Ask A Planner: Family Feud

Ask A Planner
June 18, 2010
The Guestzilla ~ Part 1: The Omniscient Guest
June 29, 2010
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Ask A Planner: Family Feud

Hello Wed Heads!  Today’s question comes from a high school friend of mine, Danielle.  She wants to know how I deal with feuding family members at weddings.

You would think that people would put aside their differences for their loved one’s special day, but no.  I recently had a horrible, estranged mother of the groom call the grandmother (who raised the groom) a b***h!  At the wedding!  She couldn’t keep it together for one night.  I of course also have had the:  “I won’t sit next to him, I won’t take a picture with her.”  I say get over it people!  We are adults, please act like it.  All in all most of the family members at my weddings are very gracious and try to avoid all drama.  As a planner, I PLAN for it as well.

During the year before their wedding, the couple and I will create a detailed ‘family tree’ if you will, that only I see.  It shows me who is divorced, remarried, which family members aren’t speaking, who won’t sit together, who won’t pose in pictures with this person, etc…  The couple and I go over this very carefully during the planning of the wedding.  This helps me so much.  It avoids me asking estranged parents to walk down the aisle or pose for a picture together.  Speaking of which, family photographs can be a touchy time for feuding family members.  I avoid hurt feelings by having a list of photo groupings so no one is ever left out or asked to do something they aren’t comfortable with.  This is one of the reasons photographers love me!  They have enough on their plates without worrying about family drama.  I deal with the drama so they can ‘focus’ on creating beautiful photographs.  (Sorry for the pun.)  😉

My advice if you are a feuding family member:  Please don’t wait until the wedding day to talk to the bride and groom about your concerns.  If you don’t want to take pictures or sit with someone else, please tell them during the year of their wedding planning.  DON’T wait until the happy day.  They will appreciate being able to deal with it ahead of time.  All that being said, only immediate family members should ever make such a request.

My advice for brides and grooms with feuding family members:  Don’t think they will behave at your wedding.  Expect the worst and deal with it ahead of time.  Ask your divorced parents if they are comfortable taking pictures together, or sitting together.  Talk with your wedding planner and let her know about any drama there is.  Let your photographer know the groupings you want and tell them not to deviate from the list.  Plan ahead, you won’t be sorry.


  1. Natasha says:

    Great post, Sarah! As a photographer, I'd like to add that when a family member makes a huge stink about being in a photo, a shooter can quickly diffuse the situation by shooting them and then quickly moving on–sometimes this is the quickest way to move forward and to keep spirits high. Nobody needs a sour puss ruining all the photos. The bride doesn't even need to see the photo or use the photo in anyway. Sometimes grumpy people just need to feel included–it's an easy fix.

    Also, regarding the family tree that you do with your clients–BRILLIANT! There is actually a name for that–it's a genogram. This type of family relationship document is not only helpful to the planner and photographer, but it can also be a powerful tool for the bride to understand the history of her family dynamics.

  2. Thanks Natasha! I'm googling 'genograms' to see if I can find some pre made forms that might be better than mine. Thanks for that tip. 😉 I agree to always include the grumpy one, easier all the way around. Although I have more had the case of not wanting to be in a certain grouping. lol, I did once have a family member ask during the pictures for a photo of just her and her husband. 😉

  3. Amanda says:

    My mom says she won't come to my wedding if I invite my father- my mom is clergy and we planned on getting married at her church. Which means we wouldn't be able to get married at her church if I invite my dad- and my Fiancée really wanted a big church wedding. On the other hand I've just reconnected to my dad two years ago and he is acting betrayed and completely hurt (which is understandable) that he can't come. He thinks I shouldn't have to choose and they should both come which I would understand if the wonderful mother who raised me wasn't unreasonable. My mom isn't going to my older sisters wedding because she invited my dad. But my dad doesn't understand that by not choosing I am choosing him which means no mom, no money for my wedding, and no big church wedding. They are both being selfish and unreasonable and there is no right answer for me. I have looked online and talked to people but they don't really understand the situation it's not that they don't want to be near each other its that they won't at all. I almost don't want to get married anymore except that I desperately love my fiancée.

  4. Hi Amanda,

    This is horrible, I'm so sorry you are dealing with this before your big day. Sadly, I see this a lot. I don't know why adults can't just put aside everything for one day. I do see your mother's point of view though. Imagine, this man hasn't helped her raise you, and now he shows up to share in the joyful moments. That being said, she should understand you wanting your father at your wedding. Be careful how you include your father. As you said, your father hasn't been in your life until recently, especially as your mother is paying for the wedding, he should really just be treated like a guest. That might make your mother feel better. She must really be mad to miss her daughter's wedding! Sometimes the best plan may be to have a small private ceremony, and then a larger reception. I have also seen weddings change to elopements so they don't have to deal with all of the family drama.

    If I can help in any way or if you have other questions for me, feel free to email me at: