wedding would be held, and if the other was bringing a date (neither of my parents remarried), among other things… and it was all hard. I remember telling myself several times that this was our wedding and we’d have a beautiful day no matter what – but I knew deep down that I’d feel terrible if one or both of my parents were feeling uncomfortable for one reason or another.

    On top of this, my father is a sweet man but he has the absolute most awkward way of expressing it. He’d jab, to lighten the mood for himself I believe, and say things like “well, I don’t care where I sit, I don’t need a special table – just put me far away from your mother” or “of course I’ll wear that color tie… but I bet you’re not telling your mom what to wear, huh?”. Yes, he said it in jest. But it doesn’t matter. At the end of the day, I still had to carry those comments with me. I had to consider them. They stayed with me, bobbing around in my mind. I had to eventually rationalize that he said those things to take his mind off the fact his little girl was getting married. Maybe I was right, maybe not.

    When it came down to it, with the help of my husband, I pushed past those comments and calmly dealt with each obstacle in the best way I could. I made it known that I was making an effort to make both my mother and father comfortable at my wedding – when that was not necessarily my primary job or responsibility. We had way more conversations and late nights figuring out seating, etc than many couples probably do but we worked it out as a team.

    In hindsight, maybe it was their responsibility to “work out”. As unfortunate as it is, my father actually saw my wedding, in a small way, as the last time he would ever have to officially “deal” with my mother. Fine, I understand. But maybe it should have been on him to suck it up and sit next to her if that’s how we had to have the dinner tables. And I think he would have, if I had said that’s how it had to be. Because he’s my dad and it was our wedding. And another thing: I can’t confirm this since I was walking in the opposite direction, but I think he even escorted my mother down the aisle during the recessional. Voluntarily. And he stood next to her for pictures (1 or 2, not twenty).

    For as much as we think we need to ice skate around our parents’ situations with their exes, I’m pretty sure they’re grownups and when needed, will rise to the occasion and do what needs to be done to avoid awkwardness on their child’s wedding day. This isn’t always the case, I’m sure, but I was lucky enough to not notice any on our wedding day. (Also, you’ll likely be wrapped up in other things like.. oh, the fact you just married the person you intend to love forever…).

    Here’s hoping.

  • Steph & B

    Thank you, thank you for this post. The boy’s parent’s aren’t divorced, but mine are. I always look at it from the persepective that our children will have three grandmothers and grandfathers.

    But dealing with marriage as a child of divorce is a scary thing. Both of my parents are on their third marriages. My grandmother and great grandmother on my mother’s side had two mariages. Marriage seems to be something less of a blessing with my family. How do you reconcile yourself “till death do us part” when you have GENERATIONS of divorce reminding you that this is not always the case?

    Planning a wedding with divorced parents has openned my eyes to even more complicated family dynamics that I wasn’t even aware of. We’ve talked a lot about how weddings can make people go crazy, and with divorced families you sometimes have to deal with all of that crazy in multiples of three and four.

    • Rowany

      You could look at it in another way, that despite despite their experiences with divorce, your family has maintained their hope in marriage and tried (and tried) again, just as you’ve decided to take the leap with your guy.

  • Katie

    My fiance and I took the divide-and-conquer approach to spreading the news about our engagement. We came back from our 5-year dating anniversery vacation and camped out in the living room with our cell phones (we have 2 siblings each, too.) We have EIGHT parent-like figures. EIGHT. Each set of parents has divorced and we love all of our parents’ partners.

    My parents have been divorced since I was 6, and his divorced about 8 months after we met. My dad has been remarried for 14 years–happily, happily! :) My mom remarried 2 years ago and so far, so good (we’ll see when she hits her notorious 8-year-gotta-run point.) His dad split after coming out, and moved to a different (but still close) town with his partner. His mom found a really great guy who is actually a much better fit for her than her ex-husband ever was, and she has the family home on the market and is going to move in with her beau soon!

