Family Portraits: Is it proper to have a family photo taken with both divorced parents in it?

Q: My husband’s second son from his first marriage is getting married.  They were married for four years and have been divorced for 20 years.  At his other son’s wedding the photographer put my husband and his ex-wife in a “family” picture together.  This did not feel right or proper.  In a situation like this what is the proper etiquette?



A: You are correct.  When parents are divorced, it is simply not appropriate to have them flank the couple in a photograph in a semblance of a united family.  Instead a photograph with each parent is appropriate.  When a parent has remarried, it is fine to have the new spouse included in the picture.  If enmity toward the new spouse is great, the new spouse does not have to be included in the photograph.  The important thing is not to try to recreate the family as it once was.  There is no set list of suggested photographs for step families — it’s a personal choice.


  1. Since the question was if this were “proper etiquette”, I agree that is is the correct answer. But, I coordinated a wedding recently where the bride’s parents were divorced and had remarried. The bride, however, wanted a picture with just her mom and dad, sans any step-parents. She was not attempting to recreate her original family unit or to slight the stepparents in any way; she simply wanted a photograph with her parents in it together. Her opportunities for this are rare, if ever, since her parents have been divorced a number of years. But she loves them both, and they both love her, and I thought it was a nice gesture and momento of this day. You can’t blame a child, even a grown one, for wanting a picture with his or her parents, despite what the current relationships may be.

    • Karen

      I agree with this as well, though one might take into consideration the parents’ feelings about this. My siblings, their families, me, and our divorced parents took family portraits for Mother’s Day one year, and the photographer, who didn’t know that they were divorced, posed my mother and father alone together, with my mother behind my father, leaning over him with her hands folded together and placed on his shoulder. Though the photo is a treasure for me, I have only one other photo of them alone together, which is from twenty years ago, I found out later it made my mother slightly uncomfortable. So, get your photographer familiar with your family dynamics, and tip them generously for their efforts.

  2. D

    Actually, the important thing to think about here is that maybe the son/daughter getting married, wants a picture with HIS parents. I don’t think that’s inappropriate at all. If you’re marrying a divorced individual with children, you should expect them to still be able to take a photo with their parents. Honestly.

  3. My husband and I got married on the beach last summer. There are some beautiful pictures of “just the children” in their bridesmaid dresses. I am considering giving their mother a framed picture of her girls. She completely went nuts when I had the girls write thank you notes to her at Christmas; therefore , I want to get opinions before I spend money on the photos.

    Thanks in advance for the advice!

    • Alicia

      I think giving the ex wife pictures of her kids in the current wifes wedding could hurt feelings. Also your doing pictures of her girls could hurt. I’d do something else for a gift as so likely to step on toes.

  4. Christy

    I am in a very difficult position, I live with my boyfriend of 4 years, he has been divorced for 6 years, and his ex (who filed for the divorce) is still very angry and bitter and resentful. I think it is best to keep what happens with you and your husband (and kids) separate from anything she needs to know about. Your household, is your household, hers is hers. I say enjoy your husband and happy times, and keep the pictures in an album for when the kids come to visit they have that memory with YOU.

  5. Brooke C

    How do you do it if it’s the Grandparents that are divorced, but still (loosely) friends? Neither are remarried or dating.

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