Save it for the kids? Burn it? (One person I talked to did.)
l never have to worry about this predicament because we don’t have a wedding album. We didn’t hire a photographer to document our elopement, and we forgot to pack our camera charger, so in the event of a divorce, all I have to do is delete the one digital photo we managed to snap. Assuming I can find the hard drive it’s saved on.
For better or worse, when you share children with someone, you share a bond forever, so I was curious to know what mothers do with wedding albums after divorce. Placing it out of sight, out of mind, to save for the kids was the most common response — though it seems that some moms take longer than others to pass it down. As one grown daughter shared with me, “My mom kept hers, and I enjoy looking through it. I’m an adult, and she still hasn’t given it to me or my sister.”
A number of women said they plan on throwing it away, but just can’t bring themselves to do it quite yet. And the struggle is real for divorced men as well. As one woman shared, “My husband is a very disorganized packrat and years ago, when we were making space before our oldest was born, I stumbled upon his wedding video from his first marriage. The short story is that he couldn’t bring himself to throw it away, so it reentered the chaos that is his storage area.”
Other divorcees kept only select photos. Penelope Hefner, family law attorney at Sodoma Law in North Carolina, shared that one of her clients kept photos of her friends and family that were taken at her wedding, but threw away the photos that included her ex. Another client said, “I am keeping my book. My past makes me who I am today, and I can pick to be happy. I am still glad I married him! He gave me the two greatest treasures I will ever have…my 2 daughters!”
Below, five more mamas share the fate of their wedding albums and other mementos post-divorce.
When I moved out, I barely took anything, but I did take my wedding albums and rings. Once I was settled into my new apartment, I realized it was time to officially move on. I threw out the wedding album — like a basketball, straight into the dumpster — and in that moment, it felt like it was totally over. I took my wedding band and engagement ring and turned them into earrings for my two daughters. It all felt right in those moments.
I recently got divorced, and I kept our wedding album and other old photos for our daughter so that she can see there was love between us and treasure those memories. She can decide to get rid of them if they don’t feed her soul, but I feel it should be up to her. Throwing them away just doesn’t feel right. Even though our marriage didn’t work out, her dad is a good man in so many ways, and we did care for one another enough to get married and have her. She’s 6 now, and there have been a couple of instances where she’s wanted to show a picture to a friend. I always say okay. I keep them in a basket in her closet. I talk with her about how even though our family looks different now, there is still love. I’ll always be her mama and he’ll always be her papa.
My ex and I were married at New York City Hall. We bought our wedding bands on St. Marks, and my original engagement ring was from Claire’s. It’s not expensive jewelry, but it’s sentimental, and I kept both rings for our daughter. She’s 8 and in a very romantic stage. She asked to see my dress recently and tried on my veil. I keep it in a storage unit, along with photos and a wishing book from our wedding, where all of the guests wrote down their wishes for us. I eventually upgraded my engagement ring using a stone that belonged to my great-grandmother. When they immigrated to America, they brought three stones, sown into the hem of a coat. I’m keeping that ring. It’s a part of our family.
My ex and I narrowed down the bare essentials of what we consider “nice to have” memories to keep for our son. They are currently in a storage unit we share, and I’m not sure whose house they will move to when we get rid of the unit.
It’s in the basement, where it will probably be until I die. I can’t look at it. I can’t throw it away. My daughter doesn’t want it.
Jessica Butler is the co-founder of Raise, stepmother of two, and adoptive mother of one. Prior to Raise, she was a writer on USA’s "In Plain Sight" and TNT’s "The Last Ship." She and her husband, writer/producer Warren Bell, co-created the Nick at Nite series "Instant Mom," based on her life as a stepmother. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and six-year-old son, Levon.