    Even with all the sunshine n’ rainbows, love coming out from all directions, things can get downright confusing with 4 couples of parents. I have tried to imagine ways to incorporate all of them into our ceremony, and I get tired just thinking about it.

    I think that my experience in having my own parents’ divorce so long behind me really helped in supporting my fiance through his parents’. Not that you can’t do that if yours are happily married, but my “ehhhh divorce. Stuff happens.” attitude was a great contrast to his experiences and feelings about it. His families are not quite as divorce-happy as my bunch. Even with my relaxed attitude towards it, personally, I loathe divorce and my fiance is going to have to kill me if he wants to get rid of me. We both hate divorce (for us) with a fiery rage, and having a long-lasting, old-farts-holding-hands-on-the-front-porch kind of relationship is one of our most important values as a couple. We’ve seen divorce happen for good reasons–his parents’ divorce was painful, but at the same time we were happy to see his dad come out and embrace who he really is. His grandma also divorced her second husband because he turned into a lazy addict who started selling all of his junk so he could not work and get high. Fine by me–cut the sucker loose! However, we also went through my sister’s divorce, and without going into detail, I’ll just say that whole situation was not handled very well. This makes us angry.

    Oh, so, a point to all this. Do I have one? I think I do. As much as I haaaaaaaate the thought of divorce, it makes me sad and mad and crazy, it can also be a blessing. Our wedding may be a little more tricky having 8 parents to contend with, but I can’t imagine it without them. My stepmom is contributing a very generous amount of cash to us for the wedding–no questions asked. She doesn’t care what we do with it, she just wants to support us. My stepdad is in a band and is an outstanding guitarist. Fiance’s dad and his partner are amateur photographers–we probably won’t have them take care of it all, but I know there is something that we can find to ask for help with. His mom’s boyfriend is an all-around handy guy and I’m sure we’ll need his expertise with certain things. Divorce is so painful, but I love how when we come out on the other side of it we have to potential to open up a whole new community and extend our families beyond what we could ever imagine, growing up. Families don’t bust up and get smaller when a divorce happens, they grow and grow–onwards and upwards, if we’re lucky.

  • First generation wife

    Thank you for this post. I’ve been a silent reader here for the last year or so since I became engaged. As a woman of a generations of divorces marrying a man with happily married parents, coming two weeks out of a whirlwind wedding, this really hit home for me today.

    My parents were never married. They somehow managed to have two daughters and hate each other simultaneously. They tried to make it work for the first few years of our childhood before finally giving up. As an adult, I appreciate that they separated earlier than later because it left me with less to mourn and reconcile. As an adult who tries to be graciously flexible with my parents’ bitterness, new partners, holiday divisions, etc. I believe that in the long run, me and my sister are the ones who’ve made this “family” work. We have made sacrifices and protected both our parents from eachother’s name-calling and fingerpointing our entire lives. But still, somewhow, our parents’ separation never defined our lives. When people ask about it I usually say “It’s great!” because, usually, it is. I now have an enormous family full of people who love me, my sister, my husband, and eachother for the most part.

    Now everyone is civil, and often warm, with eachother. That is, until our engagement was announced. My mom felt immediately left out because she wasn’t asked to give her blessing to our marriage, despite our near-weekly planning talks. My parents fought over who would throw an engagement party to the point where we almost didn’t have one. There were fights between them over money and guest lists and seating arrangements, leaving us mediating between them. I position I though I had resigned from as an independent adult.

    They had their bouts and made compromises and in the end we had a wonderful wedding that we thought went flawlessly…Until we came back from our honeymoon. My mother had been bad mouthing both my father and I for leaving her out of the planning and not acknowledging her sufficiently during the wedding. Both things are untrue. They had their traditional roles to play because that’s what they wanted. She didn’t want to walk with my dad and I down the aisle because she thought it would be “weird”. Her side of the family also counted for at least 70% of the guests so it’s beyond me how she felt singled out.

    I suppose our first lesson in marriage is: you can’t please everyone. I’ve been trying my whole life to keep my parents happy as a repercussion of them not taking responsibility for their own actions. Now I’m focusing on making my marriage a happy and successful one.

