bride with parents

Photo: Tracy Shoopman Photography

A major part of your wedding day is celebrating your relationship with your partner. But don’t forget that it’s an important day for your parents, as well. After all, they’re probably been thinking about and waiting for this milestone since the day you were born. While you may not always agree with your parents during the planning process, you probably don’t want to ruin your relationship either. And while planning a wedding is a great way to show your independence as a responsible adult, you shouldn’t go totally rogue and forget about your loved ones in the process.

There are certain wedding-related decisions that your parents should be involved in, both major and minor. Make sure that you run these items by your parents before moving forward with your big day.


Setting your budget

One of the most important first steps of wedding planning is figuring out how much you can afford to spend. If you would like your parents to help pay for your wedding, be sure to discuss this with them politely but directly—not only do you need to know if they’ll be able to contribute, but exactly how much they are willing to spend.

If you and your partner want to pay for your wedding yourselves, props to you. It’s a major sign of financial independence that you’re able to foot the (rather large) bill—and it means you’ll have full control over the decision-making. However, your parents may actually want to assist with paying for your wedding—perhaps they’ve been putting aside money for this milestone. Make sure that everyone is aware of how the wedding is being paid for before moving forward.

Finalizing your guest list

It’s a good idea to discuss your guest list with your parents before it’s set in stone. If your parents are contributing financially to your wedding, they should get a say in who’s invited. Yes, there may be some disagreements (seriously, your old co-worker who you haven’t seen in 10 years, Mom?), but it’s best to hash those out now rather than keeping the guest list a secret. And yes, if you’re paying for the wedding, you can technically invite (and nix!) whoever you want—but we still recommend giving your parents a set number of people they can invite to make them happy. It’s a big day for them, and they should be surrounded by loved ones, too!

parents first look

Photo: Brandy Angel Photography

Setting a date and booking a venue

Before booking your venue and setting your date, be sure to run both by your parents. There may be conflicts you weren’t aware of (another big family event, a major work commitment) that your parents may bring to your attention. And in terms of your wedding location, if you’re hosting a hometown wedding that requires little travel, that’s likely easy for your parents. But if you’d like to host a destination wedding, make sure your parents are comfortable with the travel involved. While they don’t have to be thrilled with the idea of you getting married far from home (though hopefully they will be!), you’ll still want to make sure they will be able to make the trip to the event.

Sending your invitation

Burn this into your brain: If your parents are contributing financially to your wedding, they should be listed on your wedding invitations by name. There are a lot of different ways to word your wedding invitations, but from an etiquette perspective, those who are paying should be mentioned. We recommend showing your parents a proof of your wedding invitations before you finalize them to make sure that they’re okay with the wording or express any concerns.

Displaying photos from their wedding day

We’ve all seen those cute displays at weddings where couples show off family wedding photos. If this is something you’d like to do at your own wedding, be sure to ask your parents before going through their wedding album. Sure, you parents may be delighted that you want to show your family history in this way, but they may also prefer to keep their photos private.

Walking down the aisle

During a traditional wedding processional, the bride is escorted down the aisle by her father (in Jewish weddings, both parents walk the bride down the aisle). These days, however, couples are changing up the traditional processional and walking down the aisle in a variety of configurations. If you’d like to change things up, perhaps including a stepparent or having both parents walk with you, be sure to discuss with your parents first.

parents processional

Photo: Pond Photography

Assigning speeches

The father-of-the-bride traditionally gives a speech during the wedding reception, but again, this might not work for your particular family situation. Talk to both sets of parents to try to devise a speech-giving plan that everyone is comfortable with. Perhaps your dad is terrified of public speaking and would rather your mom speak for the two of them. Or maybe you’d like a stepparent to speak as well. This can be a sensitive subject, so be sure to handle the topic delicately with all involved parties.

Choosing parent dance songs

“Special dances” during the reception typically include a father-daughter dance and a mother-son dance. First, make sure that your parents are comfortable with this arrangement—or if there’s another set up you’d prefer (again, perhaps adding a stepparent to the dance list). And be sure to choose the song you’ll dance to together—your mom or dad might have a particular song they’ve been wanting to use, so let them have a say.

Planning the rehearsal dinner

Figuring out the logistics for the rehearsal dinner can also be as complicated as planning the wedding. First, it’s important to decide who’s actually planning and paying for this event. Traditionally, the groom’s family hosts this night-before dinner, but nowadays (and particularly if it’s a wedding of two brides), this isn’t set in stone. Don’t wait until the last minute to figure out who is handling the rehearsal dinner—this should be decided in the early stages of wedding planning.

Creating the seating chart

Your parents may have strong opinions on who they’re sitting with at your reception (“I want to be as far away from Aunt Barb as possible!”)—so make sure they’re able to make their feelings known before you finalize your seating chart. Don’t assume that you know who your parents want to sit with—you might be surprised at their preferences.