Q: I have a major dilemma. Two of our best friends, who used to be a couple, are both supposed to attend our very small wedding. Abel and Benisha* had a terrible, toxic relationship of seven years, which ended pretty badly two years ago. Their breakup involved a third person, Coral. When we got engaged several months ago, Abel and Benisha were both single, and both planning on attending our wedding since they can tolerate seeing each other.
But since then, Abel and Coral have started dating. Without our permission, Abel invited Coral to the wedding. We decided to let it go, thinking that it wouldn’t be a big deal.
We are now learning that it is a big deal. Benisha cannot tolerate seeing Coral, whom she calls a home-wrecker, and she will not attend our wedding next month if Coral is there.
We feel caught in the middle. I want to defend Benisha, but since Abel and Coral are quite serious and living together, it doesn’t seem fair to uninvite Coral. Did I mention that Abel is the best man? What would be the fairest thing for us to do?
*Names changed to protect the innocent
Ugh. I’m sorry. I hate this stuff. If it’s any consolation, you’re not alone; I am certain that every wedding in the history of weddings has had personality conflicts, whether it’s exes in the wedding party or parents who are re-married or relatives who stole fatted cows from each other. How I wish Abel had not invited someone new without checking with you, or that Benisha could realize she’s potentially missing out on a huge milestone for you if she skips the wedding because of another guest. But they’ll probably not going to come to any of those conclusions on their own, so you’re left to manage it.
One way to manage this is pretty simple. If you didn’t extend a plus-one to Abel, then Abel doesn’t get a plus-one, and you’re very sorry he invited her without asking, but he’s going to have to manage that situation with his new girlfriend. If the cost of another seating and meal is truly going to put you over the edge, then you might go this simple, albeit harsh, route.
The problem with this line of reasoning, though, is that general wedding etiquette dictates that if your friends and wedding party have serious, live-in partners, they should also be invited. Now, there’s a whole lot of general wedding etiquette that is real tired at this point, but this is really solid, respectful stuff. If Abel and Coral are serious, perhaps even moving toward marriage themselves, it’s hard to justify not making space for Coral at the table.
So your best bet may be to have candid, honest conversations with each of them. When you talk to Abel, you might emphasize that you recognize how serious he’s become with Coral. That you get why he’d want his live-in, serious partner at your wedding, and you know the idea of Coral not being there is disappointing for him, and perhaps even that you too wish that Benisha would be able to rise above so you would all not be in this predicament. But make sure to also acknowledge the no-win situation the two of you are facing. Help him understand that you’re facing down a wedding day without one of your closest people. Would he be open to walking through this with Coral in the hopes that they all might take the long view? He might. He just might.
As far as Benisha, my best advice is to let her know that you understand how hard this situation is for her. Breakups can be isolating, and breakups where your ex left you for someone in your friend group can be incredibly so. It’s unfair that Abel invited his girlfriend without checking; moreover, it sucks that Abel made poor decisions with Coral that hurt Benisha. But also make sure to acknowledge that you deeply want her there when you take those vows. That the thought of getting married without her there to witness it is heartbreaking, and you hope she will consider focusing her energy on the two of you, and not the person across the aisle.
These conversations are bound to be uncomfortable, but the good news is, you’re coming from a place of love and trying your hardest to support everyone. My hope is that if you lay all of this out on the table, that they might come around to a compromise everyone can live with.
And if not? At the end of the day it’s your wedding, and your call. You need to do what’s right for the two of you, not what’s best for Abel or Benisha, or even Coral. You can’t ref a breakup, but you can set the rules for you own wedding.