  • http://teaatelevensies.com ashbuhdash

    So grateful for you sharing your story/thoughts. My hubs and I both have parents who are still married, but are in fairly miserable relationships. When I was younger, I didn’t think I’d ever get married: to me, marriage was a sham, a mask of smiles and good intentions with something deceptive and decaying underneath. It was always a fear, deep down in my gut, that I carried this poison in me as well.

    I had a moment like you did, though, where I realized that we are very different people than either of our parents, and we have an incredible opportunity to learn from their lives, and to be conscious in our decisions and actions. And we strive for hope that is renewed every single day. We believe that our “staying married” (in the bigger sense than avoiding divorce, but by remaining one, unified) is part of something bigger and more important than just ourselves.

  • Savychacha

    I absolutely love this post. For serious. I am actually going to steal (if you don’t mind) this paragraph “I know that I’m not scared anymore. I know that I can promise truthfully and with all my heart to be part of our marriage for my whole life. In some ways it doesn’t matter what happens after that, because I have conquered the fear that I could never love someone so wholly and completely. I can. I do.” for my wedding vows.

    My parents have been divorced for about 9 years now. My mom is remarried, my father is not. My partners parents were never married. His mom passed away when he was 15 and his dad never married. Neither one of us believed that we would find ourselves in a “good” or “healthy” relationship. Before we met I vowed to never get married, and he was drowning in a pool of depression. Now, 3 years later, we are planning for our wedding this upcoming October and saving up to move to Illinois and buy our first house.

    My partner has moved way past the “what may happen in the future” phase. I still find myself stuck there sometimes, but I know in my heart that he is the man for me. I will fight my insecurities, and battle the demons that pop there heads up at times because I love him so much more than I thought was even possible, and I know he feels the same way about me.

    Thank you again for this post. You put some of my hidden feelings into words, and that makes me feel so much better.

  • mimi

    thanks for this insightful post! my parents have been married 32 years (and my grandparents both more than 50), but my bf’s parents got divorced when he was in late high school (10ish years ago). this post has helped me to understand some of his hesitations and fears about “rushing” in to anything. his brother is getting married next weekend and his parents are on very good terms. they aren’t doing a seated dinner (for other reasons), but i will have to pay attention to how they handle some of the other traditions. and i think i will save this post for my bf to read at some point in the future, when it won’t freak him out. ;)

  • http://made-of-sun.blogspot.com/ Trisha

    I can definitely relate. My parents are long divorced, and have not always been the most peaceable around each other. It added an extra level of stress to the wedding planning for sure. Happily, everyone got a long perfectly day off.

  • Leigh Ann

    “We’re finding ways to divide our wedding by four, like we will have to divide our holidays and vacations and time by four for most of our lives, while trying to preserve the day as the start and celebration of one marriage and one family.”

    My sentiments exactly. Working really hard to include all your sets of parents (especially when you don’t care much for your steps) and not offend anybody has really taken some of the magic out of the planning for me. I’m hoping that, on the day, everyone will forget their own bull*$#@ and be able to show the love that I want to be surrounded by when I get married. But considering that my stepmom didn’t show up to my brother’s wedding (with no notice) and my dad left right after the ceremony, and my mom’s boyfriend was so jealous of her being in the same room with my dad that he wore his sunglasses inside all day, I don’t have high hopes. :(

  • Lauren

    Thank you so much for sharing this, Rachelle!

    The timing of this post is perfect for me – my beau and I have only been officially engaged for a few days, and we haven’t even finished announcing it to family members, but I am already starting to doubt how we will manage to create a joyous day while negotiating the tension that comes with his parents being divorced and his father remarried, as well as my parents not being in a particularly thriving marriage themselves.

    I’ve already (half-) joked about eloping, and yet… we both feel that we need this day. And we want it to be a gift to, and a celebration of, our families – not the families that we wish we had, or the families we wish they would pretend to be for a few days for our sake, but our families as they are.

