Q: I’m a frazzled mess trying to come up with the seating arrangements for my wedding. My mother and stepmother haven’t spoken in ten years. At past functions, we’ve seated them far away from each other to avoid combat, but how do I do that at the church without slighting one?
A: For starters, have a heart-to-heart with each of them ahead of time-perhaps include your father in the stepmother talk-to solicit “good behavior.” If you keep saying how important it is to you that they make every effort to put animosity aside on this one special day, it’s hard to imagine that they would cause any problems. Some etiquette guidelines do exist to help you: In most cases, when the bride’s parents are divorced, the parent with whom she lived after the divorce (or the one she’s closer to) sits in the first pew during the ceremony. This is often, but not always, the mother, who is joined by her husband, if she is remarried, and her immediate family. Either directly behind the mother contingent (which might fill the first two or three pews) or a few rows away, comes the brides father, stepmother, and his immediate family. There are practical divorced-parent guidelines for the reception too. Use assigned seating, with the tables for your mother and stepmother at a safe distance apart. I’m sure that on the big day, your sensitivity will be appreciated by all.