Ask Team Practical: The Guest List

It’s Friday, so that means it’s Ask Team Practical with Alyssa! Woohoo! And today is a triple win, because she’s taking on three different questions. We’re discussing guest lists APW style today, which means all the advice is a blend of A) Etiquette rules do exist and you need to be aware of them because everyone else is. B) You have a lot of wiggle room if you’re respectful, and C) No. Kids don’t deserve to come everywhere just because they were born. So let’s dive in!

One topic we get asked a lot of questions about here at ATP is the guest list. “Should I invite so and so? Can I not invite this person?  What happens if I invite this person but not so and so?” These questions are usually followed by, “Is it too late for us to elope? Effffffff….”

So we’re going to answer a couple of these questions, but I’m going to have to be honest with you. Guest lists suck. Somebody that you know is going to end up irritated with you for some reason, and there’s nothing you can do about it and it’s not your fault.  But hopefully, you’ll never know about it. And honestly?  If you end up married without at least one person pissed off at you, you didn’t have a wedding, you had a g**damn miracle. The problem is that people attach a lot of self-worth to an invite.  Not being invited is not just a snub, it’s akin to a condemnation on their life, lifestyle, personality and possibly their children.  And sometimes they are right.

Here’s another hard truth: APW will never be able to offer up any succinct advice that will solve most guest list issues.  We’ll use common sense and Miss Manners to help, but the only person who can truly decide what to do in these situations is you. You know the nuances of their guests’ personality, you know how they react and behave and, in some cases, you know all the little details that you did not include in your email that might make me change the advice given.  (It’s happened before. You readers are sneaky little devils…)

So here are a few common guest list questions and our possible solutions.

Separate ceremony/reception

My fiancé and I both have big families, and a semi-large circle of friends. We’ve never wanted a big wedding, but all of a sudden things feel very ALL or NOTHING — we either invite everyone, or we invite no one (aka court house with witnesses). Goshdarnit though, we want to have our cake and eat it too! Would it be ridiculous to have a private ceremony and then meet up with 150 of our nearest and dearest for a big celebration later that day? Are we being selfish by not saying our vows in front of everyone? My best friend says there are no rules and we should do what will make us happy. Others look disappointed when I tell them this may be the option for us. How do we have a day that is uniquely ours without offending the people we love?

-Nontraditional and Nervous in Naptown

NNN, you can TOTALLY do this.  It’s pretty common in Europe. (See Cate Subrosa’s wedding. Cate will also tell you that it’s traditional for guests to pay for their own booze in the UK, as they clearly have us beat in the common sense department.) It happens in the US too, especially if you have a courthouse wedding.  It’s even Miss Manners approved.  As she says, it’s always been appropriate to invite more people to the reception than the ceremony. (But NOT vice-versa.)  However, you need to make sure that you go into it realizing that there might be complaints because apparently not everyone reads Miss Manners. (The HORROR.)  The trick is how you approach it: don’t treat one event as more important than the other.

Those invited to the reception aren’t less important than those who are invited to the ceremony, so don’t even mention the ceremony.  Have your invitations say that they are invited to your wedding reception at Blankety-Blank on Blank.  (Except don’t bold it like I did, that was just for emphasis.)  And for invites for those who are invited to the ceremony, just include a small card stating the time and place for the vows.  However, consider how many of your guests will be traveling from out of town.  There’s a distinct possibility that some people might decline to fly in, if they are only coming to the reception (which is understandable).

So do what you need, and if questioned, just let your guests know that your ceremony will be private and very small.  (They don’t need to know how small.)  And keep in mind, you guys are lucky enough to have so many people you love, you wanted to still have a party to celebrate your marriage with everyone.

And if anyone complains, tell them Will and Kate did it.

Co-Worker Invites

I work in a small department – there are only seven of us – and we are all women. I have become very close to a couple of colleagues and am planning on inviting them.

The question is—do I have to invite my boss? She is not much older than the rest of us and tries too hard to be a friend and not a supervisor. I am over the moon about getting married but I try not to discuss it at work. We are having a small wedding and will not be able to invite everyone. But my boss makes it a point to bring it up—at department meetings, at networking events, even at work functions to anyone who will listen. She’s told clients about my wedding and often tries to pry details from my colleagues.

She also gets terribly drunk and can be quite embarrassing. She attended a colleague’s wedding last year and was wasted before the reception even started.

What I am struggling with the most is that I know that if I don’t invite my boss she will take it personally—especially if I am inviting others from my department. I am also up for a promotion—and although I know that it shouldn’t factor in—I have a feeling it will. I have also started thinking maybe I should look for a new job or just not invite anyone from work.


Yikes.  I would second the “look for a new job” option, but only because that seems like a toxic work environment.  A friendly chat with HR might be in order, no matter your decision.

And what a crappy decision it is.  Inviting co-workers are a sticky issue, but the etiquette bottom line (for anyone, not just you) is that a wedding is a social, not professional, event.  You are not required to invite anyone to your wedding with whom you do not socialize.  However, if you invite anyone from work, you should invite your boss also.  All or nobody.  Period, end of story, thanks and goodnight. That’s the etiquette rule, which means you’re snubbing her if you don’t follow it, and she’ll know it. Even the more sober among us get sad when we know we’ve been snubbed.

What I want to tell you is to tell  inappropriate boss-lady to shove it because you should never be pressured into inviting someone to your wedding, for whatever reason.  However, I know that life doesn’t work like that and we sometimes have to make decisions that aren’t what we want. So what I am going to tell you is to review your options.  You can either invite everyone from work, or you can invite no one from work.  OR, and I don’t recommend this but I’m not the boss of you, you can invite your work friends and not your boss, and hope for the best.  (Inviting them and having them keep it secret isn’t an option.  Fibbing is tempting but will totally blow up in your face.)  Talk it over with your partner and decide what is best for you. And let me know, because now I’m emotionally invested in your situation.

And have that talk with HR.  And get your resume together, find a bigger and better job and then take your red Swingline when you leave.  Because life’s too short to suffer for 40 hours a week.

Child-free Weddings

My fiance and I like kids, we just don’t want them at our wedding.

We don’t have a ton of friends and family with kids, but enough that we feel it’s best to exclude all kids, for various reasons.  (We prefer that the guest list be made up of adults and a few teenage cousins.)  The wedding and reception will be at the family lake-house, which would be perfect for children to visit IF there wasn’t going to be a wedding happening.  We would rather our guests enjoy themselves and not have to look after their children who will undoubtedly make friends and then get hopped up on cake and punch and want to go jump off the dock or forage through the woods.  And honestly, although there are some dream kidlets that we would welcome, there are a few devil-children (through the fault of their parents) that we have witnessed ruining more than a couple adult events.

Can we request a child-free wedding/reception?  Would it be rude to tell the devil parents that the wedding is adults only and “forget” to tell the angel-baby parents?  Are we mean people?  (There’s a tire swing, for goodness sake, how can we have a 7 year old hang out within 10 feet of a perfect tire swing and then tell them that they can’t play on it??)

Ohhhh, this topic pisses people off.  Some of those who are Proud Parents get offended, people who are Certainly Child-free get angry and then those of us with or without kids who think it depends on the situation just want to duck and cover.  So, of course we have to talk about it, APW.