    So I’m going to write down a part of the last paragraph of today’s post somewhere where I can return to it throughout our planning process, because I think that is it absolutely essential for us to keep those sentiments in mind over the next year.

  • http://breadandcheeseplease.blogspot.com Charise

    My husband’s parents and mine have 6 divorces between them – they’ve each been divorced twice. So that shouldn’t give us a lot of confidence, right? Instead, it’s the opposite. We know we haven’t been given any good role models of marriage, but we HAVE been shown a LOT of what DOESN’T work. And I think that makes us think harder about some of our behaviors and attitudes that are negative for the relationship, and work to be the opposite of the bad we saw growing up.
    That said, my parents have been divorced for 20 years and can at least be in the same room as each other. Reading this made me realize how much of how we went about our wedding was affected by the multiple parties involved, but I didn’t realize it at the time (the calling so it was “fair” when people found out, keeping financial contributions confidential, having multiple family tables) – when you grow up with divorced parents, it’s just how your life is and what you’ve always had to do, so it didn’t feel different or hard to deal with it at the wedding.
    And everyone’s got there own set of potential issues/drama to deal with at their wedding, and I think I’d rather have mine than many other options!

  • http://www.shinyprettybits.com kc

    I relate to so much of this. My parents are divorced and my dad is remarried. My mom and my dad’s wife can barely be in the same room together. Also, my dad’s family (the only extended family I’m close to) hate my mom. My husband’s parents are divorced and remarried also (though they all get along much better). It was a long process for us to get from can we do this to should we do this to we CAN do this.

  • V

    “It feels like we will look into the unknown future together and shout, “Come and get us! We are not afraid!” And while I can’t know what will happen to us over the course of a lifetime (which yes, could include getting divorced) I know that I’m not scared anymore.”

    You know, I am a little afraid sometimes. And I think that’s ok too.

    My parent’s divorce taught me that sometimes a relationship, even a family, can be broken past a point of repair. No one expects it, no one wants it, but it happens. And that risk of the unknown is scary. To be honest, the possibility of divorce scares the *bleep* out of me. But what’s beautiful about marriage is that the joy and love we feel is completely worth taking on that scary risk.

  • Bethany

    I sat here at work and cried my eyes out thanks to your wonderful explanation about the effects of divorce :) it was a good healthy cry and felt amazing to hear someone else in literally the EXACT same situation express the same thoughts and concerns! Much love to you and yours on your special day :)

  • Alison

    YES. Thank you, thank you, thank you. My parents are divorced, as are my fiance’s. To complicate matters, my mom and dad can’t stand each other, both our dad’s are remarried, and Ken’s mom is a lesbian (who doesn’t think anyone knows she is a lesbian). I feel like this wedding is a 3-ring circus and everything except our marriage is the main event.

    So…. thank you. Thank you for writing this. <3

    • Anonymous Sorry

      Wow! The 3-ring circus bit? That made my day and explains what I’m feeling with such accuracy.

  • http://www.greenandcarefree.com huebscher

    word up, rachelle. give the big d the double barrel for me, too.

  • suzanna

    Word, lady! Check, check, check. These experiences and doubts and feelings and minefields have been mine as well.

    In addition to the not having a good role model for a healthy marriage while growing up, I have family members who are miserable in their second marriages. I had THREE separate immediate family members tell me, upon hearing the news of my engagement, “We’re so happy for you! We love your guy! Are you SURE you want to get married? Don’t you have doubts? Haven’t you guys had problems?”

    It can be tough to not get support or advice from some of the people closest to me on marriage because they don’t really have a good handle on it themselves. It can be tough planning a wedding when literally nobody else has had a “normal” wedding, and they kind of don’t get what the big deal is.

    Whew. Lil’ rant there. Glad to see I have kindred spirits. Thanks, APW!

  • Bethie

    I also want to add my thank you. In an age where so many of us are children of divorce, it seems bizarre to me that this is the first time I’m reading an article about this topic at all. I’ve certainly never read anything about dealing with the divorced-parents dynamic in an WIC articles!

