Wedding: View from the aisle: Guest Again

Inviting your ex-boyfriend to your wedding is a lovely thought. Just don’t do it

A former girlfriend with a suddenly hyphenated name e-mailed me recently. Buried three paragraphs down, she alerted me to the fact that she was now happily and beautifully married. Not long before that, I’d received a text message from my first serious girlfriend, a girl who had once drawn hearts on my biology notebook, telling me she now had a child — this before I even knew she had a serious significant someone. The first girl I ever kissed? Turns out she, too, was in a delivery room before I found out she had been in a wedding chapel.

They were all women with whom I shared a special bond, or at least I thought I did. And I never so much as smelled the lavender of their wedding invitations. I felt a little … jilted. Of course, that might also have had something to do with missing the opportunity for a free meal and a chance to size up their hubbys, men whose tuxedos I could have been wearing if time and space had moved in a different way. Because despite how quickly, unceremoniously or long ago our intimacies with you failed, and no matter just how gosh darn happy we are now, the truth is that we, your old boyfriends, are always a bit curious about who turns out to be worth your forever and always.

My friend Paul was invited to his ex’s Big Day. If it was more out of politeness than a serious offer, he didn’t know, but he told me, with perhaps just a touch of jealousy, that he saw it as a send-off party for the craziest of his crazy once-girlfriends, husband and array of fine home appliances in tow. Against his better judgment he RSVP’d, got his suit pressed, and on one lovely spring afternoon wandered into the reception sometime after the Electric Slide.

He made a beeline for the groom, who, Paul convinced himself, wasn’t quite the catch he himself would have been. And that’s just what he wanted: to be able to finally close that door with a conviction well worth the $50 bill he’d stuffed into a card. But then something happened. In an unexpected men’s room line, he found The Others, a cluster of the bride’s former one-and-onlys. Maybe she just wanted to share her special day with all of those with whom she’d had moments, and experiences, worth remembering. But she shouldn’t have.

Because yes, you can invite us, the formers and exes, but your wedding is meant to be about you, about your future with someone you love. No matter how many memories you have of scrawling on our biology notebooks or moving in for that heart-beating-wildly first kiss, you have to know that at the reception, we’ll find each other, and in our infinite weakness as humans, we’ll talk. We’ll want to be sure you weren’t The One We Let Get Away, so we’ll compare notes, trying to convince ourselves of all the reasons you aren’t. Even if, deep down, we don’t believe it.

We’re happy for you — thrilled, even. But if that’s the only thought on the mind of an old boyfriend waiting for the open bar at his Once-Serious Someone’s wedding, I haven’t met him.

So leave our lavender-scented invite in the drawer. But by all means, do send an e-mail.

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