First off, yes, you can have a child-free wedding.  Y’all, remember, you can do whatever you want with your wedding (barring anything illegal, grossly immoral, or involving poop). (Lauren edit: haha. Poop.)

Second, NO, you can’t be Sneaky Sneakerson and only invite the “good” kids.  Besides, your wedding day might be the day that angel-baby has a head cold and didn’t get a nap.  If you’re going adults only, set an age range and stick with it.  (Besides, the teens will love you forever for you considering them an “adult.”)

Third, no, you’re not mean, period.  Kids don’t somehow deserve to get invited to every adult event ever, and we’ll hold that line here at APW (even though we know first hand that kids at weddings can be fabulous if you want them there).

Etiquette says that only those included on the invitation are invited.  Unless the children’s names are on the invitation or it says Mr. and Mr./Mrs./Ms/Dr. So-and-So and Family, kids aren’t invited.  (Some people make exceptions for nursing babies, but that’s up to you.)    But, of course, not everyone pays attention to that.  Just let them know that you’re planning it as an adults-only event, be kind, and don’t make excuses (because you don’t need to).  And if they can’t make it, you make sure you’re understanding.  Just like it’s reasonable for you to not have children your wedding, it’s reasonable for them to not be able to come.  Who knows, the parents might even be relieved and grateful for an event that doesn’t require packing sippy cups, Cherrios and wet wipes in their fancy handbag.

If this all proves too much of a headache, think about having a children’s area and hire a babysitter (or two, depending on the amount) there to watch the devils and angels.  That way the little darlings can get all dressed up and be near their parents, but you can have a pretty much child-free experience without worrying about crying babies or a kindergartner falling in the lake.

Be brave. Do what’s right for you, and know that you’re not doing a single thing wrong.

So, Team Practical, what do you think? What’s your best advice for negotiating etiquette and tender feelings while managing your guest list?

If you would like to ask Team Practical a question please don’t be shy! You can email Alyssa at: askteampractical [at] apracticalwedding [dot] com.  If you would prefer to not be named, anonymous questions are also accepted.  Though we prefer if you make up a totally ridiculous sign-off like conflicted and rageful but deeply in love in Detroit (CARBDILID, duh).  Seriously. We love sign-offs.  Make your editors happy.

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  • Excellent advice Alyssa.

    It is certainly common in the UK to invite more people to the evening reception part of your wedding. My extra advice is make sure that you are inviting quite a few people to the evening part only as if you only invite a few, that can make those people feel rather left out. My sister was an evening only guest at a recent wedding which she was very happy with, until she got to the wedding and realised she was one of only a handful of ‘extra’ people and most of the guests had been there all day. The other advice is timings – make sure that if the evening reception people arrive that the meal is not still in full swing. Nothing makes a guest feel more awkward than the previous bit of the event over running.

    We faced all 3 of these issues at our own wedding. We opted for only one invitation, ie. all of it or none of it and only guest list A. We also decided no current work colleagues (as lots of husband’s colleagues seemed to think they should be invited) but previous work colleagues ok as long as they were friends. We decided no children – which meant one couple decided not to come as they didn’t want to come without their children. Which was their choice and we were happy with it.

    The best advice I have about not snubbing people is think carefully who you invite to your engagement party. The most snubbed I have felt is where I’ve been invited to the engagement party but not to the wedding. Also, on one occasion, we were invited to the engagement party, husband to the stag party, neither of us to the wedding. Whatever the reasons, and having got married ourselves, we do understand the issues, it still hurt.

    • Alison

      I agree completely about the evening invitations. If you do just invite some people to the evening it is really important to have some kind of welcoming group (you could delegate this to an usher or bridesmaid if you can’t do it yourself… although it would be nicer if you could!) to show people you really appreciate them coming – it’s weirdly almost a bigger commitment for people to travel / pay for accommodation just for a party and you need to make them realise that you’re really grateful that they came. The welcome group can also direct them to the bar/cloakroom etc which are often much harder to find when it’s dark! I’ve been at weddings where the evening guests stand in the doorway looking really lost and uncomfortable and I always feel really sorry for them!

    • Class of 1980

      RACHEL WROTE: “The most snubbed I have felt is where I’ve been invited to the engagement party but not to the wedding. Also, on one occasion, we were invited to the engagement party, husband to the stag party, neither of us to the wedding. Whatever the reasons, and having got married ourselves, we do understand the issues, it still hurt.”

      I don’t think it’s proper to invite someone to pre-wedding events that isn’t invited to either the wedding or reception! You were right to feel snubbed. That’s not just snubbing a person; it’s rubbing their face in it.

      I rank it right up there with the friend who once asked me what food she should serve at a party she was giving, and I wasn’t even invited to the party! (She did use my menu however.)

      That’s not the kind of thing you forget.

      • I have to add one exception to the rule that all guest of pre-wedding events must be invited to the wedding. For a lot of those pre-wedding events, the engaged couple is not the one hosting. They often make suggestions on the guest list, but if the host deviates from the suggested list, I don’t think the engaged couple are responsible for inviting the host’s extra invitees.

        This happened to me with my wedding shower, and at the time we were really worried about being over capacity at our venue. We thought we really couldn’t invite the extra guests my shower’s host invited. It was really difficult and caused a fair amount of family drama, but I privately messaged all the extra shower guests and explained that there was a miscommunication between myself and the host (honestly there wasn’t, she just went behind my back), and apologized profusely for not being able to invite them to the wedding. I should also note that these were very extended family members I hadn’t seen in more than 5 years.

        • Jean C

          My sister did this for my shower – she invited SEVERAL people I knew from high school, or had worked with at the camp we all went to, not a one of which I remotely wanted to see at the shower, let alone invite to the wedding.

          I wanted to scream at my sister though, even though I know she just wanted to throw a big party. There’s a REASON I haven’t spoken to those people in 5 years or more.

      • FawMo

        There are absolutely no circumstance were being invited to pre-wedding events but not the actual wedding is acceptable. It is rude, tacky and looks like gift-hording.

        (Miss Manners steps down from her soap box.)

        • meg

          Agreed. Sadly, it’s sometimes out of your hands. We had a family shower where I had zero control over the guest list. I was then later told that I was barred from inviting someone at that shower to the wedding. I was mortified.

          • Class of 1980

            Nightmare. :(

        • My husand is from a very small town where his mother just retired after 30 years of teaching. They do this thing where when of them has a child that is getting married, all the teachers get together and throw a shower for the bride and groom. I found this out after our invitations were ordered and getting ready to go out and when I asked for a list of the people so I could figure who was coming so they could get invitations too, I was told that they don’t get them. Not because they’re not worthy, it’s just not what they do. The shower is really for the teacher and for her friends to show how much they love her by giving her kid a party and lots of presents. (I mean LOTS, these ladies are nuts.)
          Even when I was like, “Are you SURE?” I was told by one of the ladies that if I invited them because they were at the shower, they would more than likely know and feel uncomfortable for the “appearances” invite.

