How to Include Both Your Father and Your Stepfather in Your Wedding

Three wedding planners share their tips for the processional, father-daughter dance, and more.

haylie bradley wedding louisiana father daughter dance
Photo: A Bryan Photo

Since marriage is a major milestone, many fathers want to play a leading role in the big day's festivities. But what if a bride or groom also has a stepfather with whom they're close, too? Creating opportunities to honor both men in meaningful, tactful ways can be tricky. Here, two planners share their top tops for including both a father and stepfather in the wedding.

The Processional

Traditionally, a bride walks down the aisle with her father, so having two father figures can turn the processional into a logistical headache. As it turns out, a bride-to-be has a handful of options for splitting the duty. Jennifer Thye, the owner of Imoni Events, says you actually can walk down the aisle with both dads. If they're okay with it, she suggests having both men by your side during the processional, then having your stepdad take his seat and have your father proceed to walk you to your groom. Another option is to start the processional with your father, then have her stepfather join halfway down the aisle. Should splitting the duty be too politically-fraught for your family, consider processing alone, then stopping to kiss the cheek of her father and stepfather.

In the event that you want to walk down the aisle with only your birth father, know that there are other ways to honor your stepdad. According to Katie Colosi, director of events at Laurie Arons Special Events, California, "A nice responsibility for the bride's stepfather during the procession is escorting the mother of the bride down the aisle. As the last to be seated before the bridal party processes, it is a position of honor, and it's nice for the married couple to enjoy the moment together."

Participating in the Wedding

Want your stepdad to feel included in the ceremony? Consider gifting him a boutonnière to wear throughout the nuptials and including his name in the program. Meredith Sipe, owner of Blue Fancy Events, says that asking stepparents to deliver a reading during the ceremony (whether it's a passage from a favorite novel or a religious blessings) is another great way to include them in the proceedings. Similarly, the father or stepfather of the bride or groom can toast the couple during the reception, as long as the birth father feels comfortable with the situation.

Dance with the Bride

A traditional father-daughter dance may not work with all family dynamics. Of course, a bride may choose to dance solely with her birth father, or she can dedicate one song to each man. The downside of this division, however, is that the back-to-back dances will seem prolonged for guests. As an alternative, Colosi suggests doing a "parents' dance" at the reception. "The bride will start the song with her father, and after a short time, the groom and mother of the groom join the dance floor," she explains. "After a few more eight counts, stepparents are invited to cut in, and new dance partners are formed!" If you're thinking about partaking in a "parents' dance," it's important to go over protocol beforehand to prevent awkward missteps.

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