When a couple chooses to add a third person

Family in law is used to mean a marriage between someone who isn’t a relative of the bride and groom but who has been given special permission to attend the wedding and share in the ceremony. The guests’ place cards and seating chart usually list the in-laws’ name first, followed by the names of the bride’s and groom’s family.

When a couple chooses to add a third person to their family with a legal union, this individual is considered an in-law. Because the person’s parents are already blood relatives of the bride and groom, however, the couple cannot legally marry unless they obtain FAMILY LAW approval of the clergyman or minister to whom they plan to marry. This permission is called a license or dispensation.

The term in-law is also used to describe people who are invited to the wedding, but whose presence is not allowed in the ceremony. In this case, the officiant would inform the guests that only those individuals whose names appear on their place card are allowed to witness the wedding. For example, a church wedding may include as guests: the bride’s father, the groom’s mother, and siblings of the bride and groom, plus several aunts and uncles, and cousins.

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