          They do it all the time; I think my sister-in-law had more people at her shower than she did at her wedding. (With only two non-family guests who overlapped for both the shower and the wedding.)
          And it’s kind of amazing, having all these sweet ladies throwing you a party for no other reason than they love your mother-in-law…

          I guess my point is I wanna add an addendum; “Ettiquette should always be followed, UNLESS a societal group has determined their own crazy ettiquette.
          And they let you know about it.
          And you’re okay with it.
          Then, maybe, you can break a rule.”

          Or something like that….

          • I’m familiar with this, too. The ladies at our church in DC threw me a shower, even though only one of them was invited to the wedding. And no one was put out by it.

            I htink the key is if YOU are inviting them to your shower/engagement party/etc they should also be invited to the wedding. If THEY decide to throw a party for you out of the goodness of their hearts, that doesn’t have to change your invite plans.

          • Sarah :: Jackson Riley

            This makes me feel so much better. I am having a “family only” wedding, and a bunch of my mom’s friends from my hometown wanted to and are throwing me a shower and only 2 are invited to the wedding. but my mom keeps telling me it’s not about the wedding, but almost more about women wanting to show up for my mom and let us both know that they love us and are happy and want to celebrate.

            i might still invite them to the wedding, even though they won’t attend (it is far away, and, 99% family), but it depends on the number of extra invites bc they were already ordered when this came up. Ugh.

        • Danielle

          Wait a sec. Did I f* up, Team Practical?

          I recently co-hosted a bachelorette party for a friend. She was having a small-ish wedding and wanted to invite other friends, non-guests, to the bachelorette. We knew it was against traditional etiquette, but it’s what she wanted, and we explicitly stated “no presents” in the invite.

          Was this wrong?

        • aparnap

          I totally disagree. I think, like most things, it entirely depends on circumstances and who’s doing the hosting. My roommates threw me an engagement party with a bunch of our grad school friends, and while they asked for a guestlist, they also invited a number of other people who will not be invited to the wedding. The idea was that others may want to be part of the celebration, even if they can’t be invited to the wedding. Also, among our larger, more expansive group of school friends, it’s really rude to have a big house party and specifically not invite people because that’s just how we are.

          My mother is also throwing one, specifically telling people that she’s throwing it because she can’t invite everyone to the wedding, and wants to include them somehow. It’s the reverse of having a giant party post-wedding to be inclusive of friends. Of course, everyone’s very clear on the fact that they don’t need to bring any presents so I don’t see how they could have viewed it as gift-hoarding.

      • meg

        Agreed. Or the (common?) snub of sending people save the dates, and then not sending them an invitation (trust me, they will notice). Your pre-wedding event list and save the date lists should ALWAYS be smaller than your wedding list. That way you have wiggle room.

        • GeePuff

          Seconded. Just went throught his. Our venue limits our guest list (semi-intentionally), so we haven’t sent any of the “maybes” (work friends, high school buddies, 2nd cousins) save the dates. We can still send an invite when the time comes, but we treated the Save The Dates as a way to let our nearest and dearest, especially those who would need to travel, to start shining up their dancin’ shoes

        • Another Sarah

          I was caught in an invitation snafu just this past week. Back in February, I received a personal email (not sent to a group) from a friend in another state asking me for mailing address for the save-the-date and invitation. I promptly replied. I didn’t hear anything until last Thursday, when I received an email reminder of their wedding reception on Sunday. Yikes. I felt bad for not being properly invited (or not invited at all, it’s unclear to me) – and then I also felt bad that maybe they thought I hadn’t bothered to RSVP at all. Ugh all around.

          It made me glad that for our wedding, I had a master spreadsheet with guests full names, addresses, email addresses, phone numbers, save-the-date status, and invitation status. As others have mentioned in this thread, the save-the-date list was smaller than the actual invitation list.

      • Moz

        To be fair, a lot of people invite people to the engagement party and not to the wedding because they want to try and limit the ‘left out’ feeling. Especially when an engagement party is early on in a long engagement, that’s really not so surprising. There have been several occasions where I was invited to an engagement party and not a wedding. Also to a wedding and not a reception.

        I think people are realising these days that being left off a wedding guest list isn’t always the couple giving them the finger. I mean, it can be, but guest lists are so complicated and people are generally going for smaller weddings these days – there’s just so much to take into consideration.

        I always take the attitude that I don’t expect to be invited to anything. That way if I score an invite it’s only good feelings. (Yes, I know this is hard to stick to sometimes.)

    • Quela

      I’ve been invited to many an engagement party that wasn’t followed up with a wedding invite. Maybe it’s an Australian thing, but I find that par for the course. Here, an engagement party is an informal stand-up affair where every workmate, school friend and well-meaning neighbours can come to drink with you. The wedding is an infinitely more expensive affair for family and close friends where, to have a nice venue, the guest list must be seriously curtailed. Mr Q and I are skipping the engagement party but from a guest perspective, I’m happy to go along to an engagement party without any expectation of a wedding invite. Why is there such a hard and fast rule against this?

      • Beth

        Hi all,
        I am glad that the topic has come up about inviting people to an engagement party vs. a wedding. I am just starting to plan an engagement party with my partner, and my thought was “we’re not going to have a big wedding, so this is our chance to party and celebrate with all of our friends, coworkers, and folks who won’t be coming to the wedding.” I had no idea this would be “snubbing” people, or that it was wrong at all! Yikes! Now I’m confused and back at square one.

        • Danielle

          It sounds like there are different expectations between cultures and countries. What counts as acceptable probably depends where you are from.

          Maybe think about other weddings and engagement parties you have been to, and what was common there.

      • I’m starting to feel like the Australians have a very practical outlook on weddings and guest lists by today’s comments.

      • Pippa

        Maybe it’s because I’m from Australia too, but I have to disagree with Fawmo…

        There were plenty of people at our engagement party who won’t be getting a wedding invitation, because there will be over four years between the two events.

        There are exceptions to EVERY rule.

        • Quela

          In Fawmo’s defense, I downloaded Miss Manners from Amazon and can see the other side of the coin. It’s just such a minefield to draw a rigid and arbitrary line around friends and family and apply the “all in” theory to every far reaching acquaintance. If that’s not enough to worry about, a friend of mine who failed to invite a wedding guest to his informal buck’s show (stag party) ended up minus four guests at the wedding ( the slighted friend, his date and his parents who felt too awkward to still attend). I repeat, a minefield!

          • Pippa

            Oh, absolutely it’s a minefield! I’m in no denial about that.
            I guess I was just trying to say that there is rarely a hard-and-fast rule for every situation… each individual situation has to be carefully negotiated, like a balancing act.

      • Moz

        That’s exactly it. I notice that most weddings magazines out here suggest the same thing – that engagement parties are for everyone and being invited to an engagement party doesn’t automatically mean a wedding invite.

