When planning a wedding, including the ceremony and the reception, the scenario becomes a bit more complicated when either the bride or groom's father has remarried, bringing a stepmother into the mix. While it's typical for the stepmother to be included in the wedding plans and events, it's imperative she understands her place, and exercises proper etiquette.
It is common tradition for both the mothers of the bride and the groom to tailor their outfits according to the bride's wishes. Sometimes they are coordinated with the wedding colours of the attendants. The bride and groom should decide if the stepmother is to be considered when planning what the mothers will wear. This is usually based on the relationship the stepmother has with her stepchild.
The stepmother should not attempt to outshine either the mother of the bride or the mother of the groom in her choice of clothing.
Who sits where at the wedding can cause a problem, if all the family isn't on friendly terms with the stepmother. Etiquette dictates that the mother of the bride or groom should be seated in the front row on the designated side of the church with her spouse. The father and stepmother should be seated in the row just behind the mother.
The reception can become trickier, since the guests are expected to be conversational while dining, unlike the wedding ceremony, where guests simply sit and watch. If there is a head table that includes the parents, the seating arrangements should be dictated by the bride and groom, and it is expected that everyone will cordially heed their wishes.
If all parties are on speaking terms, the stepmother may be included at the head table. This eliminates the scenario of the father sitting without his spouse, as well as the possibility of hurt feelings.
Another alternative is to seat each set of parents at separate tables, and to limit the head table to just the bride and groom and their attendants.
The bride and groom should decide whether or not to include the stepmother in the wedding photos. If all parties involved are friendly, it will be perfectly natural to have her take part in the photos. If relations are particularly strained, arrange for a photographer's assistant to discreetly request certain people to appear for certain photos as they are taken. This makes the entire process less exclusive, and isn't so obvious as to who is and isn't included in the photos.
Remember that it might mean a great deal to the father of either the bride or the groom to have a professional shot taken with the happy couple as well as his own spouse.