I’m getting married later this year. My fiance’s son is in the wedding and reception, and his mother wants to come to the reception. I said yes to the wedding, but she and I aren’t friends. No hard feelings toward her, I just don’t want her at my reception. My fiance said it’s not a big deal. How to handle this? —Anonymous
There’s no “right” answer here. I’ve thought about it a lot, and even I can’t settle on one. Let me present you with some ideas to consider that may help you make a final decision.
First, I don’t get why the ex would want to come to the wedding. It’s not for the kid, no matter how old he is. His father is present, and since it’s a wedding where his father is the groom, there likely will be grandparents, aunts and uncles and maybe even godparents present—i.e., plenty of family and “like family” people to watch over the child. So safety isn’t a valid concern, and surely the child has been alone with his father before.
Maybe this is some sort of closure for her? If she still has feelings for her ex, it could be like when a casket is closed at the funeral. Maybe there’s another way of looking at this. She may be over her child’s father, and her asking to attend the wedding is her way of showing support for the union—and for you, as the soon-to-be stepmother of her child. Not all exes sit around pining for what was.
The ex has been bold enough to ask for an invite, which is supremely bad etiquette. So you should be bold enough to ask her why she wants to come. Don’t be rude, but do be curious. It is a valid question.
Speaking of etiquette, it’s also rude to extend an invite to the wedding but not the reception. “If you invite someone to your wedding, they should be a part of the entire event,” says Lauren Beamon of Elle’s Couture Events (who was also my wedding planner). “Inviting someone to just the ceremony and not the entire wedding is like asking someone to come to a dinner party but telling them they can’t have dinner.”
But beyond the rudeness—and maybe you don’t mind being such on your wedding day—the ceremony is actually the sacred part of the wedding events. The reception is a celebration. You don’t know why your fiance’s ex wants to attend (which is why you should ask, to judge her motives), but on the off chance that she has some ill intentions, what you really don’t want is someone with bad energy sitting there and sending bad juju while she witnesses your vows—or, better yet, objecting to them when the minister asks.
Maybe you’re concerned about paying for her plate at the reception, or just unwilling to do so on general principle. Maybe you just don’t want her there because she’s an ex. I get that, especially the latter reason. But if you’re going to invite her to any part of the festivities, opt for the reception over the ceremony. The ceremony is really the part you need to have go off without a hitch.
Also, with the number of people at the reception and all the interaction, you’ll probably barely remember the reception or barely see the woman. (I thought newly married women were lying when they told me this, but it’s entirely true. The reception is a whirlwind and you hardly get to eat.) You have close friends and family there, too, and they can check her if she gets out of line.
Finally, if you genuinely feel that the child’s mother has no ill intent—and I don’t think you do if you’ve said yes so far to her attending the wedding (but not the reception)—just let her come to both. You may not know her well now, but as a “bonus mom,” you’re co-parenting her kid. You’re about to be family, not by blood but by relation.
It’s your big day, I know, and you’re focused on what happens at the wedding, but you may not be considering what happens during the marriage. Being queen for a day and having your way could cause considerable strife down the line. Is it worth it? That’s for you to decide.
Demetria Lucas D’Oyley is a contributing editor at The Root, a life coach and the author of Don’t Waste Your Pretty: The Go-to Guide for Making Smarter Decisions in Life & Love as well as A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life. She answers your dating and relationship questions on The Root each week. Feel free to ask anything at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Previously in Ask Demetria: “Maintain Marital Bliss by Compromising on Conflicting Family Obligations”