Tricky Situations elegant border table planner

Tricky Situations Involving Wedding Guests With a History

Find out how to defuse some of the trickiest wedding situations, including seating divorced parents, managing family feuds and the controversial question of whether or not to invite ex partners.

Elegant border table planner from |
Elegant border table planner from

Top Table Seating Solutions

The traditional way to seat everyone on the top table is down one side of a rectangular table, facing the rest of the room.


Traditional top table seating order, from the left: chief bridesmaid, groom’s father, bride’s mother, groom, bride, bride’s father, groom’s mother, best man. An alternative to this is to swap the fathers so that the bride’s parents sit together and the groom’s parents set together.

Annette and Brendan's top table |
Annette and Brendan’s top table

The top table is the focus of attention at the reception, so any difficulties are going to be obvious to everyone. However much you would love your mum and dad to sit at the top table, if they don’t want to then you need to find an alternative seating solution.

Here are some other variations:

If the bride’s parents have divorced and remarried

From the left: bride’s stepfather, chief bridesmaid, groom’s father, bride’s mother, groom, bride, bride’s father, groom’s mother, best man, bride’s stepmother.

If the groom’s parents have divorced and remarried

From the left: best man, groom’s stepmother, groom’s father, bride’s mother, groom, bride, bride’s father, groom’s mother, groom’s stepfather, chief bridesmaid.

If both sets of parents have divorced and remarried

From the left: groom’s stepmother, bride’s stepfather, chief bridesmaid, groom’s father, bride’s mother, groom, bride, bride’s father, groom’s mother, best man, bride’s stepmother, groom’s stepfather.

If you want to avoid any awkward hierarchies, particularly if there is any resentment or bitterness lurking between current partners and exes, consider only having round tables rather than one rectangular top table for the bridal party so everyone feels equal.

Round reception table at Claire and Conal's Real Wedding |
Round reception table at Claire and Conal’s Real Wedding

The Sweetheart Top Table

If you’re finding it impossible to organise a harmonious top table, do away with tradition and have a romantic ‘sweetheart top table’ just for two ‐ the bride and groom. That way just the happy couple are the centre of attention and everyone else can sit at separate tables with people they feel comfortable with.

Just Married flag bunting |
Just Married flag bunting

Defusing Family Feuds

Family feuds can be the hardest thing to deal with when organising such an important, large scale event. Some weddings bring feuding families together while sometimes sadly the wedding is the catalyst.

If you are finding it difficult dealing with family members who cannot see eye-to-eye and it is disrupting your wedding planning or causing you additional stress, then it can help to address the situation one way or another.

If it is important to you that both your parents are there when you marry, but since their divorce they refuse to be in the same room as each other, you do need to find a way that everyone will feel comfortable with. Sometimes simply keeping divorced parents and their new partners as far away from each other as possible on the wedding day is the only way.

Every family dynamic is different and some family feuds are able to be resolved through communication while others are better handled more sensitively. Try to decide on the best course of action for your family by gently discussing it with a neutral family member before becoming too involved. Your wedding should be about peace and love.

Reception at Ruth and Toby's Real Wedding |
Reception at Ruth and Toby’s Real Wedding

Inviting the Ex

We have all heard stories of couples who invited their ex-wife or ex-husband to their wedding and they all got along famously, but this is rare.

For those who are still able to maintain an ongoing friendship with their ex-partner, and especially if they have children together, it can seem right to invite them to the wedding. You do need to consider how your ex, and particularly your new partner, feel about each other. If there are any misgivings at all it can be better to simply explain that you will be getting married again but that you don’t feel it would be appropriate to have them there on the day. Most people will understand, though some will not, particularly if their children are going to be involved in the wedding. The person you are marrying should have the final say on whether your ex is there or not.

The bottom line is you should not invite former partners unless everyone is comfortable with it. Your parents might still harbour ill feeling towards them so do try to be mindful of everyone’s feelings. It is a sensitive subject that should be discussed long before the wedding day. If everyone is ok with it then invite them and their new partner and just keep it formal.

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