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Bonusfamily wedding breaks ‘normal’ protocol

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My youngest daughter got married this weekend. Her dad and I are divorced, but we do our best to be on the same page for the kids we share. Granted, they are all adults now, but anyone who tells you co-parenting stops when your children turn 18 does not have children.

Weddings are full of stress and chaos, and our youngest daughter had thought of everything. The wedding was beautiful and went off without a hitch — until it was time for her dad to offer a toast. He starts to thank the guests for coming and then goes totally blank.

Standing in front of 150 guests, I watch him floundering and do my best I can to jump in and help. I told a story about telling my daughter her time would come and about how grateful we were she had met this wonderful man.

It was an interesting few minutes. But not as interesting as the expression on the wedding coordinator’s face about an hour before.

The wedding coordinator pulled me aside and asked, “Who is that woman in the blue dress sitting next to your granddaughter in the front row?”

“Oh,” I said, “That’s my daughter’s father’s first wife — her sister’s and brother’s mother. Her name is Sharyl.”

The wedding coordinator’s expression was priceless. “What?” she said. “First of all, your ex-husband’s first wife is at your daughter’s wedding? And, in the first row?”

According to wedding protocol, the first and second rows are set aside for family. I just shrugged with a laugh. “It’s our family. She’s my daughter’s sister’s and brother’s mother. She’s always been in my daughter’s life. It wouldn’t be right if she wasn’t here.”

I must note here that Sharyl and my ex shared equal custody of their children before I came into the picture. The kids went back and forth each week. Sharyl and I developed a friendship because her kids lived with their dad and me every other week and we did our best to coordinate efforts. That’s another story. There was a lot of time to build a relationship before my youngest daughter was born — but that meant my daughter never knew a time when Sharyl wasn’t around.

All the wedding coordinator could say was, “This is one interesting family.”

Is this “normal” wedding protocol? Of course not. But that’s the message I have been trying to pass on for years. Second or subsequent relationships do not follow the “normal” protocol. You must stand back, look at what will make your children happy, healthy and secure, and adjust your behavior accordingly. Flexibility and acceptance. That’s the essence of a bonusfamily, and that’s good ex-etiquette.


Dr. Jann Blackstone is the author of “Ex-etiquette for Parents: Good Behavior After Divorce or Separation,” and the founder of Bonus Families, bonusfamilies.com. This column was provided by Tribune News Service.

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