    My parents separated when I was nine and later divorced, and then remarried during my high school years. It was incredibly difficult. My dad refused to pay child support, and he would bad-mouth my mom. I was never very close to him to begin with, so it only made it worse. Eventually, things calmed down, particularly when I went away to college. Emotions calmed down, and I didn’t have to live with them all the time. So, it’s been okay.

    Now planning a wedding has reintroduced a lot of drama back into our lives. My fiance’s parents are still married, and although he is as understanding as he can be about my situation, his parents don’t really get it. There is a huge financial differential between my mom/stepdad and dad/stepmom, so there’s been a lot of those confidential meetings others have talked about on here. I still have a very weird and sort of unpleasant relationship with my dad, so sometimes I just don’t want to include him (even though I was pleased that he wanted to help in the planning, initially).

    Dealing with your parents’ neuroses is hard. And having divorced parents adds another layer to it.

  • z

    Sigh. Dealing with my parents’ divorce was definitely the hardest part about planning and having the wedding, and the only thing I’m still processing 6 months later. Even the best divorce is still a huge inconvenience at times like this. I hated having to have all the planning conversations twice, having to answer all their questions and deal with their running anxiety. They think they have a good divorce, but the wedding really showed how many issues are still lurking, 15 years later. And they sincerely believe they don’t impose the burdens of the divorce on their children! It’s just what they need to believe to live with their choices, I guess. I believe I am much less likely to get divorced as a result of this experience, because I won’t be able to delude myself about how much it sucks.

    I think offspring’s weddings can be really difficult for divorced parents. Both of mine seemed to feel pretty sheepish about it, which I thought was warranted. (My dad is so embarrassed of his marital record that he feels he has no standing to oppose gay marriage, ha!) My mom was a nervous wreck throughout the planning process, not so much in the sense of trying to avoid or compete with my dad or being a jerk to anyone in particular, she just couldn’t really function because she was so freaked out by the whole thing. She’s still dating the man she cheated on my father with, and couldn’t make up her mind whether to try to “own” it and hold him out as her partner, or whether to be more discreet. Naturally, this is not a dilemma for which I had much sympathy! My dad’s family knows what went down but had never met the guy before, so she obsessed a lot over that. A lot of her weird ideas and demands (like having assigned seats for every single guest at the ceremony) were, I eventually realized, attempts to manage this anxiety. All I could manage to say in response was that it had been her choice to have an affair, so I didn’t think it was fair to burden me with those concerns at what was already a very difficult time in my life. And, as others have mentioned, we weren’t really able to honor my in-laws’ for their marriage, which was disappointing to them. But such are the wages of divorce– it sucks for more people and in more ways and for a much longer time than one might realize when making the decision to do it.

    It was interesting because I came out of the process with a different understanding of the reasons for my parents’ divorce. I had never taken on a major project with my mom before, and she was just so incredibly difficult to deal with on a practical, day-to-day level that it made me more sympathetic to my dad’s plight in trying to maintain a marriage with her. Unfortunately I came away with the knowledge that my mom’s craziness means that she’s not really there for me when the going gets tough, nor can I look up to her for guidance or as a role model, and that’s unfortunate. And now she tells me all the time what fun she had planning the wedding with me, which is so awkward. It was super not fun for me at all, and I recall a lot of screaming fights which she has apparently blocked out.

    I also think there’s a lot of pressure on divorced people to be happy about their divorce, kind of like the pressure on brides to be thrilled with the wedding. I sometimes feel like my parents and I are expected to reassure people that the divorce was for the best, just like I was expected to feign being a non-stressed-out bride, but I’m not sure that divorce was the right choice for our family. I feel that even more keenly seeing my in-laws’ pretty-good marriage, which survived some pretty rough times in earlier decades. My dad’s third marriage is on the rocks, for basically the same reasons the other two went down in flames, and my mom is not happy in her relationship with the guy she cheated with. So as a cost-benefit thing, I’m not really persuaded that unhappy separately is better than unhappy together. I imagine it’s really hard for my mom to admit that she cheated on my dad, and alienated all these people and told all those lies, etc. etc., for someone she ultimately finds unsatisfactory. Sigh. At least it’s over now. Having kids will be Version 2.0, I fear.

