Is It Okay To Invite My Ex To My Wedding?

steven petrowQuestion for Steven: My girlfriend and I are busy planning our fall wedding and right now we’re trying to settle on a final guest list. So here’s my predicament: She won’t let me invite my friend Susan because she happens to be my ex as well. But we haven’t been together in ten years! And while it’s true that she was the other most important relationship in my life, that’s old news. We’re good friends and I want to invite her. Who’s in the right here?

Steven Answers: I hate to get in between couples, but this one will be difficult to avoid. Often it’s a healthy sign for a partner to see that her girlfriend has a solid relationship with an ex. That tends to show certain maturity, acceptance, and the ability to move on. However, (I’m about to leave you in the dust) inviting your ex to your wedding ceremony is usually not considered such a great idea. This is partly because she could be a distraction to some of your guests, especially if they got to know her quite well when you were together. Some might even be constrained in expressing their joy over your new commitment with an ex so front and center; others may be rude enough to construe a little drama.

But most important of all is how this will make your future spouse feel. This is her wedding too! If there’s any semblance of stress, worry, or jealousy about extending an invitation to your ex—as apparently there is in your case—it’s better to skip it.

If your girlfriend did not object, I’d feel quite differently about your question. In my experience, here’s a list of circumstances when it’s generally okay to invite an ex:

* If your new partner and ex have met and have established a good, solid relationship, with no anxieties or insecurities on either side.

* If you’ve remained good friends with your former partner and all your relationship issues are history.

* If you and your current partner were invited to and attended your ex’s wedding ceremony and all went well.

* If your ex is part of your larger gay family, which is to say your family of choice—someone who has been there for you and vice versa over the years. Many of us turn lovers into friends, if not family.

* If you have had kids with an ex and everyone gets along reasonably well. The children would likely appreciate having their other parent present—and you would have a built-in baby-sitter if they were young.

Also bear in mind that if your girlfriend does decide to cave—be aware that your ex should keep a low profile and stay out of the front rows at your ceremony. And at all costs, don’t introduce her as your ex but rather as “as a good friend of mine” or simply by her name. No need to draw attention to her former status as you ex when you’re taking a new bride.


Steven Petrow is the go-to source on contemporary etiquette, as cited by The New York Times, People, Time, and NPR. His sometimes gentle, sometimes snarky, always insightful advice has made him a nationally recognized expert on modern manners. In addition to his three prize-winning etiquette books, Steven writes the “Civil Behavior” column for The New York Times and is a sought-after speaker on all matters of civilized living in the 21st century.