Step Right Up, Calling All Stepmothers!

When your stepdaughter gets engaged, what's your official title? Are you the SMOB (stepmother of the bride)? Are you responsible for anything, as far as this wedding is concerned, or does most of the work fall squarely on the shoulders of your husband's former wife? As weddings veer further and further off the traditional track, you'll find that every situation involving a stepmother and a bride-to-be is unique.

Your involvement in the wedding will depend on your stepdaughter's relationship with her dad, her relationship with her mother, and her relationship with you. Proceed with the utmost caution, and no one will be able to criticize your moves.

Alert

Remember that the bride is going through this process for the first time. She might forget about you altogether — not because she wants to insult you, but because it hasn't occurred to her to include you. Don't take it personally; it is typical for a bride to want to have the planning either all to herself or with her mom.

Stepmom Straits

Your stepdaughter has come home wearing an engagement ring. Your husband is planning on paying for most of the wedding. Where do you fit in now? Some concerns a stepmother of the bride may have include:

  • Your duties. Are you the hostess, or simply the wife of the host?

  • The finances. Is the bride's mom the official sponsor of the reception, although the checks have been written out of your joint account?

  • The invitations. Can you invite your family, or is that tacky?

  • When the split has been amicable and both of the bride's parents are involved in the wedding, most brides will send out an invitation that includes the names of both sets of parents, indicating cosponsorship. As far as inviting your family is concerned, you'll want to consider whether they have anything to do with your stepdaughter. If your brother barely knows the bride, for example, she may wonder why he's being included in the celebration of her marriage.

    Are You In or Out?

    Will you be called on to help with the planning? You might be, especially if you have some interesting connections in town (say, your best friend is a florist, or you happen to know a world-class violinist who just might be talked into soloing at the ceremony) — but you might not be. If you're very, very close to your stepdaughter, she'll probably be sensitive enough to realize that excluding you from the planning could be very hurtful to you. If the two of you get along pretty well but aren't exactly soul mates, she may simply lean on her mom.

    The Wedding Day

    Depending on what your stepdaughter chooses, you will have to wait until the rehearsal or the day of the wedding to figure out where you will be seated during the ceremony. At the reception, you may not be required to stand in the receiving line. Regardless, get inside, greet the guests as they enter the area set up with cocktails and appetizers, and be a gracious cohostess. Touch base with the bride's mom now and then to see if you can lend a hand somewhere, but don't steal her limelight. That advice goes double for your dress — choose something that complements the bride's mother's gown, but that doesn't completely upstage her. Find a way to ask her (and be interested) about what she is wearing.

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