How to Handle the Drama When One Family Isn't at the Wedding

Updated 12/01/15

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I've seen plenty of weddings where only one family was represented and the truth is that it's not uncommon for a bride or groom to possibly have absolutely zero family present on their big day.

The catch is that the family's absence is not a surprise to the bride or groom. They should be mentally prepared to handle it fairly well. It's only when other guests make a big deal about the absence of family support for them, that it casts a tremendous pall over the day.

Whatever the reason may be — death, illness, family problems — it's important not to let the extreme presence of ones family in comparison, take anything away from the fact that it's the bride and groom's big day. It's impossible not to notice a complete absence of family, but you can make it less obvious by implementing a few specific things:

1. Specifically ask some of your close friends to sit in the front row so it won't remain vacant.

The other guests will instinctively leave it empty for protocol purposes, not to abandon their friends.

2. Don't seat your guests by side.

I've seen some really cute signs at my weddings with phrases such as "There are no sides, we're all family here!" to notify guests to sit wherever they are the most comfortable.

3. If the subject of family is a sore one, be sure to put family-related popular songs on your "Do Not Play" list for the DJ or band.

You don't need to have an empty or one-sided dance floor for "We Are Family" in the middle of your wedding reception.

4. Let whoever will be arranging your seating and making your announcements know if there are important family members who are not present.

You don't need a gaff like announcing a daddy daughter dance when the bride just buried her father a year ago. It causes unnecessary pain on a joyful day.

5. Don't go too heavy on the toasts by family members if one family is not represented.

Surely you have some good friends who understand the situation and who will give an appropriate toast to fill that hole. And while it's nice to remember those who are not with us on your wedding day, nobody needs a total downer of a toast about how sad they are your parents aren't alive to see you get married. It's a moment of celebration, not mourning.

Sandy Malone is the owner of Sandy Malone Weddings & Events, a full-service traditional and destination wedding planning company and Do-It-Yourself wedding planning consulting service for DIY brides and grooms based in the Washington, DC area. Sandy is the star of TLC's reality show "Wedding Island," about her destination wedding planning company, Weddings in Vieques. Sandy's book "How to Plan Your Own Destination Wedding: Do-It-Yourself Tips from an Experienced Professional," will be released on March 1st, but is available online for pre-orders now where books are sold.

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