Assuming that all parents are living and involved, etiquette dictates that a stepmother is to remain politely in the background of her stepchild's wedding and let the bride and groom plan with their birth parents. However, there are exceptions to every rule, particularly if the biological mother is either estranged from her child or deceased. In this case, the stepmother should wait to be asked to help. Also, if the stepmother inadvertently caused the split between the birth parents, it is considered in poor taste to attend at all.
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While it is perfectly appropriate for the stepmother to throw a wedding shower in honour of her stepchild and future in-law, it is customary to invite both sets of birth parents even if the stepmother is not included in a wedding shower hosted by the birth mother. Remember, the guests of a wedding shower should reflect the bride and groom's wishes, which will generally include their birth parents.
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According to etiquette, if the stepmother and her husband are co-hosting either the wedding or the rehearsal dinner, they should be included in the invitation. The invitation rule is to reflect the names of the people that are footing the bill.
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Appropriate Wedding Attire
While the bride's mother generally sets the standard of dress for herself and the groom's mother, the stepmother is expected to dress as a guest unless otherwise instructed. However, general wedding attire for the mothers should still apply. For instance, avoid the bridal palette of white, ivory and champagnes, and shy away from a flashy red or a morose black.
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After the wedding ceremony, the guests will disperse and the family will take pictures. It is best to stand back until asked to be in the picture. This is when the bride and groom create their wedding album, and etiquette does not normally dictate that a stepmother is involved. However, there are usually several variations of family pictures that you may have the opportunity to be a part of.
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The receiving line is generally an all-female cast aside from the groom and includes the mother of the bride, the mother of the groom, the bride, the groom and the bridal attendants. Even if you are co-hosting the wedding and your name is on the invitation, it is not appropriate to be part of the receiving line. That is an honour exclusively reserved for the birth mother unless otherwise noted.
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Seating at the Wedding and Reception
Generally, the first pews will go to the birth mother and her immediate family and the next row after that will be designated for the father and his immediate family, which includes the stepmother. If there is a seated dinner at the reception, chances are the bride made the seating chart and her wishes should be respected no matter where people are placed.
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Like the receiving line, the wedding dances are reserved for specific people. First the bride and groom dance, and then the bride and her father dance. Halfway through the father-daughter dance, the groom steps in with his mother. Even if you are a doting stepmother of the groom, this honour is reserved solely for the birth mother unless she is not in attendance and you are asked.