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Smart Stepfamilies

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Weddings and the Stepfamily


by Laura Petherbridge

Although this stepmom was surprised by her stepdaughters aloofness, during the wedding planning it’s very normal. There are several reasons why weddings, in particular, can stir strong emotions on both sides.
Many women have dreamed, planned, and browsed bridal magazines since childhood. On that magnificent day we want all the attention to be on the bride. Our dream is something out of a Disney fairy tale—ball gown, prince, and carriage included. (I think I hear birds chirping?)
Therefore, your stepdaughter may be trying to minimize the potential for conflict on her special day. It is very likely that she is concerned about her mother’s response if she includes you in the planning process. Another possibility is that she desires one-on-one special time just between her and her mom, and maybe a few close friends.
As hard as it is to grasp, the wedding is also the one day when most children of divorce would like their parents to be viewed as a couple. In her mind she may be saying, “I know my parents are divorced. But on this ONE day—MY DAY—I want my mother and my father, the 2 people who brought me into the world, to stand beside me in unity. ”
The question is this: Will you give her that wedding gift?
I had to make this decision—twice. Before each of my stepsons got married I told them, “I know stepfamily situations can cause stress for the bride and groom. I want this to be YOUR day. You take pictures however you want them. Don’t worry about me, or whether I need to be included, or where I should sit. Do whatever is easy and keeps the peace. Take as many photos alone with your mom and dad together as you want. This is YOUR day.”
They breathed a sigh of relief. No stress on this end. It was my way of communicating, “I love you.”
“I’m pretty sure when the wedding is over your relationship with your stepdaughter will go back to what it was before,” I replied to this stepmom. “The thing to remember is she isn’t rejecting YOU, she is likely trying to keep peace and create a calm atmosphere for her special day.”
“If you truly care about her, you will take a step back and allow her to plan this day as she desires,” I continued. “Offer to help and if she wants you to participate, she will ask. If not, pray for her and the groom, support your husband’s role, go buy a gorgeous dress you feel wonderful in, and dance your feet off at the reception.”  This is stepfamily living.


Laura Petherbridge is an international author and speaker who serves couples and single adults with workshops on relationships, divorce prevention, and divorce recovery. She is the author of When “I Do” Becomes “I Don’t”—Practical Steps for Healing During Separation and Divorce, and a featured expert on the DivorceCare DVD series. Her newest book The Smart Stepmom: Practical Steps to Help You Thrive, co-authored with Ron Deal, will be released in September of 2009. Her website is www.Laurapetherbridge.com.

Copyright © 2012 Laura Petherbridge. All rights reserved. Used with permission.



Comments ( 2 )
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#2: by Linda on 07.29.2016 @ 05:58am CDT

Personally, I think that is wrong and insulting to Stepmothers everywhere.
#1: by Dori Pulse on 07.07.2014 @ 01:52pm CDT

Wonderful advice, Laura! In my personal stepmom experiences as well as ministering to stepcouples, I present the options to not take things personally and not to load up on one's own expectations. As you indicated, mom and dad brought the bride (or groom) into the world, and the adult child may simply want a marital celebration of their beginnings. After the wedding and perhaps even at the dance, once people relax and acclimate to the peace and joy of the day...stepmom will be more included.

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