  • RLeah

    I’ve been reading APW for about a year now (we’ve had a long engagement) and Rachelle, your post is finally the one that has gotten me commenting for the first time! Thanks so much for sharing this.

    I realized as I read your post that I can’t think of a single wedding I’ve been to where the parents of either the bride or groom had divorced parents who were both present and where either one had a new significant other. I could think of a few where one parent was completely out of the picture for whatever reason, and one where the parents were divorced but not in new relationships. But I have absolutely no precedent to go off, having never seen a wedding where there was a situation like mine. It’s odd to me, because I know lots of divorced couples with adult children. I guess I just wasn’t at their kids weddings.

    I have an added strange situation, because I am also divorced. I married when I was 18. When I was 22, my parents separated (which was long overdue), and a year later, my then-husband and I separated. I’m now 31, so plenty of time has past, but the knowledge of divorce is still very present as my fiance and I now plan our wedding.

    My fiance’s parents are happily married. Neither of my parents are remarried, but my dad has been in a relationship with the same woman for the past 6 years or so. She’s great– I get along with her better than with my own mother who has emotional problems aplenty (worthy of an “emotionally absent mother” post, I suspect) which is a problem in itself. Navigating the difficulties of this has been by far the most stressful part of wedding planning for us. I just really appreciate reading a post that focuses on that. All of these APW posts that deal with the hard stuff surrounding wedding planning mean so much to me, because I feel like they really reflect how weddings have a power to amplify life in so many ways: the stresses, the sensitivities, the joys, the pleasures, and the pains. Weddings aren’t some kind of perfect, flawless day. They’re just events we place extra importance and emphasis on– with good reason– and that can REALLY draw attention to the things we feel heightened emotions about. So thank you, Rachelle, for sharing with such honesty. And thank you thank you, Meg, for creating a place for stories like Rachelle’s!

  • http://www.twitter.com/kahlia kahlia

    Wow, your account of how you arrived at the decision that it was ok (no, a good idea) to get married is impressive and inspiring! Bravissima!

    “[...] trying to preserve the day as the start and celebration of one marriage and one family.”
    That is a very good way to plan a wedding and a marriage, and I wish it was something that we had done more of while planning our wedding. Now, almost a year after our wedding, we are still fighting to have his family recognise us as a real family of our own (and not just me added alongside him in the role of “child”)… and it’s hard. I know we’re laying the foundation for the type of relationship we’ll have with them for the rest of our lives (and that’s a good thing), but I do wish that we had started from the very beginning, instead of giving in and doing everything for the reception in their way just to avoid conflict (which so didn’t work out anyway, of course).

    “In the end all we can do is hold on to the people we love, who love us back and who we are lucky to have, and throw the best damn party we can.”
    Exactly! Those are some very wise words, lady.

  • http://rainydaythings.wordpress.com/ myrna

    Thank you for such a lovely post!

  • http://jolynn.wordpress.com Jo

    There’s a sh*t-ton of divorce in my family. My parents are divorced (but my dad won’t be there). His parents are both divorced from their previous spouses and not technically married to each other. My mom’s sister has an ex and so does her current husband. Two of my sisters are divorced. My sister’s ex is my fiance’s ex-best-friend, who will probably be at our wedding. Relationships make things messy, and when the parents are in messy relationships that makes it way worse. I dealt with the divorced parents at every one of my sisters’ weddings to run interference so I get where you’re coming from and I respect so much people who are working within this craziness to try to make a beautiful day.

    Rachelle, this was an amazing post!