    • sarah l

      Perhaps we are doing things all wrong, but we’re doing what a lot of people here seem to suggest is inappropriate (inviting more people to pre-wedding events than the wedding itself). — He wanted a huge wedding, I wanted to elope. Compromised on a small some family/few friends affair (35 people). But we also decided to have several casual parties over several months to celebrate with people we loved but couldn’t include in the wedding. Some of these parties are taking place before we marry (and so are like engagement parties) and some are taking place after. Most people know, no one has objected (yet). Everyone who has heard us explain the idea has loved it and said it’s a great way to celebrate in a more intimate way with lots of people you love. One of our pre-wedding parties (several months before wedding) was thrown by my mom, who wanted to invite all of HER friends to celebrate her daughter. It was a great way for her to celebrate with HER community, while our day can be with our community (she loved it, they all loved it, we loved it – everybody wins!). We have been strongly requesting NO gifts, which some people ignore of course, but it takes the pressure off I think. So at the end of the day, we’re celebrating with a LOT of people who won’t be a part of our wedding, and I’m happy with our experience so far.

      Another note (sorry so long!) we are thinking of taking our officiant (a friend) on a hike the morning of our wedding and having him marry us on a nature preserve, where I’ve grown up hiking and always wanted to get married (but couldn’t). That way we get legal in a very intimate setting, but still recite vows etc etc in front of family friends. Haven’t decided yet, want to make sure it’s not going to hurt people’s feelings, but it’s a way to make the moment really special for us (like eloping, yay!) without compromising the ceremony/celebration/wedding that other people want.

  • Alison

    We had an almost similar problem when planning the guest list for our wedding in July (although like with most wedding-related problems we barely think about it now it’s dealt with, despite it consuming most of our emotional energies for weeks!). We have five friends/couples with children ranging from 0-10. We also really like kids!!! We really didn’t want to enforce a “baby ban” but, really, secretly we didn’t want children at the service where at two recent weddings we failed to hear our close friends’ vows over children’s chatter/crying. Also our venue isn’t really child friendly (which helped). The way we dealt with it was by just putting our friends names on the invitation but then phoning them up straight away to explain about the venue and that we weren’t inviting children, but that we really, really wanted them to come and if not bringing their children meant they couldn’t come, then to bring them and we’d sort something out. We were amazed at how well people responded, most had arranged baby sitters as soon as they’d got the STD, relishing a night off where they could be adults! It made us realise after worrying so much that these people were coming to our wedding because they were our FRIENDS and therefore just phoning them and explaining your situation shouldn’t be as hard as it seems when you’re bogged down with the dilemma and feel detatched from the actual people you’re thinking about. We’ve ended up with one nursing baby coming to the Cathedral but she will be picked up by her grandparents before the reception.

    My oldest friend (who has 4 kids already!) put it bluntly but wonderfully “Alison, stop worrying about everyone else, it is your day and everyone who is coming will do everything to make it easier for you”. Which was nice.

    • Shelly

      Allison, I was also really surprised by how wonderful our guests with children were about making child-care arrangements. We’ve got some really stubborn family and I was certain that someone was going to be mad that we hadn’t invited little Billy and just bring him along because “he’s family”. People do really seem to enjoy having an adult outing without their kiddos!

      That said, we had a few out-of-towners who contacted us privately to say that they were unable to arrange childcare and as a result wouldn’t be able to attend. While I normally dislike making exceptions to rules, when faced with people not being able to come sans kids, we erred on the side of inclusion.

      Oh – and the 7 year-old cousin who is normally a “devil-child” (through the fault of her parents) entertained herself and was a little doll. Little victories.

      • occhiblu

        Most of our guests (like, 80%) are coming in from out of town, and a lot of them (including about three-quarters of the wedding party) have teeny kids. We ended up deciding that we’d invite out-of-town children only, because I really didn’t want to force people to leave small kids with a babysitter at home for two or three days, or even just a completely unknown babysitter in our location for several hours. That seems a bit much for an infant or toddler.

        I do figure the local guests (most of whom have slightly older kids) can leave the kids home for a few hours. Only partly coincidentally, the local guests’ kids tend toward the hellion side, and were the ones I was worried about including in the first place. Especially since our ceremony and reception site, while outside at a ranch that might seem kid-friendly, is also owned by glassblowers and includes a really large fiery oven and lots of glass objects.

        We’ve only sent out the Save the Dates so I haven’t yet had any feedback about the policy, but I’m feeling reasonably good about it. Non-invited acquaintances have said that they think it’s unfair and/or confusing, but I actually think it’s the fairest policy for everyone involved.

    • Hilary

      This is exactly what we’re doing! We have a few more than just five couples — if all the children of people invited came, there’d be 40 — but now that the save the dates are out without kids’ names, I’m making the rounds to explain the situation (venue isn’t ideal for children; it also ends up making us close to the maximum it can hold).

      I was sort of worried that the etiquette enthusiasts would think it’s rude to not have a steadfast rule, but people so far have been understanding, mostly.

      Some of our invitees with children are less close too — which is making the immediate phone call less easy. Though it’s a hard thing to write in an email too.

      Anyway, this has been the biggest stress of the wedding planning so far for me. If this is it, I’ll know I got off lucky.

    • Midwest Lantern

      I struggled with the kid question in planning my wedding and ultimately was so happy that we had kids there – but everyone needs to decide for themselves, of course. Last weekend a friend of mine who is nursing an infant seemingly every 5 minutes shared that she was shocked that her baby was not welcome at an upcoming wedding. She might not be able to attend due to this, and her husband is in the wedding party. Perhaps no-kid weddings should consider exceptions for nursing mothers?

      • Lexipedia

        I think that makes sense. As my mother said to a family member who was shocked that a mother brought her newborn to a dinner party – “when a child is that young it’s not a baby, its an appendage”.

    • I recently attended a wedding in my FH’s extended family. Her RSVP included the following question about child care. It said, “Please choose the option that best fits you: a.) Please provide child care for our children. b.) We will make our own child care arrangements. c.) This does not apply to us. ” Then there was a section where the parents who wanted child care provided could leave the names and ages of their children so that the bride and groom could arrange appropriate supervision and activities. It addressed the issue of no children at the wedding without making a big deal out of it. I thought it was exceedingly classy and well done.

      If I wanted to eliminate children from my wedding, as I would probably be inclined to do if the only two children within my invites weren’t my niece and nephew, this is how I would do it.

      • Amandover

        Yes, that sounds great.
        My parents recently attended a wedding that had asked for no kids, but kids were brought anyway. I think if you really don’t want kids at your wedding, it’s best to talk to the parents who might want to bring them anyway – and have a babysitter on call.

  • I’m struggling with this exact topic at the moment, guest lists are damn tricky! Thanks for the tips :)

  • I think those responses are spot-on. I had some difficulties with not inviting everyone from a close/small church gathering. I started to feel like I had an all-or-nothing situation on my hands as well. I know EVERYONE in my town, am close with a large community of friends from a small university in another city, and now have spent three years in yet another location in good company! That’s not even starting on my fiance’s friends. In the end, we did what we wanted. Invited immediate family, no cousins, superclose friends, and the people from church I have known since age 0. I’m not going to lie. I sucked up 75% of the guest list, but I think we still ended up with the balance that was right for us. Yeah, some people from my church got offended, but they will get over it, and they know Jesus still loves me. Lol. :)

  • Rachel

    Great advice as always Alyssa!

    I know I’m probably not supposed to be asking questions down here, but can I add a tricky question about kids?

    When my partner and I were originally talking about guest lists, we were thinking we would stick with adults only, and count any teenage cousins as adults. We don’t want to invite any younger children to the wedding (anyone under 13).

