Dear Prudence

Help! My Ex Has Thrown a Huge Wrench Into My Wedding Plans.

In We’re Prudence, Prudence asks readers for their thoughts on a question that has her stumped. The answer is available only for Slate Plus members.

A happy couple kiss at a wedding, next to an illo of a seating chart with an x over one spot.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Jupiterimages/iStock/Getty Images Plus. 

Every week on Twitter @jdesmondharris, Dear Prudence asks readers for their thoughts on a question that has her stumped. She’ll post her final thoughts on the matter on Fridays. Here’s this week’s dilemma and answer:

Dear Prudence,

My cousin and I are more like brothers. We grew up together and basically in each other’s back pockets. “Chrissy” was quite literally the girl next door and my girlfriend from elementary school through my first year of college. Everyone expected us to get married, but we broke up because we realized we were together only because everyone expected us to be. No hard feelings. Fast-forward: I am very happily engaged to the love of my life. I asked my cousin to be my best man. He told me that he would love to but had to get something off his chest.
He and Chrissy were dating. It weirded me out at first. Our hometown is small but not that small. Still, we were all approaching 30, and it seemed stupid to have hang-ups about stuff from high school. I didn’t think my fiancée would have a problem when I told her.

Well, she doesn’t want Chrissy at our wedding, and she thinks it is inappropriate to have my ex-girlfriend present when we say our vows. I argued it would be opening a bigger can of worms to specifically ban Chrissy. I can’t ask my cousin to be my best man but tell him his girlfriend can’t come. It is seriously offensive and would piss off a lot of my family since they and Chrissy’s family have been friends forever. Chrissy isn’t at the wedding party; she would just be one of the guests. My fiancée is holding firm, and I don’t see a way around this without blowing everything to kingdom come. I love my fiancée. I love my cousin. What do I do?

—Guest Troubles

Dear Guest Troubles,

When I shared your question with our readers, most of the people who responded—the overwhelming, vast majority—saw your fiancée’s behavior as a huge, unreasonable, jealous red flag and thought you should adamantly refuse to exclude Chrissy and/or run for the hills and cancel the wedding. There are too many to quote, but you can read them all here.

The theme was:

What should you do? Cancel the engagement and find an ADULT to marry. — @perrafortunata


I have to admit, I didn’t think the request was that unhinged. I tended to agree with @gaymafiabossRP, who wrote:

I don’t see it as that toxic. It’s a day to celebrate them. A wedding is one of the times in life where we get to make a whole day about ourselves. Guests should be taking about the beautiful couple on the day and not seeing the groom’s ex and thinking about what might have been.

But I liked the responses that suggested a middle ground—acknowledging that your fiancée’s demands are fueled by some sort of insecurity or jealousy or less-than-ideal feeling, but also framing those feelings as human and normal and possible to work through or accommodate. I really hate the idea that you have to be totally self-actualized and over all your issues in order to deserve being married, so these responses resonated with me:

The fiancée is likely feeling insecure and needs some hand holding/reassurance. The best he can do is let her know this ex is not a threat to her and this isn’t some the one who got away situation. They broke up cause they both felt meh about each other and it was over 10yrs ago. — @staceyNYCDC

This definitely merits another conversation with a therapist. Do not get married without resolving this! It is kind of weird and I’m hoping neither one has had experience with this before, so talk it out. Don’t hide from each other. — @ebbandflowph

Why aren’t you talking this out? The amount of people who don’t have their communication techniques sorted out before they decide to get married is wild to me. You should already be in therapy together but no time like the present! — @CleverWhatever

Get all needs on table:

Fiancé: peace of mind? emotional safety? relationship security? to be seen, heard, understood?

OP: companionship? integrity? connection with brotherly cousin? to be seen/understood? authenticity?

Cousin: companionship with gf? integrity? celebration?

Cousin cont: acceptance? peace of mind?

Then, what creative ideas can they come up with that meet all these needs?

What if Chrissy is around for a long

time?Another needs guess for fiancé: reassurance. — @SarahKmon

So, it’s time to start talking. A lot. Asking questions. Offering reassurance. And finally, getting creative about compromise. I think your fiancée’s willingness (or lack thereof) to engage in this process with an open mind (and yeah, it’s not a great sign that she’s already “holding firm”) is what will really tell you whether there are red flags big enough to delay marriage.

On a practical note, it’s worth raising this point:

Remind your fiancée of this: if it works out between Chrissy and your cousin, she will be in your lives whether your fiancée likes it or not and to think about how banning her from the wedding might affect your familial relationships going forward. — @Paigerific22

Finally, I just thought this point was so smart, and I wish I’d thought about it when I was making my own guest list.

All I would add is that, in retrospect, I spent way too much time worrying about exactly who was coming to my wedding, and I wish I hadn’t bothered. If the wedding is very small, that’s one thing, but once you’re past 75 guests or so, 1 more doesn’t really matter imo. — @IsabelAphrael

You are not going to notice or think about the vast majority of people at your wedding! It really doesn’t matter that much! I realize that’s not going to solve this for you, but it’s a good perspective to keep in mind as other issues arise.