With 37.6% of all marriages in the US ending in divorce  (not the ideal stat to be reading on a wedding blog) the chances are high that either your parents or your partners will be divorced.
Those pesky seating plans are troublesome enough, aren’t they? But even more so if your parents are separated. What would normally be 4 parents could now be 8!
We’ve seen for ourselves at weddings we’ve photographed. Some divorced parents are still friends or at least civil. Whilst others are shooting each other dirty looks throughout the day.
If it sounds like your wedding might be at risk of the latter you might find yourself asking, where do divorced parents sit at a wedding ceremony?
In this article, we hope to provide you with some practical advice for navigating this tricky subject.
We’ve got some tips and tricks for the best places to seat them and will also discuss what to do if your separated parents really can’t stand each other. We’ve also got some more general advice for ceremony etiquette with divorced parents.
We hope that by the end you’ll know just the right place to seat your parents at your ceremony.
So let’s not hang around. Let’s get into it!
Answering the tough question, where do divorced parents sit at a wedding ceremony?
In all honesty, there is no straightforward answer to this question. The typical protocol for a wedding ceremony is that those people that mean the most to you are sat front and center. Those people are usually the parents of the happy couple.
Here are some things we think you should be asking yourself. This can help you to decide whether they should sit together or be banished to opposite corners of the room.
- Are your divorced parents single?
- Do your parents get along with each other?
- Have your parents ever argued in public before?
- Have your parents remarried?
- Do your parents get along with your partner’s parents?
In an ideal world you’d love to have the people that brought you into the world sat together. We get it!
However, if they’ve both got new partners or have both remarried this can be tricky. Particularly so if there was any animosity about the divorce. In which case it might be best to separate them on either side of the aisle.
It’s going to come down to your wishes as a couple. Equally, you’ll need to consider the opinion of your parents. After all, it’s them that you might be asking to sit next to each other.
Tips for seating divorced parents at a ceremony
So how do you decide? And what’s the best way to go about implementing your wishes?
Let’s take a look.
Get in early with your invite
Choosing the perfect wedding invite can make all guests feel welcome well in advance of your big day.
This is a chance to make your parent’s new partners feel accepted into the family. At the same time, it’s a chance to get in early, avoiding any on the day awkwardness.
Along with your invite, you could include a nicely worded letter outlining your wishes as to where they will sit. Whether that’s explaining that you’d like them to sit together or apart.
It could also be you just telling them how you want things to go.
“Hi Mum, we’d love you and Neil to be part of the wedding and are kindly asking that you both sit alongside Dad and Evelyn during the ceremony. We hope you can respect our wishes”
Equally, if you suspect your parents wouldn’t enjoy sitting together you could go for something like “Hi Mum, You and Neil will be sat on the right hand side of the aisle during the ceremony. We’re asking Dad and Evelyn to sit on the left hand side. We just thought we’d give you the heads up early doors”
This just helps to pre-warn your parents so that it’s not a shock to them on the day.
Sit down with them and discuss your wishes
If you don’t think the invite is the way to go then perhaps a conversation might work best.
You could attempt to get your parents together for a discussion about the wedding and see where their heads are at.
This is a chance to get everything out on the table. Beware however that it could turn volatile. Everyone will be already thinking they’re sitting in the front row. If you’re asking your Mom’s new husband to sit a row behind they both might take offense.
By talking to them you can better gauge how everyone feels about your plans. Some divorced parents are very understanding of their child’s wishes as they know they’ve been through a lot. However, others may have a hard time accepting your call on where to seat them.
If your parents are still single then they may have no problem sitting next to each other during the ceremony.
Have a seating plan
A seating plan is more often used for the reception. However, there’s nothing to stop you from having one for your ceremony as well.
This way your guests will know exactly where you want them to sit. Whether you want your parents separated on either side of the aisle or all bunched together.
You could also utilize name badges that you place on the seats just to hammer home the point.
Related Reading: How To Introduce Divorced Parents at a Wedding Reception
Give your ushers clear instructions
If you’ve decided on where your divorced parents are sitting it’s important to communicate that to your ushers.
The usher’s responsibilities include seating guests at your wedding. If they know the score they can guide them to the correct side of the aisle.
Equally, ushers are usually up to date with any family tensions that might arise from divorced parents. If they’ve been briefed on how to deal with your parents it can make for a much smoother arrival at your wedding.
Attempt to seat divorced parents in the same row
One way to keep everyone happy is to seat your divorced parents in the same row. This is usually the front row but it’s up to you.
Either seat them next to each other or ensure they’re on opposite sides of the aisle. By doing this you’re not favoring one parent over the other and everyone can enjoy your ceremony from the front.
It gets tricky if both your parents are divorced and all divorced parents have a new partner. Pheeew it’s hard to keep up with this isn’t it? But we have seen it. There were a total of 8 parents if that makes sense.
If there are 8 seats at the front of your ceremony we’d suggest something like.
Left hand side of the aisle
Mother of the Groom and her partner. Partner of the Father of the Groom and Father of the Groom. This way it keeps a bit of distance between the father and mother of the groom.
Right hand side
Mother of the Bride and her partner. Partner of the Father of the Bride and Father of the Bride.
Consider an aisle seat if they’re doing a reading
Perhaps you want one of your divorced parents to do a reading during the ceremony. In this case, we think it’s a good idea to have them seated at the end of the aisle.
