Dear Wedding Maven,
My fiancé has two younger boys from a previous marriage. I really would like to include them in the ceremony, but their mother and I don’t get along and I really don’t want to invite her and her new husband to the wedding. Would it be rude not to invite the ex and her new husband if we want the boys to be a part of our wedding? I don’t want to cause bigger problems for us than we already have but I also want to enjoy our day.
In case you get bored reading the rest of my reply, let me say at the outset that there’s no etiquette rule that you have to invite your fiancé’s ex-wife to your wedding. In fact, if you think she’ll be disruptive, you should absolutely NOT invite her.
That being said, you’ve chosen to be part of a blended family, and that family, for better or worse, includes this woman and her husband. You will have to see her for years to come at soccer games, birthday parties, and graduations. You and your husband will have to talk to her about medical decisions, school issues, and vacation plans. Depending on your fiancé’s custody arrangement, you may also have to talk to her about schedules on a weekly basis. If you can’t stand to have her in a group of 100 or more people on a day where you are clearly in charge, how will you deal with her in these more iffy areas where you have competing needs?
Think about what a powerful message of reconciliation, and family unity you’ll be sending to her and your new stepsons if you invite her. If you choose to invite her you or your fiancé should talk to her about it first, don’t just have the invitation show up in the mail. Keep things simple “Dustin and I want to have the boys participate in the wedding, would you and George like to be invited? We’d be happy to have you.”
Once she and her husband are at the wedding, she should be treated as any other wedding guest. She should be seated with her sons, and if possible, another couple or two that she already knows. Obviously, she does not need to be included in family photos, but if she would like to have a picture with her husband and sons, that would be very nice of you to arrange.
Now if you decide that you just can’t stomach inviting her, that’s fine, too. I’m sure she is not expecting it. If you don’t invite her, make sure you know who will be responsible for helping the boys and making sure their needs are met during the ceremony and reception. Is there an aunt, cousin, or grandmother who they know well, who can serve as their chaperone for the day, since their father will be busy? If there isn’t, can you hire a babysitter the boys know well?
Make sure that your fiancé communicates openly and frequently with his ex about the day and the details. She should be given plenty of notice about the wedding date, and the times the boys will be needed (rehearsal, rehearsal dinner, photos, day-after brunch?). Let her know who will be driving them, and when they’ll be brought home. Try and respect her wishes about things like bedtime and babysitters. All of the details, like transportation and of course, purchasing the clothing, are your fiancé’s responsibility, not hers.
If you and your fiancé are planning a honeymoon don’t forget to consider his custody arrangement when making your travel plans.
I think the fact that you want to involve your new stepsons in your wedding is an excellent beginning for your new family.
Do you need wedding advice? Do you have a question about wedding-related etiquette, traditions, or relationships? Write the Wedding Maven at firstname.lastname@example.org.