The approach of your wedding day fills you with two emotions. First, joy, as you are marrying the love of your life. But also dread as the other two loves of your life — your parents — can barely stand to be in the same room.
Here's how some women handled this difficult dilemma — and had a fabulous wedding day.
Sent Parents to Bed Without Supper
Pam said, "Frankly I was relieved when my parents got divorced as they'd been miserable for years. The timing though was terrible — six months before my wedding! They both instantly regressed and started acting like toddlers. Mom didn't want dad's name on the invitation. Dad didn't want mom part of the ceremony. It was a mess."
There were nights Pam cried herself to sleep over the impossibility of making both parents happy. Until her fiancé "gave her religion." Laughing, Pam recalls, "Ted reminded me it was our wedding. We were even paying for the whole thing. So I had separate conversations with each parent and said I loved them and knew this was the worst time of their lives, but that they were messing up the most important time of my life. I would do my best to see they had as little contact with one another as possible but they needed to be able to put aside their differences enough to put their daughter first for one night."
The result: Her parents fell over themselves (separately of course) to make up for their infantile behavior. "At the wedding, they posed together for pictures, applauded each other's toasts and even made gritted-teeth small talk — I was as proud of them as they probably were of me when I brought home all A's on a report card!"
Went Into 'Olivia Pope' Mode
Tammy's parents separated shortly after she became engaged. After going outside one night and "howling at the moon" she decided to treat the wedding like Scandal's unflappable political fixer. "My goal was to make mom and dad feel as comfortable as possible and know exactly what to expect. I had conversations with each of them well in advance about arrangements for photo taking, the reception room — dad would sit on the right side; mom on the left — who walked me down the aisle, seating plans for the ceremony and reception... Everything."
She laughs, "Perhaps my most genius move was to pay their shrinks to attend the wedding so mom and dad had professionals to vent to!"
Banning a Parent
Samantha felt forced into the most difficult decision of her life — choosing one parent over the other. She sighs, "It's the cliché of clichés but nine months before my wedding Dad left mom for a stripper! He pushed for a quick divorce and then — I still shake when I think about it — married her a month before my wedding."
When her father insisted on bringing his bride to the wedding, Samantha insisted he come alone. "I begged, 'Please out of respect for me and your wife of 25 years, ask her to stay home. I'm sure she'll understand this is a sensitive time."
Unfortunately her father held firm — if his wife had to stay home, so would he. "It felt weird not to have my father present at the most important day of my life but I've never regretted my decision."
Five years later her father, long divorced, is still apologetic for his 'mid-life crisis.' "I've forgiven him but it still feels a little sad he's not in any of the wedding pictures."
Sherry Amatenstein, LCSW is a New York City-based marriage therapist and author.