Birmingham AL Collaborative Divorce Law Blog

Monday, August 14, 2017

Divorced-Parent Etiquette: What To Do When Your Kid Says, “I Do”

When children are involved, many couples discover that divorce does not completely sever their relationship  — even after the kids are grown. Family events, such as birthdays, graduations and weddings, may give you cause to interact, or at least be under the same roof. Weddings, by nature, can be particularly emotionally charged events and may even stir up memories of your own failed endeavor. Fortunately, there are experts on this very topic to guide you gracefully down the aisle.

Here are three tips to keep in mind when you’re divorced, but your son or daughter is getting married:

  1. Break the ice. Call a truce in your Cold War before the big day arrives. If you’re wary about spending time with your ex, make a point to have a casual get together prior to the big public event, suggests Dr. Jann Blackstone in her Ex-Etiquette® column. Even a phone call can help defray tensions and make interaction less awkward when you see each other in person again.
  2. Plan to be civil. Planning a wedding can be stressful, even under the best circumstances. Whether you’re the mother (or father) of the bride or groom, it’s important to get on the same page early on. “If you don’t have a history of easy negotiation, you may want to verify everything through email so you have written proof of what is decided,” Blackstone writes. “The more organized you appear, the more relaxed your son (or daughter) will be.”
  3. 2.If you’re in the process of divorce and your children are still young, consider including terms in your divorce agreement of how financial responsibility will be split when that day rolls around.
  4. Consult Miss Manners. Yes, there is established social etiquette for how to handle divorced parents of the bride and groom. For example, according to Emily Post: “In the lucky event that all the parties get along, there’s no reason why the divorced parents cannot share the front row ... When divorced parents sit separately, and using the bride’s parents as an example, her mother (and stepfather, if Mom has remarried) sits in the front row.

Members of her mother’s immediate family—the bride’s grandparents, any siblings who aren’t attendants, and aunts, uncles, and their spouses—sit immediately behind in the next one or two rows.

The bride’s father, after escorting his daughter up the aisle and presenting her to the groom, sits in the next row behind the bride’s mother’s family—usually the third or fourth—with his wife and their family members. This protocol is followed even if the bride’s father is hosting the wedding. When the groom’s parents are divorced, they’re seated in the same manner.”

There’s also “proper etiquette” for who pays for what, etc. When it doubt, falling back on a mannerly approach to your child’s wedding may keep planning equitable and peaceful.

Remember, even if you fought like cats and dogs when you were married and bickered throughout your divorced interactions, your child’s wedding can be an opportunity to set the past aside, and model civility and grace. “Being cordial sets the stage for the future,” Blackstone says. “The married couple will most likely have children ... and you will be grandma and grandpa. This is your opportunity to set the example.”

For more guidance and tips, check out “Ex-etiquette for Weddings: The Blended Families Guide to Tying the Knot,” by Dr. Jann Blackstone and Sharyl Jupe.


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