A wedding is supposed to be a celebration of love with all of the people that you love. Unfortunately, for children of divorce, it can be a cruel reminder that two of the people you love the most—your parents—no longer care for each other. Whether your parents have been divorced for 10 months or 10 years, it can still be difficult to bring them up in conversation to the other parent, let alone have them be in the same room at the same time.
And eventually, your parents will start to move on to new love interests. This can be welcoming or difficult news to take, depending on how long it’s been since the divorce or the circumstances surrounding it.
While your parents’ new boyfriend or girlfriend may not affect your day-to-day life now that you’re an adult, if they want to bring them to your wedding you’ll be faced with a pretty tricky guest list dilemma. So, should you invite the new boyfriend or girlfriend and risk hurting the other parent, or should you not allow new dates at all? Is there a right or a wrong way to act when it comes to this very difficult subject?
Let’s go over some things to consider when your parents want to invite a plus-one to your wedding.
Is the Relationship Defined?
Sure, weddings are romantic, but you don’t exactly want your mom or dad going on a second or third date on a very important day of your life. There doesn’t need to be a ring and a date, but there should at least be an establishment of the word “partner” or “girlfriend/boyfriend” in order to justify an invitation. Is this someone they’re going to want a picture of at the wedding, or are they simply a passing ship in the night?
If it’s a brand new relationship, it might be best to skip their invitation—after all, that’s a lot of pressure on them too!
How Long Have Your Parents Been Divorced?
The amount of time your parents have been broken up won’t be the answer for everything, but it can certainly tell you a lot about whether or not it’s appropriate to invite a parent’s new boyfriend or girlfriend to the wedding. If your parents have been divorced for less than a year, inviting a new boyfriend/girlfriend could potentially be fodder for a dramatic scene in the middle of your reception (something you obviously don’t want). This is especially important to note if your parent’s new significant other is the reason why their marriage ended in the first place.
Of course, if it’s been more than a few years, then it’s likely that your parents have at least somewhat moved on from the marriage and that it’s safe to add someone new into the equation.
Have You Met Them Yet?
If this person is important enough to get a wedding invitation, then it’s reasonable to assume that you’ve met them at least once. Your wedding day is going to be filled with enough nerves—and it might be unfair for a parent to introduce you to a new boyfriend/girlfriend during the event.
If you have met them once or twice, you might feel more comfortable inviting them because you know how they’ll behave and have some insight into their personality.
Do You Even Want Them There?
Maybe it’s not the other parent who would be uncomfortable with their ex having a plus-one—maybe it’s actually you who is feeling unsure about it. No matter the reason (and no matter who is paying for the wedding), you have every right to confide in your parent that you are uncomfortable with inviting their new boyfriend/girlfriend to the wedding. After all, this is supposed to be an important day in your life, and not theirs.
Even if your parents have been divorced for 10+ years, you may feel strongly that you only want to share this day with them—and that’s completely okay. Gently ask your parent if it would be okay if they came to your wedding solo.
However, if your parent is in a long-term, committed relationship, it’s not really fair of you to ask them to stay behind. Although you can strategically leave them out of family photographs, it’s the right thing to do to invite them (in most cases).
If I Invite Them, Where Do They Sit?
If you decide to invite your parent’s new significant other, you’ll need to be strategic on where they sit and what their role is in the wedding. Remember, you are by no means obligated to include them in any official capacity at the wedding, and you shouldn’t feel obligated to invite them to the rehearsal dinner.
During the ceremony and reception, your parent’s new partner should be seated next to them. If you’re going to invite them, you want to ensure they feel as comfortable as possible. However, they shouldn’t be involved in any receiving line or official family photographs (unless of course, you feel comfortable with it).