Get a grip: The finer points of ex etiquette

In the old days, movies were black-and-white and, to a certain extent, so were relationships.

But just as today there are live-action, anime, direct-to-DVD, Web-only and many other kinds of movies, so, too, are there plenty of different kinds relationships. As people wait until later in life to marry, they are more likely to have former relationships that can't be ignored. Some brides-to-be are getting married for the second (or third) time and may have an ex who is the father of their children, and those kids, clearly, have a vested interest in any new marriage.

Even without kids, the ex situation can be complicated. Not every break-up is acrimonious. It is possible to remain friends with an ex. Thus, the role an ex-spouse or former significant other plays when a new beau comes on the scene can be confusing. When a couple spent years in a serious relationship but never married, the ex still may have formed close bonds with family members who were the unofficial in-laws. Some folks don't choose to break those ties when the romantic relationship ends. While amicable divorces are not the norm, an increasing number of couples have ongoing contact with their exes, experts say.

While these relationships can be more confusing than they were back in the days when couples never spoke to one another after they split up, wedding experts say complicated and civil aren't mutually exclusive. If your ex is still in the picture - be it black-and-white or color - try these time-tested tips for both telling your ex about your upcoming big day and figuring out how to include him or her - or not - in the festivities.

Keep your ex in the know when it comes to tying the knot. The impulse for many people is to keep news about nuptials under wraps around an ex, particularly if they're not sure how the ex will respond to definitive verification that they have moved on. But Jann Blackstone-Ford, author of "Ex-Etiquette for Weddings: The Blended Families' Guide to Tying the Knot" (Chicago Review Press, 2007), says "the worse thing you can do is surprise an ex. No one likes surprises."

If you've followed the no-surprises rule throughout your relationship, then your ex already knew that your new courtship was serious. He won't caught off guard that you've decided to marry again.

Blackstone-Ford came by her ex expertise honestly. She co-wrote the "Ex-Etiquette" book series with Sharyl Jupe, the ex-wife of Blackstone-Ford's husband, so she knows how intertwined relationships with exes can be. "Your ex does not need to be invited if you do not get along. But, if you are co-parenting, he or she still needs to know the basics." At the very least, she adds, telling your ex about the wedding ensures that your kids don't have to break the big news - and that they won't have other plans with your ex the day of your wedding.

No surprises, part two. Your new sweetie probably isn't too fond of surprises, either, especially those that involve the former love of your life. If you are close enough friends with your ex to consider inviting him or her to your wedding, your betrothed should already know that. Take steps to introduce the two to one another and make sure your soon-to-be spouse is comfortable with your ex, if not friends, before you issue an invite. If your partner has objections to your friendship with your ex, or you to your partner's, this is something you should discuss before you take your vows.

Don't feel forced. Helene Taylor, president and founder of the Modern Woman's Divorce Guide, says that if you and your spouse-to-be feel uncomfortable around your ex, don't invite him or her, even if you feel like you should because your kids will be there. You can make the kids feel part of the process without having both parents in attendance.

Invite a guest. If you do decide to invite your ex, make sure he or she has the option of bringing a date, says Harriette Rose Katz, president of New York-based Harriette Rose Katz Events and author of "Where to Seat Aunt Edna and 500 Other Great Wedding Tips," (Hundreds of Heads Books, 2006). This is not the place to trim the guest list. "You want to make sure that you seat them at a table where they have fun, make sure they have a good time."

Seat smart. Even if you had the most amicable divorce in history, there's no reason to flaunt that at your wedding. Seat your ex (and his or her guest) away from the head table. Even if your ex and your extended family have remained close, there's no reason to force everyone together over dinner. Plus, you do not want to make your new spouse's family uncomfortable. Create a seating plan that assures your ex will be seated with people he or she knows and likes. Let him or her mingle with your family later.

Forget about it. Finally, Taylor says there are some instances where the ex question is a non-issue. "If the ex is not friends with either party, there is no need to tell him or her about the wedding or issue an invitation. The relationship is over and it's time to move forward." After all, you're getting married. You have enough to worry about without creating more drama.

(c) CTW Features