Should You Invite Your Ex to Your Wedding?

So, would you or wouldn't you?  The scene in which an ex appears at the church doors just as the minister utters, “Speak now or forever hold your peace,” may be a Hollywood cliché, but it is increasingly common for couples to invite exes to the ceremony, and experts say there’s no need for big-screen dramatics with a little careful planning and consideration.

To be sure, many traditionalists including Emily Post advise against inviting ex beaus or spouses because it can create uncomfortable scenes like those in movie weddings or simply make things odd for other guests.

“It’s not a good idea to invite an ex-spouse to an encore wedding,” Post writes in Emily Post's Wedding Etiquette, Fifth Edition (HarperCollins, 2006). “Friends can feel awkward celebrating a new marriage when the former husband or wife is there. Even if you and your ex are on good terms, there are other family members to consider, and there’s no reason to open old wounds when it can be avoided.”

Post adds that seeing an ex at the ceremony can be confusing to any children involved, making it harder for them to celebrate the beginning of their new family. But many modernists make the case for inviting the ex, particularly if your kids will be ring bearers and flower girls.

“If you and your ex had children together, it’s not fair to your children to exclude their parent unless the parent has been abusive,” says Tina B. Tessina, PhD, psychotherapist and author of Money, Sex and Kids: Stop Fighting about the Three Things That Can Ruin Your Marriage (Adams Press, 2008).

That advice comes with a few caveats, though. You should make it clear to your ex and everyone involved what his or her boundaries are and whether their current partner is invited or if they can bring a date.You should also make sure your current partner understands exactly why you are inviting your ex well in advance of your wedding day.

“This is a time for everyone to get along,” says Tessina, also known as Dr. Romance. “The best rule is no surprises for anyone, no secrets from anyone.”   Wedding experts say the key to avoiding surprises, secrets and any ugly scenes that might follow is communicating with everyone early in the planning process.

“Talk to the ex before sending the invitation. Ask how them how they feel about coming,” says Suzi Tozer, a Saint Louis-area event planner who operates “You’ve obviously moved on and are considering including them, but they might find it extremely hard to watch you get married. First I’d talk to my future mate and second I’d talk to my ex before addressing the envelope.”

It’s also important to examine your own reasons for including your ex. Are you co-parents on good terms, for example, or could there be a darker motive behind the invitation?

“Is it because you want to share this special day with someone who you will always care about, or do you want them to feel bad that you are so happy?” asks Tozer.

If that’s the case, you should work through those feelings, especially if there are children involved who might pick up on your negative emotions.

“Keep your focus on making the occasion pleasant for your children, and not your own resentments and frustrations,” says Tessina. “You can work those out in therapy before or after the wedding.”

What do you think? Is there ever a good reason to invite your ex?  


Tim said...

I definitely don't think you ever should, if for no other reason than to show respect to your fiancé(e). I don't speak for everyone but I certainly wouldn't appreciate my hypothetical fiancée inviting her ex boyfriend to our wedding, and I would assume she too wouldn't appreciate me bringing old girlfriends around to watch us get married.

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