    But here’s where it gets tricky. My 9 year-old cousin has severe autism and a speech disorder, and requires specialized care – not just any babysitter on the block can look after him. Two years ago, my aunt, his mom, was widowed when my uncle died of a heart attack, so she’s his sole care provider. When she needs childcare, my other aunt and uncle (who are retired, and conveniently spent their entire career working with special needs kids) take care of him. Of course, I want my aunt (his mom) to come to our wedding, and I also want my other aunt and uncle (his babysitters) to come to the wedding, and I honestly don’t have a problem with my 9 year-old cousin coming with my aunt, BUT – that would mean making an exception for one kid, and all the etiquette books say no exceptions, no kids means no kids. Am I wrong to make an exception for a child in these circumstances? Can I trust other parents whose kids weren’t invited to be grown-up about it and understanding, or am I asking too much? Help?

    • carrie

      I don’t think there’s any problem making an exception. I can’t imagine anyone would actually SAY to you, “I can’t believe you allowed your special needs cousin whose caretakers are all here at the wedding, but my little Timmy is with his grandparents.”

      The bottom line is that you want your aunts and uncle to be there, which means your cousin will be there. This is kind of a really special exception too, the etiquette books don’t tackle this one!

    • Special circumstances are an exception. Anyone who complains about your cousin being there is a jerk.
      You can tell them I said so.

      • Frenchie

        Rachel, I have the exact same situation, except it’ s my future nephew who requires 24-hour care. We are struggling with what to do to make sure my brother & sister-in-law can come and also have a good time. One thing we have thought of is to hire a private nurse to take care my nephew at the hotel attached to the venue. It would be an expense but it would also mean the parents could have a night off without worrying but also be nearby in case they are needed. Just a thought! If that is not an option, I think it is perfectly ok to have just one, special-needs kid at the wedding!

    • Jennifer

      Our wedding was no-kids-except-the-ones-actually-in-the-wedding (i.e. my two nieces who were flower girls), which as best as I could tell seemed to be an exception to the common all-or-nothing rule. But we had a situation where one of our wedding party members who was in town with his daughter (and only his daughter, no other adult) had his child care arrangement for the day fall through at the last minute, so we just shrugged and said she could come. It’s entirely possible that some of the other guests who had gotten sitters for their kids were miffed that she was there, but I think most people either a) assumed it was a special situation, b) figured he had screwed up and not realized that his daughter wasn’t invited, or c) didn’t really notice. I have no idea, honestly, because nobody said a word to us or our families about it. So I think that, even if this weren’t probably an obvious exception if his special needs are noticeable, you probably could still expect people to be grownup and polite about it.

      Also, from what I’ve heard from other brides, the kids/no kids issue seems to become a heated issue within families, when aunts and uncles and cousins all assume that all family members, regardless of age, should be at all family events. (Not to say people never run into these issues with friends, but families seem to be by far the majority.) And in your case, presumably at least all of your family is aware of the situation and would understand why there is an exception.

    • Jesse

      Rachel–I’m dealing with the exact same thing! I’m not inviting the children of cousins, excepting my cousin Chris’s two kids. The youngest one has a moderate form of brittle bone disease. She’s three and has already had five operations to repair broken bones. There is no way in heck I’m telling Chris “leave your kids at home in Kansas to come to my wedding in Michigan!”

    • Kara L.

      Have you talked at all to your aunt about what she thinks is best for her and her son?

      I certainly think most people will be understanding about special circumstances like this, but it also might be nice to talk to her about what -she- thinks would be best–especially being able to tell her how much it would mean to have her be there.

  • So glad to see these issues addressed. When we first started planning the wedding, my mom found out that my cousins (who are all older than I am–40s/50s) were planning on bringing their 10-12 teenage children to the city where the wedding was located and saying they’d just hang out in the hotel during the wedding. Of course,my mom knew my cousins would sneak their kids in once the festivities had started. When we already have to leave people out due to the size of the room, we were shocked that family members would try to go over our heads. Luckily, my mom got to lay down the law fast. I’d suggest being really firm with people if you don’t want their kids to attend. It’s not easy, people should respect you enough to leave the kids at home for once.

    Also, I attended a “reception only” for friends a few years ago, and it was great. I didn’t feel offended at all! We got to hang out with friends during the day and then the reception was a slightly more low-key party at the groom’s house. I’m sure there will be people who want to see the whole event, but I think for the most part, if you’re invited to a wedding you’re just happy to celebrate with friends and loved ones.

    • We had our parents lay down the law with cousins. They got to be the ones telling their siblings about it. And it worked out great. Delegate!

      • andthebeautyis

        But make sure to proofread your parents’ version of “the law.” My mom sent out an email with way more info than I wanted to share with people who were on the B list (including telling them they were on the B list).

  • carrie

    “And honestly? If you end up married without at least one person pissed off at you, you didn’t have a wedding, you had a g**damn miracle.”

    HAHAHAHA I love it and amen!

    The people in our wedding party with small children are bringing them, and we thought that was a fine exception to make, as well as nieces and nephews (there are only 4 in our case). Another one we had to make was a family where literally every member was invited – meaning their childcare options were non-existent. My cousin and his wife are bringing their 3 year old, who was not invited, but truthfully I didn’t expect my cousin would hoof it out from New Mexico to Delaware with his pregnant wife, so I can’t exactly tell them to leave her with a sitter across the country. I remember thinking it was kinda rude to just assume to bring her, but then I thought how nice it was that they were coming all the way from NM for the wedding and got over it.

    Etiquette kinda keeps me up at night sometimes. I actually printed labels (yes, God forbid, LABELS for the wedding invites – but with a beautiful font and clear labels) without the Mr. and Mrs. I have no idea what possessed me and then I happened to be reading something about it and saw how horrible labels are and how you MUST have the formal address on there. Our wedding is not formal. I was freaking out about this with my fiance and he’s like, “how would anyone even know all this stuff?” My answer:

    “Because you learn it when you get MARRIED!”

    • oh boy. . . i think i re-did the labels and place cards about 15 times until i figured out how to do all the mr/mrs/ms/miss/dr/etc etiquette. and in the end, i still got my in-laws place card wrong! (i printed dr. and dr. hislastname, only to learn after the fact that she goes by dr. herlastname or mrs. hislastname – but they are both so informal i would have been better off not using any titles at all!) hmm. . . a how-to posting on THAT would be amazing, because I still didn’t learn all I should have before we got married. :-)

    • We didn’t do labels. But we did print all the address stuff directly on the envelope. I knew about the label thing but didn’t care. I used a pretty font that matched the invitations. :)

    • hahah yeah. we did labels AND left off Mr./Ms./Dr. except on a couple we figured were more sticklers for ceremony. We even went with the ultra gauche “The Lastname Family” for some of my married-with-children cousins I knew wouldn’t give a crap about it (and where I was sure the wife took the husband’s name). I think it totally makes sense, for a wedding that is very much not formal, to throw out a lot of those addressing rules (unless you are doing no-kids, then it should be written out more explicitly) – if you know you can get away with it without embarrassing your parents haha.