This way it’s much easier for them to get to the front of the room without shuffling past other guests.
Equally, perhaps you need to seat one of your parents further back from the front row for whatever reason. Asking them to do a reading is a great way to help them feel special and part of your day.
What to do if divorced parents hate each other with a passion?
This is probably the whole reason you’re reading this article isn’t it? Maybe your parents just simply can’t stand the sight of each other and aren’t on speaking terms.
However, it’s your wedding and you want them there because you love them. It’s tough isn’t it but there’s not much you can do about it.
Obviously, in this scenario, you can’t sit them together. Equally, you can’t really banish your father to the back of the room so that your mother can’t see him.
Realistically you’ve got to seat them on either side of the aisle. Maybe if you’re having an outdoor wedding you could consider an extra wide aisle!
Make sure that you speak to them both individually before the wedding. Tell them that you love them and want them to be civil for just one day.
Our fingers are crossed that they follow your wishes!
Don’t feel pressured, it’s your day!
One important thing to remember when planning a wedding is that this is your day. It’s about you two as a couple enjoying yourselves.
With that, your parents should be willing to do whatever makes you happy. If you want them to sit together they should respect that decision.
However, if they don’t there’s no need to kick off about it. Where they sit during your ceremony is just one small part of what will be a great celebration of your love.
What we’re trying to say is don’t sweat the small stuff. At the same time don’t feel pressured to ask your parents to sit together because that’s what other couples have done.
Your family is unique and you should embrace that.
What about a divorced couple rekindling the spark again? Is it possible?
Perhaps it’s your underlying intention to create a “Parent Trap” kind of situation.
I’ll just sit my divorced parents next to each other and by the end of the day, Dad will be down on one knee proposing all over again.
That could be the case, especially if they’re now single and friendly with each other.
Equally, your parents may be divorced but have been getting close for a while now. They’d probably love to sit together as their child says “I do”
You’re the one thing they have in common and they’ll no doubt be so proud to see you tie the knot.
Think about your wedding photos
It might not be the first thing that springs to mind when thinking about where to seat your divorced parents. However, we’re speaking from experience and it can be very important.
Guests seated on the front row in a ceremony are much easier to capture. There’s no one blocking the way and a photographer can capture so many emotional shots throughout a ceremony. That’s why it’s important that your parents are sitting in the front row.
Equally, if your parents are civil and sat next to one another they may have that shared moment of pride.
When we capture a divorced couple looking at each other with pride we know that we have caught gold. We know that the bride or groom will be overjoyed with this type of image and we can’t wait to share it with them.
It’s something that they would never know was going on as they’re focused on each other throughout the ceremony.
How about the grandparents?
Having divorced parents can also make seating the grandparents correctly problematic.
Typically they’ll be assigned the same row or side of the aisle as their children aka the couple’s parents.
However, there is no set in stone rule on this so it’s up to you as a couple.
Equally again if both sets of parents have divorced and remarried you’re going to be throwing even more people into the mix.
If that were the case our suggestion would be to place all the parents and step parents on the front row. Behind them would be a good place for the grandparents to sit (you’ll almost be at full capacity for goodness sake).
FAQs about divorced parents and wedding ceremony etiquette
Finding the right place to sit divorced parents is tricky enough but there are other ceremony etiquettes to contend with.
Let’s see how that affects where the parents sit during the ceremony.
Do divorced parents walk down the aisle?
We’ve seen this quite a lot at weddings we’ve photographed and it’s lovely. The biological father of the bride and her step father both walk her down the aisle.
Chances are high that if these dads are that comfortable with each other they won’t mind sitting next to each other for a 30-minute ceremony.
Equally though, they could both walk you down and then sit on either side of the aisle, it’s really up to you.
Who walks the mother of the groom down the aisle when the parents are divorced?
Once again you’ll have to decide for yourselves who walks the mother of the groom down the aisle.
However, what we have found is that she may choose to either go it solo, have one of the groom’s brothers take the walk, or the groom himself may take the responsibility.
We particularly like the last option as it’s always interesting to capture as a photographer.
Where does the girlfriend of the father of the bride sit?
If the father of the bride has a newish girlfriend you might feel it’s not appropriate for her to sit center stage at your wedding.
However, that’s a difficult conversation to have which may cause tensions. The exact same can be said if the mother of the bride has a new partner.
Unfortunately, it is something we have seen. Parents have a new partner and by the time we come to deliver the photos usually 4-6 weeks later, they’ve broken up. Then we get the awkward request of cropping out said ex.
Perhaps in this instance, you could offer the father of the bride two options. He can sit in the front row alone. Or he can sit a few rows back but sit next to his girlfriend. You’re essentially putting the ball in his court and you should respect his decision.
So where are you going to seat your divorced parents? It may seem impossible to answer but it really shouldn’t be.
Your wedding is your day to celebrate your love for your partner so don’t let something as trivial as this ruin it.
Have a discussion with your parents and express your wishes to them. If they don’t want to sit together then that is up to them and you should respect their decision.
You don’t need to overreact and banish them to the back row of the ceremony. Place them on either side of the aisle but on the front row.
If you want to reinforce where you would like your divorced parents to sit, get a seating plan or use reservation cards. At the same time instruct your ushers to guide your parents to their seats.
You’ll likely be too busy gazing into your lover’s eyes to notice where people are sitting anyway.
So enjoy your ceremony because it’ll be over in a flash!