Wedding How-Tos for Stepmoms
Stepmothers have received a bad rap for generations. Blame it on the Brothers Grimm, if you will. In any case, we have often had to find our own way through courtesy quagmires.
Traditional wedding etiquette guides have offered little assistance for stepmothers. With blended families becoming more prevalent that traditional families, many more stepmothers seek guidance for wedding etiquette.
As a stepmother, having attended three weddings for stepchildren (with another fast approaching), I have experienced firsthand the pluses and potential pitfalls of step-family wedding etiquette.
What are the basic rules of etiquette for a stepmother at the wedding of his or her stepson or stepdaughter?
Attending the Bridal Shower
Although traditional rules of etiquette instructed against the hosting of wedding showers by family members of the bride and groom, these standards are bending in current times. Family and step-family members often do offer to have showers for the bride or even the groom.
A stepmother may or may not be invited to participate in wedding showers that are hosted by her step-children's other family, friends or future in-laws. If invited, the stepmother may choose to attend or simply send a thoughtful gift. Because each family
Certainly a stepmother is welcome to host a wedding shower for her stepdaughter or stepson or for her stepchild's fiance or fiancee. Often, this gesture is warmly welcomed. Of course, courtesy recommends that the guest of honor's own parent be included, if at all possible.
Fairly frequently, wedding showers are held in restaurants, clubs, churches or other neutral spots to accommodate both the in-laws and the outlaws in a blended family.
Inviting Wedding Guests
Although the stepmother and her husband may foot the bill for many of the wedding costs, they often do not have a great deal of influence on the actual guest list for the event. A courteous bride and groom will seek input from all sets of parents, particularly those who are carrying the lion's share of the costs. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.
In many blended family situations, each of the bride's sets of parents will volunteer to bear specific areas of the financial burden of the wedding. Of course, cooperation is key, as it benefits the bride and groom and their future life together.
Choosing Wedding Attire
Everyone knows that the bride is the star of her own wedding. At least, she ought to be. A radiant bride in a glowing white dress is the traditional centerpiece of a wedding. No other person's attire ought to compete with her.
After the bride, of course, come the bridesmaids, followed by the bride's own mother. Courtesy demands that she have the first pick of fashion and colors. Usually, everyone else awaits her selection.
A wise stepmother will choose a lovely, understated, modest, classic outfit for her stepchild's wedding. The basic role of the stepmother is to be as beautiful as she is, without calling attention to herself. Her attire and accessories may complement, but never detract from, that worn by the bridal party.
Incidentally, the mother of the groom generally plays a similar role.
During the Wedding Ceremony
The bride and groom (perhaps assisted by a wedding planner) will usually outline the plans for the wedding processional and ceremonial seating. Most often, a stepmother will enter right before the ceremony, accompanied by one of the groomsmen or ushers. As a rule, the mothers of the groom and the bride are seated last, immediately before the bridal processional.
However the processional is planned, a savvy stepmother will attempt to be as flexible and accepting as possible, so as not to detract from the happy occasion.
When the presiding clergyman or official asks, "Who gives this woman in marriage?" or a similar question, her actual father and mother are most likely to answer. However, in certain cases, the bride may ask a stepparent to join the affirmation.
Sometimes, a stepparent may be asked to read a Scripture or poem, to provide musical accompaniment, or to sing a song during a stepchild's wedding. This, of course, is a personal matter of choice for the marrying couple/.
Participating in Wedding Photographs
Wedding photographs can be the stuff of tense family conflict in blended families. Ideally, the photographer is given a list of desired pictures and offered liberty to orchestrate all group posings. Certainly, this is not the job of a stepparent, who does best by quietly cooperating and smiling at appropriate moments.
Often, a bride and groom will want several group variations for wedding photographs. They may want a full-group photo, as well as pictures with each set of parents. Some couples also desire photos with their original parents. A loving stepmother will try to go along with the bride and groom's plans without allowing her feelings to be hurt.
In the Wedding Receiving Line
Again, the bride and groom may designate the positioning of family members and the wedding party in the receiving line.
If a stepmother is invited to participate, she will stand and greet guests warmly, bearing in mind that she will likely encounter the entire extended families of both the bride and the groom. The procession of guests is sure to include many of her husband's ex-in-laws.
At the Wedding Reception
Whether the wedding reception features assigned table seating or not, a smart stepmother will allow the bride to guide the way. Perhaps the bride will ask her stepmother (or her groom's stepmother) for hints about guest placements. If not, the stepmother will simply have to put on her best smile and good sportsmanship and try to enjoy the festivities.
A General Wedding Guideline for Stepmothers
Probably the central guideline for a stepmother at a stepchild's wedding is threefold: Look lovely, be supportive, and try to stay out of the way.
By behaving with class and composure for the wedding (before, during and after), a stepmother can make a wise investment in the future of her blended and extended family.