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Ex-etiquette: Being organized, cordial eases awkward situations is son’s marriage

Q: My ex-husband and I have a son getting married in a couple months. I’m not sure how to handle some of the marriage protocols that are normally handled by the parents of the groom. I would like to provide a “groom’s dinner,” and it’s important that our son, and his fiance and her family feel comfortable. Her parents aren’t divorced and we have yet to meet them, but that’s being planned. Should my ex and I do all this together? Plus, I have a significant other and we’re planning a future together. My son invited him to the wedding. I would like him to attend but not sure how to handle, again, another awkward situation. What’s good ex-etiquette?

A: If you and your ex can be polite and not act out in front of your son, his fiance and her relatives, then doing all that you mentioned together would be good ex-etiquette. It’s “awkward” because it sounds like you rarely interact, but if you are putting your kids first (Good Ex-etiquette for Parents rule #1), and if that’s what they want, that’s what you do.

The truth is, how much togetherness is essential is really up to you and your ex. Both of you don’t necessarily have to plan things together, but you do have to get on the same page in terms of designating responsibilities and who will pay for what. If you don’t have a history of easy negotiation, you may want to verify everything through email so you have written proof of what is decided. The more organized you appear, the more relaxed your son will be.

In terms of everyone’s comfort level: If your family acts like you’re comfortable with each other, your son’s fiance’s family will be just fine. If there’s tension, then they’ll probably anticipate the same discomfort on the wedding day. Bad ex-etiquette. It’s up to you and your ex to set the stage. If you haven’t spent much time together in a while, you may want to plan a casual meeting in a public place to sort of break the ice prior to the groom’s dinner. It starts with a phone call.

If your son has invited your significant other, he should accompany you to the wedding. According to good ex-etiquette, the mother of the groom sits with her partner in the front row on the groom’s side. The father of the groom and his partner sit in the second row. If all get along, they may all sit in the front row, or if they are cordial, but a little uncomfortable, it’s good ex-etiquette to all sit in the front row but add a beloved grandparent other relative between them to serve as a buffer.

Finally, being cordial with an ex now sets the stage for the future. The married couple will most likely have children and although many divorced parents think their interaction stops with their divorce _ you will be grandma and grandpa. This is your opportunity to set the example. That’s good ex-etiquette.

For more information on this subject, check out “Ex-etiquette for Weddings: The Blended Families Guide to Tying the Knot,” by Dr. Jann Blackstone and Sharyl Jupe.

Dr. Jann Blackstone is the author of “Ex-etiquette for Parents: Good Behavior After Divorce or Separation.” Email her at the Ex-Etiquette website, exetiquette.com, at dr.jann@exetiquette.com.