      • I’ve always thought that using a more informal way to address the invitations (i.e., throwing out the rules) is a good clue as to the atmosphere of the wedding. I would feel weird addressing invitations super-formally if I was having a backyard, jeans-and-t-shirt, barbecue reception, you know?

  • Sarah T

    Oh man, is it really bad etiquette to have a bigger ceremony than reception? I think my reception site is going to be really small (70 people), but our church is huge (could hold 1,000, literally). Almost all our guests are from out of town, and we’re not inviting any current coworkers, and only a couple former ones. I was thinking of sending a formal-ish email to my otherwise not-invited coworkers to explain that if they wanted to dress up, and see me in a dress (I wear jeans to work every day), they’d be welcome to come for the ceremony, but that we didn’t have space for a 40-strong work cohort at the reception.

    I feel like that’s honest and practical, since everyone we’d do the ceremony-only invite for is local. The work culture is very straightforward mostly programmers and engineers. Is what I’m thinking still Just Wrong?

    • I think that this might be a little wrong – though I am sure others are bound to chime in.

      This feels like the dreaded “B list” scenario, like they weren’t good enough for the truly invited. Beyond that, a formal-ish email is still an email that tells them they are welcome to make an effort and come out and support you, but they aren’t close enough for you pay for them to have a piece of cake and punch.

      I know you may not want to have the feeling of an empty church, so the inclination to have people come and sit is strong – as is the not-unreasonable desire to spread around both the joy of your day and the sight of you in a lovely dress (this coming from a girl who swung by my part time job after I was dressed for prom just so everyone could see how great I clean up).

      I think you are better off just roping off most of the aisles of the church (tissue streamers do wonders and are cheap) so that everyone sits as close to the front as possible, and the place doesn’t feel huge but packed with special people up front. Then, after you come back to work – show off those wedding pictures! Perhaps if your work peeps are close enough to you, then bring donuts and lemonade and have a little party. In fact, maybe they will throw you one on the day before you take off.

      But don’t make them feel like second-class friends.

      • I have just gone to a wedding where the entire church was invited to the wedding via an announcement (plus the actual guest list who got invitations). There was a fun (and delicious) cookie reception at the church after the wedding. Then a little later, there was a dinner reception at a different venue for a smaller list of people who got invitations. Several other people who have gotten married at this particular church recently have done the same thing, but I don’t know how standard this is in other places.

        • Jennifer

          I grew up with that as the general practice at many of the churches, too.

          If I were a Miss Manners-type advice column person, I would probably say that you can have some wedding events with different guest lists, including the fancy full meal reception, but what you can’t do is invite people, even in a very informal way, to come witness as you get married and not then thank them with some form of hospitality. In this case, I’d say it’s fine to invite the coworkers, etc. to come to the ceremony as long as the ceremony is followed by a short punch and cake reception at the church, or similar, where you have a chance to greet them and thank them for coming. You can then have a separate celebratory meal with your family and intimate friends later. (i.e. the reception at the 70-person site). But to say “hey, we don’t have room/money to feed you, but you should totally still come to our wedding ceremony (and see how awesome I look)” doesn’t quite sit right.

          If you don’t actually want to celebrate with them over a slice of cake or a cookie, then I agree that it’s better to not invite them at all and just happily share photos afterwards. with those who are interested.

        • Sadie

          My church growing up had the same unspoken policy- if a member of the church got married there, they generally made an announcement about it in church, and anyone who wanted to come was welcome, but just at the ceremony. This seemed to work out well, since everyone had the same expectations. And, if you’ve got a big church, it’s nice to fill it up!

        • GeePuff

          I think this really only works if you’re very active in your church community and everyone there knows and loves you very much. Well, and if it’s a “done” thing at your particular church.

      • Sarah T

        It’s really not a matter of the space, since the empty space in the church will still be about the same, with coworkers or not. It *is* about sharing the day and joy, etc, since I get asked a lot about the latest wedding plans at the lunch table often, and I’m friendly with my work group.

        For my situation, it will be far too awkward to pick a few people I’m closest to at work to come for ceremony + reception and not invite anyone else. I certainly would not do some C+R invites and some C-only. Thus I was down to C-only or nothing.


    • Angela

      I would definitely be a little hurt and offended if only invited to the ceremony.

      • DtotheQ

        Really? But the ceremony is the important part, not the party afterwards. I have been to lots of Ceremony Onlys (some I have traveled over 8 hours to just to attend a half hour long ceremony). Maybe being Australian makes it ok? But I know I would rather be there to witness my friends or family say those important vows and not go to a party, than miss the entire thing because they can’t afford to feed me at the reception.

        • Pippa

          This must be another Australian thing. Receptions are expensive, you have to bring gifts etc etc. Ceremonies in churches are public events, just as funeral services are, which means that almost anyone could just decide to come along. Obviously most people don’t, but it’s not unheard of to say, “You’re invited to come see me get married”, whether it be due to limited funds, old friends who you’ve fallen out of touch with, whatever.

          And yes, DtotheQ, the ceremony IS the important part. I have a feeling most people forget this, but I always have more fun at the ceremony than later on. I mean, come on, you get to see two people get married! Awesome!

        • I agree! In Australia, I’ve been to three weddings where more people were at the ceremony (e.g. 200) than the reception (e.g. 100). I don’t believe this is a dire transgression here. In fact, it’s very understandable to me.

          • Moz

            I know a lot of people who have done this – cake and punch for everyone afterwards, followed by a very small reception.

    • meg

      Ehhh. I don’t know. It’s not ideal, but there are times to break rules when you know the people. We had friends we invited last minute (they know who they are if they read this!) We REALLY wanted to invite them, then we had family pressure to invite people we didn’t really… erm… know…. and ran out of space. And then some of those people couldn’t come, and a week before I was like FUCK IT, I will now invite the people we really wanted there in the first place. They came and they were AWESOME. Did I break a rule? Yeah. But I knew they probably wouldn’t be pissed so I risked it. And in this case, you know they probably won’t be pissed, so take your chances. Just admit, up front, that you’re breaking a rule ;)

      • AH! I wish I had done this.

      • Sarah

        I did this exact same thing. The joke is that I told a few trusteds to crash our wedding. But seriously, in all the pressure of those-we-must-invite, some of the friends we wanted had to be left out. OF COURSE I was going to call them when it turned out we had room. And they were good enough friends to just be thrilled to celebrate with us, not feel like they were less important. All in all, it totally worked out.

      • Kristin

        We did this too. Invited friends from work and newer friends (some of whom we hadn’t even met when we made the guest list) We were honest that they were last minute invites, would be sitting at a table with people they didn’t know (we called it the “Party table”). I think mostly due to the open bar, they had a blast and we even had 2 (!) couples form out of that very table.

      • Sarah T

        I am totally ok with straight up announcing in the ceremony-only invite that I’m breaking a rule. My office is straightforward like that. But there’s breaking a rule (not using titles in the invitation addresses, open bar vs not, registry vs not) and Breaking A Rule (inviting people to the reception for the dancing but not the dinner, which I can’t fathom), and I can’t decide which side of the line this is.

