Wedding Ceremony Family Dynamics

Marta Block


With Thanksgiving this week and the holidays approaching 'tis the season for difficult family situations. As difficult as the holidays can be, weddings can be even harder. Because it symbolizes the start of a new family and the joining of two families a wedding ceremony can be a difficult reminder that the existing families aren't necessarily working the way you want.

There are three hot spots for family tension in wedding ceremonies.

1. Religion

It's possible that between them a couple could come from four different religious traditions (if both parts of the couple each come from a mixed family). Do you have a Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu wedding? Can you mix a secular wedding with a Catholic wedding? There's no easy answer to this, but how to blend religious traditions is one of the most important decisions a couple needs to make. Once you and your partner have decided on a path that works for you, you'll need to explain to your family what you'll be doing. Make sure to talk to your officiant about the possibility of including different traditions.

2. Walking down the aisle

Many people have the idea of a bride in a white dress being walked down the aisle by her beaming father. Many people also have more than one father, or no father. Before making a decision about who to have walk you down the aisle, ask yourself what that part of the ceremony means to you. Do you believe the person walking you down the aisle is "giving you away"? Do you believe the person walking you down the aisle is the most significant family member in your life? Or, do you just need someone to make sure you don't fall on your face? Once you decide on the symbolism of being escorted down the aisle, you'll be able to decide who should get the honor. Don't forget, many couples today choose to walk down the aisle together.

3. Seating

Traditionally the bride's parents and close relatives sit in the front row on one side of the aisle, and the groom's on the other. But what do you do if between all the parents, step-parents, grandparents and step-grandparents you can't fit everyone? What if your stepfather won't sit by your real father? If you have a lot of tension in these relationships, consider going back to grade school and assigning specific seats. Hopefully though you'll be able to convince the parents in your life to get along for the length of the ceremony.

Keep in mind that all of these issues become more complicated when money is involved. If your father is paying for the wedding, he may feel that he has the right to demand he walks you down the aisle instead of the stepfather who raised you, or vice versa. If your worried about family dynamics, try and keep money out of the equation.