Photo: Jeremy Beasley
A wedding isn't just the joining together of two people, it's also the joining of two — and sometimes more — families. If your parents and your fiancé's parents and/or family have never met or don't know each other very well, you have an obligation to arrange a gathering of some sort. But don't fret about this slightly stressful endeavor! We have a few etiquette expert-approved tips that should help facilitate this big moment.
If they've never met or spoken to one another before, find a way to make an introduction before they meet in person.
It matters very little who makes the first move, though a bride's parents might want to wait a bit to give the groom's family a chance to honor custom. A phone call (or, if you feel comfortable using it, Skype or FaceTime) is the easiest route; if the couple lives near one set of parents, they might all get together for a conference call. Handwritten notes are always nice. E-mail is possible, and some people may find its casual tone an easier way to introduce themselves and express their pleasure at the engagement. Both sets of parents should act with spontaneity and in the spirit of friendship, regardless of who makes the first contact.
Who hosts the first get-together?
It's traditionally the responsibility of the groom's parents, but the diversity of today's family structure, not to mention hectic work and travel schedules, often makes it difficult to follow custom. The bride-and groom-to-be are best positioned to know when a meeting will be convenient for everyone and what kind of gathering is most likely to put everyone at ease. Who actually hosts the occasion is a matter of preference more than tradition. If the bride's mother loves to entertain, why stand on tradition? A casual event, such as a barbecue or weeknight dinner, is often most comfortable.
My parents are divorced. How do I handle that?
Unfortunately, your engagement means you have to carefully think about your family structure and have realistic expectations. Separate meetings should be arranged with each set of parents so that everyone involved has a chance to meet. Under no circumstances should divorced parents be forced into social situations that have the potential to make them — and others — feel uncomfortable. If your parents are on decent, friendly terms, then perhaps they wouldn't mind being at a casual get-together with several other family members present to ease the situation. Otherwise, let it be.