Q: Our wedding will have five parents honored. Mine have been together forty years, last November. My fiancé’s were married twenty years before they divorced, twenty years ago; his father remarried five years later and they celebrated fifteen years together this year. His mother, on the other hand, has been moving every three years to change jobs and has been single for fifteen-plus years. Though she had a brief second marriage that ended mysteriously, she still displays large framed photos from her first wedding to my fiancé’s father.
My question is related to honoring the relationships that are important to our histories and our lives. My fiancé’s parents’ marriage was not always a happy one but it lasted twenty years and created three amazing children—one of whom I am very thankful for! One tradition that I can’t exactly shake is the tradition of displaying wedding photos from parents’ and grandparents’ weddings. I love looking at the old fashions, seeing the couples in their youthful exuberance, and figuring out whose facial features we have. I worry that this would be crossing the line for my fiancé’s father and step-mother, though they will admit that they are happy their pasts led them back to each other (they had been high school sweethearts).
Am I being selfish with the wedding photo display? Are my options all or none? The idea of none does work for me—less DIYing before the wedding. Could we do just the marriages that are intact? If the latter is the case, I know my FMIL will feel left out and that her first marriage somehow didn’t matter to us.
A: Dear Anonymous,
The idea of displaying family wedding photos is, in theory, about paying tribute to the different relationships that have brought you where you are now. The puffy sleeves and crazy mullets are just a bonus. If you don’t feel that the very people you’re trying to honor will feel… honored, then it’s time for some reconsidering. Because (and this comes up pretty frequently in wedding planning) if you’re doing some tradition meant to show respect for someone, and the people in question actually hate it, keeping the tradition and disrespecting the person is missing the point.
So, I’d just flat out ask. Explain your idea, and see how they feel. Then, if they both agree that it wouldn’t be weird, include them in choosing which photos you use. I’m guessing a photo of them kissing at the altar would be on the “no no” list, while maybe a photo of them laughing together at the reception might be safer. Better yet, maybe you can find photos of them individually at the wedding—all of the importance of the day, all of the hilarity of those old fashions, none of the uncomfortable mushiness that’s no longer relevant. Try digging in albums for a photo of dad with his groomsmen, or of mom styling her hair in the mirror. There are usually a handful of shots that don’t include the couple being coupley.
The idea of that conversation might make you nervous. Maybe you think it will still offend your in-laws, or that they won’t be honest about their discomfort. No problem. Meg suggests you consider including photos of your in-laws as parents, rather than from their wedding day. Like this great photo over here. All of the rest of the photos you incorporate can be wedding photos, sure, but maybe honor the father-son or mom-son relationship outright, rather than drudge up some more complicated past.
TEAM PRACTICAL, HOW DO YOU RECOGNIZE THE MARRIAGES OF THE PAST (THAT HAVEN’T NECESSARILY LASTED)?
If you would like to ask Team Practical a question please don’t be shy! You can email Liz at: askteampractical [at] apracticalwedding [dot] com. If you would prefer to not be named, anonymous questions are also accepted. Though it really makes our day when you come up with a clever sign-off!