Experts weigh in on this tricky etiquette topic.
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Creating a wedding guest list is hard; creating a wedding guest list when you're not sure whether or not to invite an ex is even harder. Whether you've known each other for years and still maintain a friendly relationship, you share children and want to show that you're still a united front, or some other situation entirely, you may be wondering if it's ever appropriate to invite an ex to your wedding. The answer is…it's complicated. We asked three etiquette experts to share their opinions on this incredibly tricky topic, and each had a slightly different opinion.

Short Answer: Almost Always No

While she understands there are exceptions to every rule, Elaine Swann, lifestyle and etiquette expert, believes inviting an ex to your wedding to be largely inappropriate. "Although it may seem like you are attempting to keep the peace between everyone, it could put some or all of the parties in an uncomfortable position," she explains. For example, even if you and your ex have put your relationship behind you, your mom, sister, or best friend might still be harboring resentment. For the sake of everyone's total enjoyment of the day, it might be best to leave this one off the guest list for good. However, should you decide to forgo her advice, Swann encourages couples to pay special attention to seating charts, and be the example for how this individual should be treated throughout the occasion.

Short Answer: Yes, Assuming You Have Your Future Spouse's Blessing

"Some people have a friendly, supportive relationship with their ex-partner," says Diane Gottsman, author of Modern Etiquette for a Better Life and founder of The Protocol School of Texas. "If your new partner and future spouse does not have an issue, then there should be no reason to exclude a friend." Clearly, the "if" in that statement is a big one, and it's likely to be a determination made over the course of a few conversations. Above all, your spouse's feelings take priority so their blessing will be required before the invitation officially goes out.

Short Answer: Answer These Five Questions First

As people are now getting married later in life, it's no surprise exes are a bigger part of the guest list conversation—after all, you may have dated someone years (or even decades!) before your wedding and have since spent more time as friends as you ever did romantic partners. If you truly don't know how to decide, Diane Carr, director of the Southern School of Etiquette, offers these helpful questions to ask yourself and your partner to lead to the answer that makes the most sense for you.

  1. Is the ex recent? The less ancient history they are, the more awkward it's likely to be.
  2. Do the bride and groom both know the ex and have a good relationship with him or her?
  3. Would the ex's new partner be comfortable with the invitation?
  4. Has the ex been a positive part of the couple's relationship?
  5. Will the reminder of a past relationship add to the joy of your day?

After responding to these questions, you'll have your answer—and your first successful navigation of a tricky part of married life.


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