Forty-two per cent of all marriages end in divorce in England and Wales. Amid the many challenges that the end of a marriage presents, one that few people think of until it slaps them in the face years later is how you deal with your ex-husband or ex-wife at your child’s wedding.
To throw a further spanner in the works, the years between your divorce and your son or daughter’s wedding could have brought someone else into your life and you could well have a new partner, as could your ex.
How does everyone find a space within the wedding party that keeps the focus on the two people about to take their nuptials?
Counsellor Mariam Prag insists this is what’s paramount. She urges parents to understand: “As tough as you might find it to deal with your ex, your child’s wedding is not about you, but about them.”
To keep this thought top of mind might be easier said than done, though. The tips below should help ensure that everyone enjoys the big day and that the wedding photos after show people on their best behaviour, with genuine smiles and not through gritted teeth.
1. Respect the bride and groom’s decisions
Regardless of how acrimonious your divorce may have been, the fact remains that your ex-wife or husband is one of your child’s parents. If your son or daughter wants them to be part of their wedding, accept it. It’ll make things easier in the long run.
2. Focus on the big picture and the date
With weddings being the extravaganzas they’ve become, the run-up to it could take months, or (whisper it) even a year, but the day will come and the day will pass, and you can go back to living ex-free.
3. A short memory is your ‘something new’
Now is not the time to reminisce about your ex-partner’s failings of years past. Put your focus on the now.
4. Boundaries are allowed
Try to be as flexible as possible with your child’s wishes but remember that boundaries are positive things. If there are any situations you’re asked to be involved with that you know you just cannot handle well, say so as soon as possible.
5. The bride or groom is boss
If your ex has any questions about the way you are doing things for the wedding, he or she needs to take it up with your joint child, the bride or groom, and not with you.
6. Current partners have feelings too
If you’ve since remarried, don’t let your child’s wedding take over your life. Yes, it is exciting, and yes, it may be fraught, as dynamics long dealt with return to play a pivotal role in your life. But for your current spouse, it could be tough to watch you spend so much time and energy on something that doesn’t include them.
If emotions and maturity levels allow, see if there is a way to include them in a meaningful way in the wedding preparations, such as taking the happy soon-to-be-married couple for a meal before their wedding. Your ex may be a thing of your past once the wedding is over but your current spouse won’t be, so take care to think of their feelings too.
7. Laughter is the best medicine (and diffuser)
Many a tense situation can be diffused with a bit of laughter. You don’t need to develop a comedy routine, but some well-placed wit could be your best weapon.
8. Weddings are celebrations
Even in the most simple of family set-ups, it can be difficult, when preparations and nerves are running high, to remember that weddings are a time of celebration. They are, though, and the happy memories of the day will be what everyone remembers afterwards.
9. Your child’s happiness will make it all worth it
At times, you might need to grit your teeth to get through the run-up to the wedding. But come the special day, the smile on your child’s face will take away most, if not all, of the stress and strain. It’s a trade-off worth making as your child and their spouse start their married life together.