Mallory in the Middle

The Wedding Guru Judy Lewis fields this week’s wedding questions. Today: It’s mom versus stepmom for this poor bride-to-be

Not surprisingly, the process of arranging seating at your place of worship can be a tricky one, particularly in a space that’s not very large. It’s in these spaces where more and more modern couples are dealing with divorced and remarried parents — and their partners. Yikes!

A bride-to-be asks: “My mother and stepmother haven’t spoken in years. At most family events, it was possible to seat them far away from one another, but I don’t know how to do that in church. I want to avoid an incident (I don’t put it past either of them), and yet I don’t want to give one “status seating” over the other — and have her get mad at me. Any advice?”

Dear bride-to-be: This is an issue that should’ve been addressed a long time ago, at the very first event where you anticipated a problem between your mom and stepmom. That being said (and this being your most special day), consider it an opportunity to put this issue on the table and deal with — and hopefully solve — it, once and for all.

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As with every problem-solving situation, communication is key. Talk to your mother, stepmother, and father, too. Explain that your wedding is the first of many occasions on which everyone will be together. You can add that it’s important for you to not be concerned about their behavior — you don’t want two birthday parties for their grandchildren, do you? I’m sure you — and they — will want your kids to witness how well everyone gets along!

There are some rules of etiquette you might want to explain to both moms. When the bride’s parents are divorced, it’s customary that the parent with whom she lived after the divorce (or the mom she’s closer to) is seated in the first pew during the ceremony. Often, but not always, that mother is joined by her husband if she has remarried. Her immediate family is seated with them, and seated directly behind her (or a few rows back) are the bride’s father, stepmother, and his immediate family.

As a way of “consoling” you, I’ll tell you that in most cases — even without a serious talk — parents appreciate the sanctity of a church and understand how important the issue is to the bride, so they almost never make a scene. Regardless, and just for safety’s sake, I’d recommend that talk!

Submit your own question to the Wedding Guru by emailing Judy at

bride and mom

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