The Ex Factor


By: Celia Pita

It is said that the Prince of Wales’ then ex-girlfriend, Camilla Parker-Bowles, was a guest at his wedding to Lady Diana Spencer.  Years later, Camilla’s ex-husband would be a guest at her wedding to the Prince of Wales. More recently, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (Prince William and Kate Middleton) invited their ‘exes’ to their wedding. Do you notice a pattern? Well, one might conclude that the Royal Family tends to include ‘exes’ on its wedding guest lists as a matter of practice. So, why then do the rest of us stress over the thought of having an ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend, or even another family member’s ‘exes,’ attend our weddings?

Before we delve into this issue, it’s important to understand that the Royal Family and its extended social circles embody centuries of history, tradition and protocol.  Consequently, harbouring ill feelings and being anything but cordial towards an ‘ex’ is seen as undignified. Sure, there may have been a painful break-up and there may even be residual hurt or angry feelings, but royal society will do its best never to display these feelings in public.  So, how do they do it you might ask? Perhaps they channel thoughts of the proverbial British stiff upper lip or, perhaps they know the secret to remaining friends with an ‘ex,’ Whatever their method, members of this royal society remain publicly distinguished and cordial, even when faced with the ‘ex’ factor.

Remaining cordial is an important part of dealing with the “ex’ factor at weddings. A wedding is a celebration, and while no one wants to see any drama unfold on the big day, deciding about whether to add an ‘ex’ to the guest list is often fraught with ‘ifs.’ If I don’t invite her, what will she or other people think? If I don’t invite him, what will his family say? If I do invite her, will she say something at the dinner? If I do invite him, will my fiancé be hurt? If mom sees him, what will she say? And, so on.

It’s important to be transparent about the reasons behind inviting an ‘ex.’ You certainly don’t want to invite someone you still have feelings for! So be honest. Inviting an ‘ex’ to a wedding is not an opportunity to finally get closure, put the past to rest or, pour salt on a wound. If the past has been put to rest, you’re still good friends, and your partner approves, inviting an ‘ex’ may be an opportunity for her to be a supportive witness to a beautiful event.

What you don’t want is for your husband-to-be to focus on creative ways of pummeling your ‘ex’ when he should be focusing on his special day. Even if he says he’s okay with your ‘ex’ attending the wedding, and even though many couples remain on good terms or even friends, the truth is very few men or women would want to see their partner’s ‘exes’ at the wedding because it may simply be too awkward or uncomfortable. Just remember that whatever you decide, keeping everyone happy is a challenge in the everyday, and doubly so when you’re dealing with such a special occasion.

The feelings of guests who will be sharing in a couple’s special day should also be taken into consideration when discussing the ‘ex’ factor, especially if they’re close to the ‘ex.’ Even if the ‘exes’ involved are on über fabulous terms, they should still ask themselves if guests will be uncomfortable displaying their joy for the happy couple in the face of the ‘ex.’ Or, will they feel the need to downplay their excitement to avoid hurting the ‘ex’ from the unsuccessful relationship?

For many engaged couples, the question of whether or not to invite an ‘ex’ is further complicated if there are children involved. It’s important to include the ‘exes’ in discussions regarding their attendance. Depending on the age of the children, it may be best for the ‘ex’ not to attend. Seeing a new family unified in the ritual of marriage with ‘old’ family members in attendance may be confusing to a young child. Having said that, any child will be overcome with emotions at their parent’s wedding so it may be advantageous to have the extra parent present to lend additional support. Even inviting your child’s grandparents (your ‘ex’ in-laws) may provide him/her comfort during the big day but it may make them uncomfortable around your new family. Be open to discussing your feelings with them so everyone has a chance to have the best possible experience.

Speaking of parents, ‘exes’ are not limited to the engaged couple. Adult children may have to contend with the issue of new love interests or even stepparents if their parents are divorced. It’s important to be honest about your feelings. So, discuss the issues or concerns with the respective parent and be open to compromise.

If you’ve decided to invite the ‘ex’ how should he or she be introduced? Where will they be seated?  Well, for starters, you should invite your ‘ex’ to bring a guest so that they are not alone, and seat them with people they know and like. If you’re doing a receiving line, greet your ‘ex’ the way you would any other guest. Treating them as such will also keep you from garnering any unwanted attention. Feel free to refer to your ‘ex’ as an old friend or as the father of your child(ren), if that’s the case. Introducing your ‘ex’ as an ‘ex’ can lead to gossip at the wedding — taking focus away from the wedding — and it’s really no one’s business, especially if they don’t know your history.

Sometimes relationships lead to wonderful events like weddings. Sometimes relationships break down and only ‘exes’ remain. And, sometimes, these ‘exes’ stay connected long after the relationship has ended and become an inevitable part of a future wedding. While every situation is personal and unique, we must channel the three principles of etiquette and be considerate, respectful and honest. We must ensure that the lines of communication are open, be receptive to the prospect of compromise, value one another and be whole-heartedly committed to putting in all the effort necessary, even if it means putting on a stiff upper lip.


Category: Etiquette, Past Issues, WEDDING PLANNING