Ask the Experts: Divorced Parents

Q: My parents are divorced—and on bad terms. How should I word the invitation? More important, how do we keep them from butting heads on the Big Day?

A: When divorced parents host the wedding together, both names appear on the invitation with the mother’s name first, as in Ms. Mary Johnson and Mr. John Johnson. If the parents are remarried, it would read Mr. and Mrs. Robert Jones and Mr. and Mrs. John Johnson.

“Etiquette dictates that invitations are worded according to who’s paying for the wedding, but when everyone is chipping in, it’s actually much simpler,” says Leah Ingram, an Elegant Wedding contributor and New Hope-based author of The Complete Guide for the Anxious Bride (New Page, 2004). “The invitation lists the bride and groom first, then ‘together with their parents.’”

A diplomatic seating chart and a logistical strategy are essential in managing parents who don’t get along, says Megan Kline, president of Megan Kline Events in Horsham. “We planned a wedding where the mother was remarried, the father wasn’t, and the bride wanted all three of them in the receiving line,” she recalls. “We placed a sibling between them so they looked like a big, happy family—even though they weren’t.” —Eileen Smith