Q: My dad and bonusmom, who were married for over 20 years, have recently divorced. I am getting married myself next month and my bonusmom, who remains a huge part of my life, is part of the wedding party - but I am at a loss as to how to introduce her at the reception. My mom will walk in accompanied by her significant other, but it doesn't seem appropriate that my dad and bonusmom walk in together.
Now that they are no longer married, how do I introduce her at the reception? "My ex-stepmother" sounds ridiculous and reduces her to next-to-nothing status. I've always called her my bonusmom but now that she is no longer married to my dad, that doesn't seem right either. What's good ex-etiquette?
A: Bonus is a state of mind - and of the heart - and is not dependent on marital status. Yes, the term is an alternative to "stepmother," which relies on a marriage certificate, but unlike "step," you don't necessarily stop being bonus when your parent and bonusparent break-up. Ending bonus status is up to the person who calls you bonus.
If you read this column, you have heard me say, "Once a bonus, always a bonus" and it's because of situations like you have described here.
Your dad and this woman are no longer together, but it is apparent that your relationship with her was based on your mutual admiration for each other and that has not changed now that she is no longer married to your father.
Therefore, if you referred to her as your bonusmom while she and your dad were married, it's completely proper to continue to refer to her as such now that they are divorced - if that is what you choose. It's up to you, since you were the one to bestow the compliment in the first place.
You have mentioned that your father and bonusmom will walk in separately as they are introduced at the wedding reception. That is the best choice under the circumstances, but if you would prefer they are accompanied by someone for the introduction, ask an extended family member who was not in the wedding party to accompany them.
Dr. Jann Blackstone is the author of "Ex-etiquette for Parents: Good Behavior After Divorce or Separation," and the founder of Bonus Families, www.bonusfamilies.com. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.)