A reader writes:
"I am engaged to a very wonderful woman. An issue came up though involving her childhood friend/first boyfriend.
"The two of them grew up together. They were best friends for many years and they dated each other for a short amount of time (3 months I believe). She met me when she moved out here for college and has talked to the guy 3 times total in the last 2 years or so.
"When we got engaged she began spouting ideas for the wedding. Most of them were wonderful and reasonable, but she wanted this ex-boyfriend to be the organist at our wedding. That made me very uncomfortable and I expressed this to her.
"She said she understood at the time, but two months later, during some other planning, she forgot herself I guess and got on facebook and invited him to perform at our wedding. I got angry and told her that I was shocked that she would do that after knowing how that made me feel.
"Well she cried and apologized and now I feel like rotten trash because of all the tears and heartache that caused. My questions are:
a) Is it unreasonable for me to be uncomfortable with him performing at the wedding?
b) Was it reasonable for me to get angry after she invited him anyway?
c) What should I do about it now? (she wants to un-invite him because she feels bad, but that seems like a real shitty thing to do to someone)"
c) Use different music.
You were absolutely within your rights. In fact, theoretically, you'd be justified in insisting that the jackhole not even be invited, much less playing the organ. That's an easy call. She should have been more respectful, and, frankly, this isn't the best indicator of how she'll handle the more complex, substantive issues in marriage.
Yes, your fiancée and her ex--let's call him Organ Boy--were very good friends. This counts for a lot. And yes, we'll assume that there's absolutely nothing between her and Organ Boy. But exes are tricky: they incite jealousy, they dreg up uncomfortable memories of the past, and they puncture the illusion that you are/were the Only One. For all these reasons, in any case of awkwardness, the tie always, always goes to the fiancé/fiancée.
So what do you do now? Let's look at the two scenarios.
Scenario 1: You keep Organ Boy in the ceremony:
You will be uncomfortable, you will grow resentful, you will be anxious on the day itself, and you will spend the rest of your life despising the organ. You will hate basketball arenas that use the organ (like Madison Square Garden), you will loathe church, you will fast-forward through that climactic scene in The Godfather where Michael Corleone picks off the other families.
Scenario 2: You tell Organ Boy that you are uncomfortable and un-invite him:
Even more awkwardness. Organ Boy will know that you are uncomfortable--which sort of gives him a bit of power--and there will still be a dark cloud over the wedding. Suddenly it's a public "issue" that you'd rather sweep under the rug. You'd feel guilty. She'd feel resentful. No one wins.
Both of the two obvious options sort of suck. So, instead, use:
Secret Scenario 3: The Savvy White Lie.
Just find a different source of music for the wedding, and have your fiancée tell him that--for whatever "wedding reasons"--you need to do that instead. Like maybe the venue comes with their own suggested music. Or maybe her family has something in mind. Or maybe she's always wanted a harpist.
By offering some other plausible reason why he shouldn't perform at your wedding, everyone saves face. You don't look like a dick, she's spared an awful conversation with a good friend, and you get to sideline Organ Boy. And if he suspects that there's a subtext to the "change of direction" in music? It doesn't matter. This is the type of tactful, non-malicious white lie that keeps the peace and settles wars. Welcome to marriage.
For more on this overall topic, see: The Ex Factor: Should You Invite the Ex Girlfriend?