Should I Let My Guests Use an Invitation for Someone I Didn’t Invite?

Isn't that rude of them?

Q: I’m getting married in about two-and-a-half months (yay!), and the RSVPs are starting to roll in. We are very excited about our celebration coming up, but I have a question about whether it is appropriate for a guest to “redesignate” an invitation.

My mom’s close friend (and her family) have been invited to our wedding. I grew up with their kids, but since moving out-of-state (and growing up a bit), I would not consider us close. Originally I had not thought of them for the guest list, but it was important to my mother that they be invited (this is not the issue I’m struggling with; we granted both our parents a certain number of invites to designate to their friends). The family has three children, with the youngest approaching college graduation.

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The youngest son is unable to attend the wedding, so the mother wants to redesignate her son’s invitation and “give” it to her daughter’s boyfriend (who I do not know). Is this allowed? We have never met the boyfriend, and while it would be okay for us to have a wedding where everyone RSVPs “Yes!” we were counting on some folks responding “No” as a bit of a bonus to our budget.

So, I guess my question boils down to this: Was it inappropriate on my part to not invite the boyfriend in the first place? We figured since their parents were attending, and we were inviting them as a family, that a plus-one for the children wasn’t necessary; was I wrong? I want to do right by my guests, but at the same time be reasonable about who I am accommodating.

Then the additional question is this: Is it typical for guests to redesignate the invitations in this way? I feel like it is rude, but should I let it slide?

—Anonymous

A:Dear Anonymous,

You didn’t do anything wrong by not inviting the boyfriend. Don’t worry about that.

But I’ll encourage you to think about the other question a bit differently. Yeah, it probably was a little rude of these folks to ask to bring someone who wasn’t invited. But as host, you’re not in charge of enforcing politeness.

I’m not picking on you, this is just something I see in my inbox a bunch, and it’s probably something we all do a bit. We think that if what they did was rude, it justifies making a decision they won’t like. But etiquette isn’t like that. It’s not a tit-for-tat sort of thing. More importantly, when you ask if you should “let it slide,” you’re putting yourself in the role of etiquette cop, and trust me (as someone who sort of has that job) it’s more headache than it’s worth. Managing your own politeness is enough of a chore. Don’t take on more than you have to.

Rather than approaching the question that way (“Was it rude for them to ask, cause if so, I’ll tell them no”), answer based on your bandwidth. Instead of whipping out the rulebook, ask a different question: Is this worth your time? Is drawing the line on this one guest worth your trouble?

Only you can answer that, but I’ll take a guess the answer is no. No, it’s probably not worth the effort to squash this one guest and save some cash. If you’ve got the room and they’re important to your folks, let that extra kid come along with his girlfriend. It’s mildly irritating and expensive, but spending any more time on this one will be more irritating.

—Liz Moorhead

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