  • http://ktmade.blogspot.com Katie

    For a long time, I didn’t feel like I was the only person around with divorced parents, but since getting engaged, it feels like EVERYONE’s parents are married. We go to weddings where they do amazing and beautiful things honoring the parents and the grandparents and people have old photos up and they wear their mom’s veil or dance to the same song their parents did. And it’s all beautiful, and I always cry – both from joy for them and from deep sadness. I even think I’ve accepted my parent’s divorce (which happened 9 years ago). They’re both happier now – it’s better. But it leaves a scar, and like you said, there are casualties. We’re early on in our engagement, so I’ve avoided thinking about a lot of the details, but I know it’s going to be hard. Thanks for your honesty about all of it.

  • RA

    My parents recently divorced (although they separated 5 years ago) after 27 years of marriage. My family had always been very close, now my parents loathe each other. My dad recently remarried; my mom has never even dated since they split. My brother got married last year, and there were so many issues between my parents that the entire year leading up the wedding was pretty traumatic for our whole family, including me. My mom threatened not to come if my dad brought his then-girlfriend, so my now-step-mom ended up not coming. She will, however, be coming to my wedding (in exactly one year – yay!) and I know that will be painful and difficult for my mom.

    I’m not worried that there will be overt drama, i know my parents are adult enough to not make a scene. But I feel like it will inevitably cast a pall over the day. My parents made all their friends choose sides in the divorce, so there will also be lots of close family friends at the wedding – people i care about very much – who have ended their relationships with one of my parents after decades of friendship. At my brother’s wedding, i briefly burst into tears because of the disjunction between having my family’s big wonderful loving community together, and the bitterness and pain that has corroded that community.

    For me the best way to deal with this is just to keep my parents as separate as possible, but I know my mom thinks that doing her part to make my wedding pleasant means a public stance of togetherness with my dad. They did a joint toast at my brother’s rehearsal dinner that just felt completely fake to me. So my question is – do I just let them work it out with each other how to interact and fill their public roles at my wedding, or let them know that it feels sadder for me to see them pretending to tolerate each other’s presence? For example, I would far rather walk down the aisle myself than have them walk me down together (a jewish tradition) but I know it will be important to each of them to walk me down the aisle, so I guess I should let them.

    thoughts?

  • Kelly S.

    Thanks for sharing your story! When the hubs and I first started planning our wedding I was super worried about how my parents (and their new spouses) would handle being in the same room together for the first time ever, much less spend a whole weekend together.
    But when it came down to it, they all handled it fine. I’m sure there were plenty of awkward moments, I’m just grateful I did not have to witness any of them.

  • Lil_Red81

    It’s nice (?) to read of someone else in the same boat as me. While not planning a wedding (or engaged), my boyfriend and I have had some very serious talks about us getting married one day.

    His parents divorced and remarried before he was in the double digits so to him, he’s always had 2 Mom’s and 2 Dad’s (the “step” part not important to a child)… both own homes within a mile of each other and speak on a fairly regular basis. They aren’t besties, but they are friendly and can easily show up to a small apartment to support their son and his girlfriend when they held their first house warming party in their first place together.

    My parents on the other hand didn’t divorce until I was in my early 20s… they say it was for me, but that’s a lie. At the ripe age of 6 I remember being very aware that they didn’t like each other very much and it only got worse over time until they hated each other and life at home was absolutely miserable. This is what I grew up with as a model for what a relationship, and marriage is supposed to be like.

    My parents have seen each other once since the divorce… my college graduation. Since then all events needs to be separated. My mom and her husband were invited to birthday dinner, so I could extend the house warming party invite to my dad and his wife.

    Couple that with that my Dad married the worst woman on Earth (she’s selfish, manipulative, and just plain mean with how she treats me) – to the point where I have since written her out of my life, I’ve blocked her on facebook, and every time she tries to make contact (generally to try and belittle me) I don’t even read the emails, I just delete them. I’ve explained to my dad how important he is to me, but that I refuse to include her in my life unless she chooses to grow up (did I mention she’s 9 years older than me?) and starts acting like an adult.

    When my boyfriend and I talk about a wedding, I’m left with a slight sense of panic on how to include my side of the family in our day.

