Please note that this article is an opinion only and has only a little bearing in today's complex and diverse family situations. You know your personal family situation. Your relationship with your step parent and the length of time that they have been a part of your life along with their involvement in the wedding planning process. A step parent becomes a family member like any other and they have often poured love, sacrifice, time, money into their step child and into the wedding itself. It is your day but be mindful of the feelings involved and that just as you are about to commit to a whole future life with your spouse and your future children, so too did your step parent. They committed to you and to your parent and they will be there for the rest of your future your spouses future and your children will only ever know them as Grandma or Grandpa. This day is all about family building.. about becoming family... don't miss this opportunity to build bridges instead of burning them. This is a very special day for the biological parents of the bride and groom and they do deserve a place of honor but do not sideline the step parents especially if they have played a role in your life (and are helping to pay for your wedding).
Please remember a step parent is a married in and adopted family member. Much like a beloved aunt or uncle or an adopted brother or sister or cousin. They love you, you love them. Depending on what age you were when they entered your life they were likely far more involved in your life than aunts or uncles. They are one more person in life to support you and cheer you on if you let them. They are not there to replace a parent unless they are needed because of a vacancy physically or emotionally but generally it's just more people to love you if you let them. Showing gratitude to them as well on this big special day of family building is a beautiful thing.
Dealing with situations between parents and stepparents can be difficult. A lot depends on how the stepmother and biological mother get along: If the two mothers get along well, then the bride and groom can plan the wedding however they like. Unfortunately, this is a rare thing.
The guidelines that follow can assist the families prepare for the wedding following correct etiquette.
What the stepmother should wear? Usually, the stepmother should dress in the same way as other guests. The bride may want to include her stepmother in the preparations so it is proper wedding etiquette for her stepmother to wear similar styles and colors as the other mothers. It is not proper for the stepmother to dress in a manner that will overshadow the bride or the biological mother.
The next question is, according to proper etiquette, where should the stepmother sit? The bride chooses this but usually the stepmother is seated behind the birth parents. If the step parents have played a big role in the bride and grooms life it is an option to have the mother of the bride at the end followed by her new spouse(if applicable) followed by the father of the bride when he sits followed by his spouse (if applicable). Of course it will be awkward to have divorced or separated spouses sit on the same row but the wedding is not about who is the current wife of her father but rather a family-oriented event (yo author - step parents are family). Stepmothers do not need to feel badly about their placement in the wedding (although one might expect they will) because wedding etiquette has the birth mother sitting without her current husband if she has remarried.
There may be an etiquette problem when it comes to family photos. The majority of photographers will arrange different shots for the birth parents and stepparents. You will not usually see stepparents and birth parents in the same photo. The x spouses likely will not want a photo together. So photos of just mother and bride and father and bride and then bride and mother's immediate then extended family and then bride and father's immediate then extended family repeat with the groom. If the relationship is willing and everyone is at peace with being in one photo together - sure! If this does happen however, the mothers should be put on opposite ends of the picture. It is strange for a stepmother to not be seen in any official wedding photos; it falls in the range of proper wedding etiquette for stepmothers to appear with their mate. As the bride/groom, expect that there will be hurt feelings and resentment that may need attention later if stepparents or birth parents are excluded from the photos.
During the reception, etiquette suggests that the stepmother take a back seat unless she and her husband are the hosts of the reception. If the birth mother hosted the wedding and the father hosts the reception, it is proper for the stepmother to take a place in the receiving line. All these little points are only guidelines that can be changed and adjusted as long as it is best suited for the bride/groom.
Lastly, what about the family dance? What does wedding etiquette say about this? Proper etiquette has the stepmother bowing out gracefully and allows the bride to share this day with her biological parents. The bride’s father would dance with her and the groom’s birth mother would dance with him. If there is a family dance, stepparents dance with their own mates.
These stepmother etiquette hints will hopefully allow the bride/groom deal with wedding plans without making mistakes that could hurt or embarrass their family and avoid hurtful mistakes that can endanger their familial relations.
Mary A Jane is a well known wedding planner and she writes about wedding etiquette in cake cutting as well as proper etiquette for deceased grandmothers plus many other useful wedding etiquette articles at http://www.marrycustoms.com.