        On my end this is driven by wanting to share (what I consider to be) the most meaningful part of the day, the part that actually changes our status in society and under the law. And I’m only considering local people for this, because I do think a C-only invite would be unreasonable for out-of-towners. But all the same, it still comes down to perception, and I don’t know if it’s possible to frame it in a way that conveys what I want it to.

        • meg

          The question is not what side of the line you think this is on, but what side of the line THEY will think it’s on. A bunch of programers? They may not even know their IS a line, if we’re being honest.

        • Jessica

          I’ve been invited to a reception for dancing-but-not-dinner before. In my community, which sometimes has HUGE weddings, it’s not taboo. Most often, it’s an invitation extended to +1s when the guest list gets too large; known guests come a bit earlier for dinner, and are then joined by their partners/dates when the dance party gets started. It works well because the +1s are all people who wouldn’t expect to be invited, and it makes for an awesome dance party.

          • Sarah T

            Actually, now that you mention it, I had a friend who asked if she could bring her +1 just for the dancing, so as not to add the cost of the meal. Which was very considerate, and I forgot about because she’s getting a “full” +1 invite. But just to say that I did know somewhere in the back of my mind that some people are ok with that.

      • Sometimes that can be awesome but at one wedding we were invited to we got an evening invitation maybe 3 weeks beforehand (however we know other friends who got their invitations several weeks beforehand because they asked us if we’d received ours and we hadn’t so we presumed we weren’t invited). Then, with a week to go, husband got a text message saying “a space has opened up for the main event if you want to come. let us know asap so we can finalise the tables”. Didn’t really make us feel like they wanted us there, more that the could fill spaces at the tables in place of others who couldn’t make.

        In short, it’s all about the way you word it.

      • Also wish I had done this!

    • Sooz

      I also think it depends on the culture in which you’re living. I come from a culture (NZ) where it’s actually really common to be invited to the ceremony (because that’s the bit with all the beautiful meaning, etc) but not get invited to the reception (because that’s the expensive bit!) – that’s considered normal and people don’t get upset unless they think they are good enough friends with you that they should have been invited to the reception too.

      I got married in the UK, where the culture is completely the opposite, and it’s normal to invite more people to the reception than to the ceremony (which is often small and held in the registry office) – I found it really difficult to get my head around it at first, and my partner and I had a lot of discussions/debates over the guest list as a result.

      What, in my experience, NEVER works, is for people to be invited to part but not all of the reception (eg invited to the dance but not the meal) – that just bites.


      • C.

        Yep, I do think it’s culturally specific – even subculturally! In my church it’s common practice too, to invite everyone to the ceremony, mostly by word of mouth / email/ facebook, because people want to be there for you, and see you get married – especially the old ladies who just like a good wedding.

        I think this approach works best in the following circumstances:
        * it’s applied to consistent groups: ie. all the people from that Church group I’m a bit involved in; all the people from work. It doesn’t work as well if some people from that group are invited to the reception. You get all the usual feelings of being left out that come with not inviting people, but brought to the surface more than if you just tried not to talk about the wedding date at all!
        * I think it works for people who wouldn’t expect to be invited anyway eg. friends you’ve just made, people you haven’t seen in forever, work colleagues you like but don’t hang out with socially. These people are less likely to get offended and often really glad to be included in some way.
        * It works best (but not exclusively) when people live locally to the ceremony venue
        * It works wonderfully if you put something on for the ceremony guests afterwards. At my brother-in-law-to-be’s wedding, future-parents-in-law provided tea, coffee and cupcakes for everyone after the ceremony. This meant they were still offering hospitality to anyone who came, and also gave the bride and groom a greater opportunity to mingle with those visitors. It was such a hit they want to do it for our wedding, even though (for distance reasons) we may not have ceremony only guests.

        • meg

          That’s true. That is a church thing… the open ceremony invite. The idea being it’s everyone’s church, and you can always go to events there.

    • Julia W

      It seems to me that you want to invite these people. I think you should do it. Send out an email or casual invite letting them know the specifics. Bring cake to work when you return from the honeymoon to thank everyone. Done.

  • Ten months after the wedding, the guest list still gets to me.

    We had three scenarios:

    1. The self-inviter: “Congrats on the engagement! When’s the wedding? I can’t wait to watch you walk down the aisle!” The first time this happened, I was stunned and stammered something I can’t remember. They ended up invited, because un-inviting is awkward. The second time, I was ready with a vague response to put them off. Still awkward though.

    2. The childhood friends (with whom I no longer have relationships except on fb) who sent me messages after the wedding– try as I might, I could NOT keep it off fb, thanks to excited friends– about how hurt they were to not be invited… That was painful. And there was no way to rectify it at that point, either.

    3. The people we really wanted to invite but didn’t because of space constraints. We tried SO hard to keep it under 70 people, and in the end there were about 60 and those extra five people wouldn’t have mattered. But since they’re great, we’re still good friends. I’m just harboring some regret about not inviting them to share that day with us.

    Whew. Guest lists are tough stuff. And just my two cents: we got married by a lake and in the woods, and absolutely loved having kids there. They were the only ones who went swimming!! :) But obviously that wouldn’t be the case for everyone… Alyssa’s advice is excellent, as usual.

    • Oh my lord, the self-inviters. Or at least the people who say vague things that make you suspect they expect an invitation. (“When is the wedding again?” “Oh, you know, November.”) I think it’s hard for people to comprehend that a wedding it’s just a big house party. It’s also an intimate and emotional experience, and not everyone you know/like has to share that with you.

      • CATHY

        EXACTLY, Annie. My 2 thoughts/experiences to add:

        1. Friends of ours, an on-again-off-again couple for years, and the guy was always a conceited, insensitive pain in the ass – broke up 6 months ago in a very unpleasant way (the guy had been two-timing her and she found out, not through him). She’s our older, closer friend, and eventually started dating again, so we’ve invited her *and* a date. But not him; we don’t really see him anymore, which is frankly a relief. And he’s deeply hurt and keeps bugging HER about it because he thinks she turned us against him (he hasn’t the balls to talk to us). As I see it he feels entitled to be at our intimate, emotional event, and is acting as though we are banning him from a lunch counter or public place. Duh! Screw him!

        2. Not only is it intimate and emotional, but it’s expensive and logistically complicated! (finalizing guest count, table assignments, etc) Which has made me cranky in the couple of cases where people added an extra name to their RSVP without asking. I was too weak to say no (though I did bring it up in one case, and make the friend go through the motions of asking if it was OK to bring her kids’ nanny). But I was stunned – I guess I’ve been spoiled by all these great, sensible wedding sites and their sense of etiquette.

        • Good points! I think “entitled” is the perfect word to use for some guests. And I think there’s a shift in the wedding “plus one.” My fiance and I are inviting the partners of friends, but not adding a random “plus one” so everyone has to find a guest. All of our single friends know at least a few other people at the wedding so they won’t feel lonely or get stuck at a random table. But I think a lot of people (for some reason) still assume that if you’re invited to a wedding, you get to make it a date affair, even if you’re not specifically with anyone.

      • A A

        Yeah, the self-inviters are something else. I had a friend who invited himself to a small get together for my birthday to ask one of my bride-to-be friends if he could be invited to her wedding. It was all cool, he’s a fun guy and it was a sweet gesture. But after all that, he didn’t show up to the wedding. Didn’t even say that he couldn’t make it after all.