    We’ve already decided that a dinner will happen where my mom and dad will be forced to sit face to face and deal with their issues so that they can be pleasant to each other and not sully the mood of our actual wedding day.

    So Rachelle, thank you for this post and hang in there girl!

  • Rosa

    What a relief to find this post!
    My parents divorced 12 years ago and while I thought it was amicable at first I am finding many hurtful details. My fiance’s parents divorced even longer ago but it was very violent and very nasty. I am having an intimate wedding at my father’s house, and my fiance’s father and stepmother and good friends with my father and stepmother. All 4 of our parents live in 4 different states, and we live in a different state entirely, so it’s a pretty big deal to see any of our parents at all.

    I have been pretty worried about what will happen at my father’s house and how I should react if my mother/fiance’s mother are uncomfortable or choose to leave early. That would break my heart. Thank you for writing such a heartfelt post. I wish there was a way to have all divorced parents of engaged persons to read this!

  • http://blog-like-no-ones-reading.blogspot.com/ Ameselle

    I’m not even engaged yet (I guess I’m “engaged-to-be-engaged) and I gotta admit, I teared up a bit reading this two-part article. Now that you mention it, I don’t have too many friends with divorced parents either. That can be pretty lonely, but after reading this article, I’m obviously not alone! I was nervous about being jaded by the concept of “forever” (because I totally am!), but reading this let me have another one of those Oh-Thank-God-It’s-Not-Just-Me moments.

    My parents separated when I was 3, so I have next to no memory of having happily married parents. Luckily, I had a similar situation to Maddie growing up, so I was able to grow up with both my parents in my life (holidays still suck to this day: I was born and raised Jewish, but my Mom decided to celebrate Christmas and Easter after she and my dad split). My boyfriend’s parents had a really nasty split when he was 13 and they can’t even stand to be in the same room together. Out of all our parents/step parents, my dad and stepmom seem to be the only party who unconditionally support us. Everyone else is either disapproving or passive-aggressively manipulating or too focused on the fact that their children unfortunately share a bloodline with their ex-spouse.

    I remember sobbing like a baby at my good friends’ wedding because 1) It was the most beautiful wedding I’d ever been to, and 2) I knew that when it would be my turn to get married, I was never going to have that kind of communal love and support. I know that even though all our parents will come together for one day for our sake, there will still be that inescapable, bad-tasting vibe of disdain in the air and it breaks my heart.

    Hopefully by the time I do get married, I’ll have figured a logical path through this drama-covered shit storm…

  • Cassie

    Oh my gosh, thank you so much for writing this. I’m currently planning my wedding but both sets of parents are divorced and completely hate each other! My parents haven’t seen each other in years and want to kill each other. My fiance’s parents haven’t seen each other in more than 10 years and despise each other. My fiance and I were so desperate to have a descent wedding that we thought maybe we should just have one of our parents there, but that would be unfair and sad.

    But thanks so much for posting this, I thought I was the only one in the world that had to deal with this. :)

    you know you’re gonna have a tough time planning a wedding when wording your invitation is already complicated!

  • Chryssi

    Thank you for posting this. My Parents divorced when I was young.
    Mom still carries the hate and pain till this day. Its so bad that she cries when
    ever she sees or hears of his name or his family. He is now remarried and mom of course never did. I still have a relationship with my father and his
    new family who introduced me to the Man I love dearly! So I couldn’t
    Think of not inviting them, but I don’t want my mom to be hurt.
    I have talked to my father about my concerns, but my mother stops me in my tracks.

    May 26 (the reason I felt this was fate reading this) we will
    Be celebrating 6 years of dating. I have never shown him how much my parents ”behavior” (lack of better words) bothered me till he was excited he
    Found then perfect song to dance with my parents too and I cried. It was then
    I knew that I had to find out some way to help them throw the past in the fire and look forward or just let go of my dream wedding ,and just go to the justice of the peace.

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    Thank you so much for this article! It is so common to be a child of divorce and yet very few people talk about how it affects the planning process. It sounds like you handled your situation gracefully and with poise- I can only hope that mine will go as smoothly.

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