Have you or your fiancé slept with any of the "friends" on your guest list? And if yes, do you and your fiancé both know about the prior sexual relationship, and did you make a conscious decision together to invite your ex-boyfriends, lovers, and friends with benefits to your wedding? Does anybody else attending your wedding know that you and the guy they're seated beside used to do more than just Algebra homework together down in his basement after school? Just wondering.
Let me begin, as a wedding professional, by advising you not to invite former bedmates to a destination wedding. I've seen some seriously awkward scenes go down late at night on terraces of Caribbean villas and hotels. "My Best Friend's Wedding" ain't no joke, my friends. But if you're getting married back in the real world and you're having a large wedding, the situation may be unavoidable. Your mom is totally going to put your neighbors on the guest list. And if you had neighbors like I had neighbors... well, it can be awkward, to say the least.
Picture the drunk, hysterical girl we found sobbing behind the bar cabana because now that her lifelong bff was marrying "that witch," life will never be the same again. Um, she's right. But I still walked her away from the wedding and talked her off the ledge. At another wedding, there was the jealous, older, not-very-attractive sister of the bride who spent all weekend acting like she was at a funeral. She even wore black. Apparently, the groom was hers first. He kissed her when they were eight. Ridiculous, right? But she's still single and now she's watching him marry her sister so the context and timeline don't matter. The bride, in that case, wisely opted to skip having a wedding party lest she be trapped into an even more uncomfortable situation with her sister as MoH.
I can honestly say I did invite a couple of my exes to my wedding reception back in DC eight years ago, but neither of them attended. That was just fine. I attended both of their weddings, however, and I'm here to tell you it was uncomfortable. In one case, a former boyfriend I'd remained close to got married when he and his fiancé were in our area visiting his parents. My then-soon-to-be-husband Bill and I attended the wedding together, and at first it wasn't too weird because we'd gone out as couples together a few times. My ex-boyfriend lives on the other side of the world now and has for many years, but he was one of my best friends and the love of my life for part of high school and college. It was sort of emotional watching him exchange vows with somebody else, despite the fact that I liked her a lot and, most importantly, I didn't want to marry anybody but Bill. Still, it's hard to watch somebody you once imagined spending the rest of your life with get married to somebody else. Especially when everybody at the wedding knows your history with the bride or groom. But here's the most awkward part: on the dance floor, his dad told me he had always thought he'd be dancing with me as his new daughter-in-law someday. Painfully awkward.
So when is it okay, and when it is not okay, to invite former paramours to your wedding? I think first and foremost, you eliminate anybody with whom you've shared any form of scandal. People should be talking about your future at your wedding, not your past. Also, eliminate anybody who isn't happy that you're getting married. And anybody that your fiancé doesn't like or want at his or her wedding. That's probably the first thing you need to do -- this wedding is about both of you. If, after you skinny it down that far, you find you still have people on the list who have carnal knowledge of one (or both) of you, you have to use your judgment about who to invite.
It's perfectly okay to decide to exclude anybody from your wedding for any reason -- especially having that sort of history together. Just be prepared to explain it to the person if it's somebody who is close enough to you for hurt feelings. Many of us have a lifelong bff we've hooked up with on some drunken occasion. Depending on how you phrase it, somebody from your past who truly loves you will completely understand why they can't be there on your big day, and your friendship will survive it. Also, any of your former lovers who are married now know what this sorting process is like, so they require less explanation. Everybody understands you're trying to avoid a potentially awkward situation.
Nobody wants drama at their wedding so don't invite anybody who shouldn't be there. You don't need to prove anything to anyone. Remember that you aren't the only one who is going to feel awkward depending on who you invite -- let me tell you how weird it is to make idle chitchat with the bride's ex-boyfriend in the receiving line. And who are you going to seat him with? Again -- your wedding is about your future. Leave the past behind you. If you're not ready to do that, maybe you're not ready to get married yet.