6 secrets to getting along with your ex-husband for your son’s wedding

6 secrets to getting along with your ex-husband for your son’s wedding

The chances that a mother of the groom will deal with an ex-husband in regards to her son’s wedding are, sadly, about one in two.

Officially, it is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that tracks these statistics in the United States. According to the CDC, in 2011, 6.8 people per thousand got married and 3.6 per thousand got divorced. Figuring out how to turn those numbers into a divorce rate is far too difficult for me but at face value, it appears half or more of mothers of the groom will have been divorced at least once. Some sources say the rate of divorce for first-time marriages is about 40% while second and subsequent marriages end 60% of the time. I think we can agree that many MOGs face an assortment of tricky dilemmas related to an ex.

There’s little help for this from the grandmother of what to do, Emily Post. She could not have imagined the various scenarios that play out at weddings today when she wrote her first authoritative manual on etiquette in 1922. Although her descendants continue to guide us, neither Emily’s “Wedding Etiquette,” 2006 edition or EmilyPost.com offer much help. The most I can find is a gentle suggestion to adjust seating if either set of parents is divorced. I think we need more than that.

Thankfully, in 2007 Jann Blackstone-Ford and Sharyl Jupe, published “Ex-etiquette for Weddings,” a thorough resource for every imaginable (and unimaginable) situation the divorced mother of the groom may face at her son’s wedding. Jann is a certified divorce and stepfamily mediator who married Sharyl’s ex-husband. The two women and their families were miserable for several years before they declared a truce and learned to work together for the sake of their children and their own peace. Eventually, they formed a non-profit for divorced parents and their families and wrote “Ex-Etiquette for Parents: Good Behavior After a Divorce or Separation.” “Ex-Etiquette for Weddings” followed. Thank God.

 Jann and Sharyl offer guidance on wording of invitations, how to handle photographs, where everyone sits at the wedding and reception, and dozens more tricky predicaments. Their advice to divorced parents builds on this fundamental truth:

“It’s never over.

Not if you want to do it right.”

I have been the encore bride, the stepmother of the groom, and the mother of the groom whose father was deceased but whose stepmother was an honored guest at the wedding. I know something about this, too.

What follows is a recap of Jann and Sharyl’s best practices for divorced parents of the bride and groom blended with my own ideas which are a result of my experiences, including the things we did right and the things we could have done better.

Make This Easy for Your Son and His Fiancé

Have a candid discussion with the bride and groom and let them know you intend to work with your ex to insure this time in their lives is as special as they could hope. Set their minds at ease. It is likely they are concerned about how to handle you and your ex-husband and what to expect in the months ahead. Make a promise not to put them in the middle of any conflict with your ex and then whenever you’re feeling irritable about a situation, remember to keep your promise.

“Remember whose wedding it is.” It’s the number one rule Jann and Sharyl list in their 10 rules of ex-etiquette for weddings. This is when you promise yourself, your son and his fiance, that you will do this.

Find Your Common Ground

Both you and your ex-husband love your son. This is something you can agree on. Your mutual interest in his happy and productive future is a fertile field for sewing seeds of kindness and forgiveness. Respect your past and your individual relationships with your son and his family. Build on this as you join together to bless your son and his fiancé.

“When they take the family picture,” as one mother of the groom suggests, “you can stand next to your ex and be proud of this terrific young man you’re both launching and smile for 30 seconds.”

Be Empathetic

You once loved your ex-husband. Whatever you feel now, honor your previous relationship by putting yourself in his position. Treat him as you would want to be treated.

Be Businesslike

If possible, get together in a neutral setting and discuss the upcoming event. Over coffee or lunch, approach this as you would a business arrangement. Discuss what each of you is able to contribute for the wedding. Be honest about your resources. Then let your son and his fiancé know what to expect from each of you.

Share and Compromise

There will be issues that try your patience and sense of justice. Before they arise, decide to be willing to compromise. One of the biggies may be the number of invitations allotted for you and your ex-husband. Be ready to split those in half, even if your family is larger than his. It is the most equitable response to the honor your son and fiance are showing to each of you. And who knows? Perhaps the empathy and good will you have already demonstrated will prompt your ex to share. Apply the same attitude to other difficult situations. Remind yourself that this is one day in a lifetime. Having your way is less important than the longterm relationship you’ll have with your son and his family.

Be Cordial

At the rehearsal dinner and wedding, and any other events you both attend, be cordial to your ex, all of his family members, his new spouse and family, if applicable, and to any friends who “chose his side” in the past. True etiquette means treating others with kindness and respect. This is a time to practice your best behavior regardless of how others may be acting or how you’ve been treated in the past. The past is gone but the present requires grace. Be the person who embodies that spirit at this important occasion.

Jann and Sharyl’s book includes other strategies and scenarios that may inspire you on how to conduct yourself in many different situations. It is also a great resource for encore weddings in which the bride or groom, or both, have been married in the past. Particularly helpful are their thoughts on involving the children of a couple who are getting married.

We owe it to ourselves and our families to embrace good behavior when dealing with life after divorce, particularly as it affects our children. Practicing good ex-etiquette is a concept whose time has come. Getting along with your ex-husband is the best gift you can give to your son for his wedding.


“Ex-Etiquette for Weddings” can be found in paperback or for the Kindle at Amazon.com and from other booksellers.