Wedding Program Etiquette With Step Parents

Updated July 19, 2017

A wedding program serves as a memento of a couple's wedding ceremony and provides the perfect opportunity to record the names of family and friends who played an important part in the day's festivities. Including the names of step parents in the wedding program can present a challenge to some couples. The bride and groom should carefully consider how to include their step parents in the wedding program based on their family's specific situation.

Wedding Programs

Wedding programs provide guests with information and insight into the wedding ceremony, the couple's family and the wedding party. There is no specific etiquette established for wedding programs and most wedding experts agree that programs are not a required item for weddings. Most couples will choose to provide guests with a program for the wedding ceremony. A basic wedding program lists the order of the wedding ceremony, the family members participating in the processional, and the wedding party. Some couples choose to express their personal style and creativity in the wedding program by including personal reflections, anecdotes and inspirational quotes.

Family Harmony

Most couples choose to list their family members on the wedding program. Some couples choose to only list family members directly participating in the wedding ceremony while others choose to list all of their immediate family members. When the parents of the bride or groom have remarried, there are often questions about the appropriate way to recognise step parents on the wedding program. Family harmony is probably the most important factor to consider when choosing the appropriate way to list step parents on the program. There is no formal etiquette regarding wedding programs and couples can choose how to list step parents based on their families' unique situation and relationships.

Relationship with the Bride or Groom

The relationship of step parents to the bride or groom will play a role in determining how to recognise a step parent on the wedding program. Many step families have good relationships that have strengthened and grown over the course of many years. Some children might feel closer to a step parent than they do to a biological parent. When there is a close relationship between the step parent and the bride or groom, it is appropriate and recommended to include the step parent in the "Parents" section of the program. In circumstances where the bride or groom does not have a close or amicable relationship with a step parent, the bride or groom can choose not to mention the step parent in the program. If omission will cause hurt feelings or discord, the bride or groom should consider listing the step parents in a general "Family" section of the program.

Participation in the Ceremony

In a traditional wedding ceremony, the processional includes parents and grandparents formally escorted to their seats before the bride's entrance. Wedding experts suggest that the wedding program list all members of the processional. Therefore, if the mother of the bride and her husband (bride's step father) are both formally escorted to their seats during the processional, the wedding program should acknowledge both the biological parent and the step parent. Some couples might choose to have a step parent read a passage of scripture or participate in the ceremony in a special way. The program should acknowledge the step parent's participation and contribution to the ceremony.

Program Wording

The bride and groom have complete discretion on how to acknowledge their wedding party and family members. Each couple has complete freedom to create a wedding program that reflects their values and individual family circumstances. A variety of wedding books, magazines and websites offer helpful suggestions for handling unique family and step parent situations. Depending on the relationship between the step parent and step child, the program can specifically designate the step parent relationship or simply refer to both natural and step parents as "parents." The following examples show possible wording choices for step parents in the wedding program.

One way to do it would be Parents of the Bride: Ron Smith - Father of the Bride; Julie Smith Banks - Mother of the Bride; Tom Banks - Step Father of the Bride. Another way to do it would be Parents of the Bride: Ron Smith; Julie Smith Banks & Tom Banks. Here's another way: Parents of the Bride: Ron Smith & Julie Smith Banks.

The bride and groom should choose the wording that they are most comfortable with and discuss their plans in advance with both families. By discussing the wedding program wording in advance, couples can reduce the risk of hurt feelings or awkward situations on the wedding day.

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About the Author

Kristen Bedell has written Web content for private clients on a variety of subjects. She also writes and publishes articles on eHow. Bedell received her master’s degree in accounting and currently operates a family-owned business, where she utilizes her writing skills to produce marketing materials and company-specific Web content.