Q: My fiance would like to invite his ex to our wedding. He feels his ex would like to see their children, ages 18 and 20, dressed up, and thinks it's appropriate that she attend, too. My fiance acts like this is standard practice and is upset that I don't want his ex near our wedding. End the argument, please. What's good ex-etiquette?
A: If you read this column you know I'm an advocate of exes getting along – and if they share children, it's nice if their new partners weigh in, as well. The kids will have a less stressful life as they go back and forth between parents. BUT, there are a couple of red flags that jumped out here, and a few not so obvious, as well.
First, your fiance thinks his ex would like to see their adult children dressed up? If they were 4 and 6, that comment would be understandable. They are adults. She's had 18 and 20 years to see them dressed up. Send her a picture.
Second, although some might think it strange, more and more exes are attending their ex's weddings, but it's based on a lot of things that were not in existence years ago. People often live together for a while prior to marriage. That gives the new partner time to support the parents' co-parenting and build a kid-centered relationship with their partner's ex. After years of all taking care of the kids together, if the couple decides to marry, then inviting the ex seems understandable.
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This is not the relationship you imply has developed. It sounds as if the children were older when you got together; the parents were in a comfortable co-parenting relationship. Your help was not necessarily needed so you did not build a bond that would support your fiance's ex attending your wedding. Bottom line, it's not common practice. Exes are exes for a reason, and if one is invited to your wedding, it's because boundaries were well-established, a history developed, and their presence is a natural progression to your relationship with them as a couple.
The fact that your fiance is upset with you
for not wanting his ex at your wedding is a red flag. His boundaries were established regarding the ex – but the boundaries concerning your relationship are questionable. He's marrying YOU. That's where his priorities should lie. If you don't want his ex there, his ex shouldn't be there.
So, who should be included on the guest list? The friends and relatives that you and he have established as your friends and relatives – not people from his old life or yours (unless they are now your friends as a couple). And, it's a good idea to consult the kids, no matter what their age. Ask them to participate in some way – light a unity candle, offer a toast, man the guest book, something that includes them and acknowledges them as part of this bonusfamily unit. That's good ex-etiquette. More information on bonusfamily weddings in "Ex-etiquette for Weddings: The Blended Family's Guide to Tying the Knot."
(Dr. Jann Blackstone is the author of "Ex-etiquette for Parents: Good Behavior After Divorce or Separation," and the founder of Bonus Families, www.bonusfamilies.com. Email her at the Ex-Etiquette website www.exetiquette.com at email@example.com.)