Parents Are Part of the Party, Too

Mother of the bride. Father of the bride. Mother of the groom. Father of the groom. These are all official titles of those other members of the wedding party, and whether you're planning a big wedding or an intimate ceremony, you need to know the traditional roles of parents during the wedding season.

Your Mom and Dad

The mother of the bride has traditionally been the brains behind the wedding production. If you're very close to your mother and she's very excited about helping you to plan a wedding, this should be one of the most enjoyable times in your life. Her duties may include:

  • Helping you make calls to prospective wedding sites and vendors

  • Coming along on the wedding-dress shopping excursion

  • Keeping your siblings, attendants, and other relatives in check

  • Possibly helping the bridesmaids plan a shower

  • Helping with the guest list

  • Assisting you with your dress and veil on your wedding day

  • Seeing that everything goes as planned during the reception

The mother of the bride used to plan the wedding while the bride sat back, gazing at her engagement ring and dreaming about married life. Of course, the bride's parents also paid for almost the entire wedding back in those days, so the bride was pretty much at her mom's mercy when it came to picking a caterer and a florist. Because today's average bride pays for a large portion of her own wedding, the mother of the bride has (in most cases) been relegated to “helper” status.

Even if you can handle all the details, though, you'll need Mom now and then for some support. That's really the main job of the mother of the bride these days. She should be supportive and ready to jump in and help at a moment's notice. (Really, who else can fill that job description?)

Make sure that you're aware of the changes that have taken place in wedding planning since your mom walked down the aisle. She may have visions of the two of you working side-by-side, choosing the appetizers for the reception, while all you plan to do is hand everything over to your wedding site coordinator. Try to find something for your mom to do if she's going to be heartbroken otherwise.


The mother of the bride is traditionally the last person seated by an usher before the wedding ceremony begins. Since she is such an important person at the wedding, and an official member of the wedding party, her dress should complement the bridesmaids' dresses in style and color.

The father of the bride used to simply sign the check and show up at the wedding looking dapper in his tuxedo. Nowadays, that's still about all you really expect of him; in fact he may no longer even be the one signing the check. He'll walk you down the aisle if you choose, he'll dance at the reception, and he'll impress your future in-laws with his wit.

The main duty of the father of the bride: Be charming. Mingle. Talk to people. He should be willing and able to show the guests where you got your sparkling personality.

Your Future In-Laws

The mother of the groom and father of the groom used to get off easily when it came time to plan the wedding. They would contribute names to the guest list, show up for the wedding, and have a great time at the reception. Since the bride's parents usually don't finance the entire wedding nowadays, the groom's family — and their wishes — are more likely to be included in the wedding. Although this new financial setup may not be great news for anyone except the bride's parents, it does make for a more complete wedding picture, one in which both families feel comfortable. No one is anyone else's guest; everyone has contributed something.


How do you include your stepmother in the wedding without making your own mom crazy? Very carefully.

Unfortunately, parents don't always behave as the adults we know (or suspect) they are. Though it's fair to say that the factors behind a bitter divorce are not something that anyone except the two ex-spouses can completely comprehend, it's also fair to have a minimum expectation of conduct from your parents on your wedding day. That includes a notantrum rule where parents and stepparents are concerned.


Though one shouldn't overuse the line, “I'm the bride and what I say goes,” if there's any situation that merits its use, dealing with the remnants of your parents' divorce (and their potential effect on your wedding) is it. As an adult who's preparing to enter into her own marriage, you can't be put in the middle of your parents' defunct relationship — or their new ones, for that matter.

Now, remember that a wedding is a very emotional time for parents of the bride and groom. Right now, your mom and dad are wondering how it's possible that you're old enough to be getting married. They're probably also thinking about how their own marriage didn't work out so well, so they're already walking an emotional high wire. If your dad has a major issue with your stepfather and you're planning to include both of them in the ceremony, give your dad plenty of time to get used to the idea — and don't expect miracles (like the two of them standing peacefully side-by-side throughout the entire ceremony).

In the end, it's your decision to include whomever you want in the wedding party. However, you also have to learn to prioritize and how to say no. Let's say your mom and stepmom just don't get along. You like your stepmom well enough, but honestly, you could take her or leave her. Your dad is insisting that your stepmom be included in all of the traditional mother of the bride activities, such as shopping for your wedding dress. He says it'll bring the two of you closer, and it'll make him happy, too. Since you're only buying one dress and you can't go shopping with both of these women at once, and you can't shop for a dress forever (and you'd rather spend the time with your mom, anyway), speak up and say so. If your stepmom really wants to get to know you better, suggest that you meet for a leisurely lunch sometime during the pre-wedding months.

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