Q: I am the second wife of the father of a bride who is getting married in October. We are now divorced as well, but I got very close to the bride while I was married to her father, so I have been invited to the wedding. I know not to wear the same color as the bridal party and there's a dinner reception and cocktails after, so how formal do I dress? I will be on display next to my ex the whole time and I am concerned. What's good ex-etiquette?
A: Actually, I think your sensibilities are a little askew. Of course with all the divorce drama that follows us around you may fear that everyone will be looking at you, but this is the bride's day. She will be the one on display. Your job, as is everyone's who has been invited to her wedding, is to be a gracious guest and do nothing to distract the other guests' attention from the wedding festivities.
In terms of good ex-etiquette and what to wear — you are not a member of the wedding party, so what you wear is technically of no consequence. Of course you want to look nice, and you probably want to look like "you belong." Therefore, your best contact for all things wedding would then be the maid of honor — her primary responsibility is to be a confidante, support the bride, plan the bridal shower and serve as an intermediary for the bride. If you are as close to the bride as you implied, you may want to call her directly. But if you would rather not, the maid of honor will know the bride's colors and the theme, and she can give you an idea of what to wear so you will not feel out of place.
For others who may be looking for ways to include a bonusparent in a special occasion, here's a personal story. Unfortunately, my ex-husband and I separated about four months before my bonusdaughter got married. My bonusdaughter and I were also very close — still are — and the separation did make my attendance a little awkward. However, my bonusdaughter found a special place for me in the wedding party. She adored her grandfather and always wanted both him and her dad to give her away when she married. Grandpa was very ill at the time and needed some special help to walk down the aisle — and that responsibility was given to me. It was somewhat unconventional, but it's a lovely and cherished memory.
In this day and age when families are composed of people we love — not necessarily blood relatives — we can design weddings or other special occasions any way we want. The common denominator is love, and as long as that is what is evident to everyone attending, that's good ex-etiquette.
Jann Blackstone is the author of "Ex-etiquette for Parents: Good Behavior After Divorce or Separation" and the founder of bonusfamilies.com.