our everyday life

Rules for the Stepmother of the Bride

by Holly L. Roberts

When your stepdaughter gets married, knowing what your role should be in the wedding planning process can be tricky. Ultimately, it’s the happy couple’s day, and what they say should guide you. But if the young bride-to-be doesn’t have any input or if you just aren’t sure what to do, knowing the basics of wedding day etiquette for blended families can help you.

Invitations

If you’re a long-time stepmother or you and your husband are footing the bill for the wedding, it’s completely acceptable for your name to be on the invitations, according to wedding planner and designer Colin Cowie. If you’re a fairly recent addition to the family, your stepdaughter may not feel comfortable including your name on the invitation. This can be awkward if you’re helping to cover the cost of the wedding, so if you’re comfortable bringing it up with the bride, you may suggest that she opt for “together with their families” instead of naming names on the invitation.

Role in the Wedding

Ideally, the bride-to-be will tell you what she wants your role in the wedding to be, and you’ll happily fulfill the role she’s assigned you. Some brides ask their stepmothers to stand up as bridesmaids, others ask them to give a reading or offer a special toast at the reception, and still others may treat their stepmothers as second mothers, with all the same honors they give their own mothers. Your role in the wedding will probably depend a lot on your relationship with your stepdaughter. If you’re not very close, she may keep your presence in the wedding to a minimum. According to "Brides" magazine’s etiquette column, the bride-to-be should make sure you’re seated by your husband at the wedding and the reception. Anything beyond that is up to the bride, and you should honor her wishes as graciously as you can. As far as seating goes, it’s traditional for the bride’s mom to get the best seat in the house: the front-row seat by the aisle. If you have an amicable relationship with your husband’s ex, the bride can opt to seat you and her dad in the front row, too, or she might opt to sit you in the aisle seat on the second row.

Role at the Reception

If you and your husband are hosting the wedding, you’ll stand together in the receiving line, welcoming guests and thanking them for their presence. If your husband’s ex-wife is hosting with you, you’ll all stand in the receiving line, but it’s traditional to put the groom’s parents between you and your stepdaughter’s mom, according to the Emily Post Institute. If you aren’t sure what’s appropriate, just ask your stepdaughter what she prefers and follow her lead. If you’re close to your stepdaughter, your new son-in-law may ask you to dance after the father-daughter and mother-son dances are finished, when other couples are also on the dance floor.

Considerations

If there’s any conflict between you and your stepdaughter’s mother, your stepdaughter may try to keep you separated during the ceremony and the reception, seating you farther back than tradition would dictate at the ceremony and on opposite sides of the room for the reception, both suggested as keeping-it-pleasant suggestions by the Emily Post Institute. Be respectful of the bride’s wishes, and don’t insist on a better seat or a different table.

About the Author

Holly Roberts is an award-winning health and fitness writer whose work has appeared in health, lifestyle and fitness magazines. Roberts has also worked as an editor for health association publications and medical journals. She has been a professional writer for more than 10 years and holds a B.A. in English and an M.A. in literature.

Photo Credits

  • Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images