Carolyn Hax is on leave. This column originally ran on Sept. 7, 2008.
Dear Carolyn: My daughter is getting married next summer. Her father had an affair and then left me when she was 3. He is still married to the woman he had the affair with. I also remarried when my daughter was 5. My husband and daughter get along great. She also has had a continuous relationship with her father, enthusiastically encouraged by me.
My husband has been very successful and we are well-off financially. My ex has always paid the required child support, but no more, and stopped paying the day she turned 18. He does give her a small allowance while she is in college. He isn’t as well-off; at least when he was married to me, he always spent just a little more than his income. He is way better than those deadbeat dads, but he also doesn’t qualify for Dad of the Year.
I don’t have significant issues with his attending the wedding. However, I think he should either help financially with it or let my husband walk her down the aisle and do the first dance. My ex is all about how things look. I just don’t think I could take him acting like her father while my husband pays all the bills. (My daughter and her fiance aren’t making any significant contribution.)
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This wedding will be just as my daughter wishes. I couldn’t talk her into something small and we will probably spend about $20,000. I’m not expecting my ex to pay half, just more than a token — $3,000 or so.
I’m torn between forgetting about the whole thing for my daughter’s peace of mind and letting him know how I feel. What do you think?
I think a wedding is a supremely awful venue for settling ancient scores.
He cheated on you, check. He made a loud-and-clear statement by giving you not a nickel more than the mandated child support. Check. You set these legitimate grievances aside so your daughter could love her father, check. You’ve made a great case for owning the high ground.
Which is why it comes across as particularly petty and vindictive for you to seek your due by charging the man 3,000 bucks for the right to walk his child down the aisle.
If you know you’ve done right by your ex, by your daughter and by yourself — apparently you’ve flourished in your second marriage — then who gives a marzipan dove whether your lawnful of wedding guests knows it? You might want to be careful about whom you accuse of being “all about” appearances.
Your daughter’s escorts are your daughter’s decision regardless.
Speaking of. Even if she weren’t inflating the tab, I would suggest inviting your ex-husband to contribute something toward the wedding. She’s his daughter, too.
However, since the size apparently matters, please note that you’re contemplating a shakedown of the one player not responsible for the ridiculous expense.
You’re the one who “couldn’t talk” your daughter into a smaller wedding; apparently, you either don’t have the words, “we,” “won’t,” “pay,” “twenty,” “thousand,” and “dollars” in your vocabulary (which must make for some strange conversations at the bank), or you won’t say no to your kid.
Either way, that’s on you. Don’t take it out on your ex.
Email Carolyn at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow her on Facebook at facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at 10 a.m. each Friday at washingtonpost.com.