Ask Fay: Divorced Parents

Y’all sure did throw me in at the deep end this week! I’ve risen to your challenge by taking on this particularly tricky situation that one Gather Together bride-to-be reached out with:

What should I do if one of my divorced parents wants to bring their new boyfriend/girlfriend to the wedding, but the other is upset about it?

Told you it was a toughie. As with most situations that involve the potential for hurt feelings, I suggest making decisions early and being firm, consistent, and clear about them throughout the wedding lead-up. First; sit down with your fiancé and talk about what you’re both anxious about and possible scenarios. The better you both understand the situation the more supportive you can be for each other. As early on as possible in your planning (definitely before invitations go out) decide as a couple whether the parents in question will be invited with or without a guest. Personally, I would suggest ‘with’. Unless there are seriously bad feelings, or very fresh wounds, you want your parents to feel accepted by you, just as they are accepting of you and whom you’ve decided to invite into your heart and family.

Once this decision has been made, stick to it! As you’re making invitations, ensure that it is clear whether guests are included or not. Before you mail the invitations have a personal conversation with any parent who may not like the decision or feel disgruntled. Explain to them in a non-confrontational way why you have made your decision. In particularly volatile situations it might be best to have a private conversation with all parents/partners so that everyone understands the sensitivities involved.

At this point, breath and focus on enjoying the planning process. This should still be a day full of joy and celebration! I would hope that your parents would act like the adults they are on your day and not air any dirty laundry. And honestly all the love and happiness present on the day almost always supersedes any awkward undertones that may have been there.

I will add one little caveat to my response; if the new gf/bf of the parent was involved in the original breakup in any manner, then I would seriously think about asking your mom or dad to respect the feelings of the other party and leave the new partner at home rather than bringing someone who would more than likely feel uncomfortable and open up painful wounds for others.

While we’re on the topic of plus ones, how do you know when you need to include an “and guest” on the invitation? Well, dear brides, that is (almost entirely) up to you. Spouses, fiancés, and live-in romantic partners should always be included on an invitation. But when it’s just a girlfriend or boyfriend, it’s hard to know what to do. Ask yourself how large your venue and budget are, whether plus ones would take the place of people important to you, how serious the relationship is, and whether you or your fiancé have ever met the gf/bf before. Even the inimitable Emily Post leaves the final decision up to you… And who am I to argue with the reigning queen of etiquette!? But whatever you do decide; be clear about it!

Til we Gather Together again...