        The self-inviters and the post-wedding complainers are likely of the same species.

    • lou

      seriously?! people emailed you to say they were hurt they weren’t invited? what is wrong with people? i NEVER assume i am invited to anyone’s wedding, even good friends. because you never know what people’s plans are – they might want a really small wedding or family only or whatever. man, people are rude! i wouldn’t worry about it. besides, you must only keep in touch on fb for a reason right?

      • Yeah, they seriously did. And yes, there is a reason we’re only fb friends at this point in our lives… not that they aren’t good people, just that we’ve grown apart since we were seven. Or whatever.

        And I’m pretty sure never assuming you’re invited to a wedding until you get an invite is probably a good idea. After the torture of making our guest list, I totally understand not getting an invite to ANYONE’S wedding (except maybe my sister’s), and still send love to whoever the happy couple is. I have plenty of friends whose weddings I didn’t attend, and I love them just the same.

        • oh I agree 100%. ever since I learned how awful the guest list problem is, I have zero expectations for any wedding ever (except my sister’s! ha). small wedding? no problem. here’s a gift, I wish you the best. reception only? awesome, can’t wait to attend.

          I love how this site and community have really opened my eyes to even more issues than I ran into with my own wedding. for example, I feel more confident in declining an invitation for a wedding I really can’t afford to travel to. that’s right I’m a mother effing adult! I can make decisions based on what’s best for me! haha. thanks apw.

        • I am somewhat flabbergasted that people would actually message you to say they were upset they didn’t get invited. Talk about guilt tripping.

          • I had it happen too. Sometimes you just want to go, “Are you REALLY insulted, or do you just want something to complain about.” Because I can guaren-damn-tee that the people who complained would not have come (or probably even RSVP’ed), if invited….

            I’m gossiping, but my sister-in-law? Had an ex complain on her Facebook page, on the day of her wedding. So right in the middle of all the congraulations, there’s “Really? Not even an invite?” and nothing else.
            She said, “See that right there? THAT’S why he didn’t get an invite.”
            Some people’s children….

        • Fiorentina

          For sure. We had one self-inviter, who then plied another guest for all the details so she could make travel arrangements to our destination wedding. Thing is, the reason she wasn’t invited in the first place is that we just don’t have room on the guest list for that whole sphere of people, and if we had to be choosy and invite only select people from that sphere, there were others that would have been more of a priority for us. But yeah, I think she feels like it’s just a big house party. It’s not. The only reason I even knew it happened was because of an innocuous FB exchange in which the self-inviter asked the guest what date she was planning to fly to (destination) – if I hadn’t seen that……….?

          The other guest that she was plying for details (who was definitely invited) didn’t know any better since this self-inviter was just talking like she’d already got an invitation. I don’t blame the invited guest – I certainly don’t expect her to be our wedding bouncer (invitation please?), but daaaaaammmmmnnnn that was awkward, and the other guest still feels terrible about it all even though we have made it clear we don’t hold her responsible.

          We ended up just officially inviting the self-inviter anyway in order to avoid a ton of drama, but I’m still kind of bitter about it. Particularly since we’re doing it all thru Glosite, and though the self-inviter has an invitation now, she still hasn’t bothered to view our website for all the details – it’s been weeks. Instead, she continues to lean on the other guest for information because she can’t be arsed to make her own arrangements to an event she wasn’t even invited to in the first place. And she’s horning in on their travel plans too. So, at least she’s an equal opportunity self-inviter, I guess.

          • Damn! People shock me everyday.

    • AnotherCourtney

      1. I had the SAME reaction the first time. And that person will be getting an invitation, but now I’m prepared to explain to everyone else just how small our venue is. :)

      2. My childhood friend on facebook sent me a message to let me know she was upset I didn’t personally call her to tell her I was engaged, then promptly un-friended me. Painful, yes, but not worth beating myself up about it.

      3. Lots of people on this list, some of whom we’re even telling that they’re on the B list so they know they’re next after all the family we’re inviting. Since we still have a few months to go, though, I still have hope that there will end up being room for them.

      And yay for kids at weddings! We definitely want them there, but everyone seems surprised when we tell them that. Thanks for sharing a good experience :)

      • sounds like you’re handling this all waaaaayyyy better than i did. way to go! :)

    • Sarah T

      I’ve only had 1 self-inviter, who I was probably going to invite anyway. Then she invited me to her wedding, and I went, so it’s a no brainer.

      There was one college friend (imo a good friend, even though we don’t talk often) who recently got married, and we even talked about wedding planning together. I asked for her address to send a save the date, and explicitly said I didn’t need a reciprocal invite, because I didn’t want to put that pressure on her. Didn’t get an invite. And I was a little hurt, which I have kept to myself. But thinking on it now, I think if she had just emailed me and said that she wasn’t able to invite me for space or money reasons or whatever, that would have gone a long way. Anyway, I’m meeting up with her in a few weeks, and we’ll see if it comes up.

    • We had a few self-inviters. Oog! Talk about people needing to learn about etiquette! They’d had cookie and punch receptions and had invited everyone they’d ever talked to and receiving lines with Disneyland-esq signs saying how long a wait it was from that point. Which is great for them. But not what we were having. I explained that we were having a smaller reception. The fact that “smaller” meant 200 did not need to be mentioned.

    • Oh Lord, the self-inviters! We had a BUNCH of people do this (or add new significant others or kids to their RSVPs). The running joke between my husband and me was that we ought to give out copies of Miss Manners for favors.

      • Class of 1980

        Except the worst offenders never think of reading about etiquette. That’s why they’re the worst offenders.

    • Remy

      I’m still mortified about my own breach in etiquette over a high school friend’s wedding. We had been very close in school, but hadn’t had much contact while we both attended college — got together in a small group when we were both home on breaks, for example. (This was pre-Facebook; I didn’t know a lot of the details of his life.) So when he tracked me down online to specifically send me his wedding announcement website URL, I was surprised and pleased for him.

      The home page said “We hope to see you at our wedding in June!” and gave the details of time, location, etc. I commented in the guestbook, bought a present, and checked in a couple of weeks before the ceremony by email, checking to see if a +1 was okay. (In my defense, I was still very young and this was the first wedding I’d attended as an adult.) And my girlfriend and I showed up to a wonderful ceremony and reception… though I was surprised at how small it was — it seemed to be all family, with no other school friends and no one I knew but his siblings and parents. We had a wonderful time, and it was good to catch up with my friend and meet his new wife.

      It wasn’t until months later — really! — that I realized that his announcement via URL wasn’t actually an invitation. I guess I was just the most polite, clueless wedding crasher ever!

      • You can’t take all the blame. If they make their information that public, things like that will happen. It’s partially their fault. We specifically made sure that all information about the specifics of our wedding and reception where not anywhere online.

        • Remy

          To avoid a similar misunderstanding for my own wedding-to-be, I’ve been quite explicit on my own website that the site is for sharing info/pics with people we know (and people who just like wedding stuff) who are curious, and that we are having a very small event (~20 including wedding party). I mentioned specifically that “if you spend time with us and support gay marriage, we didn’t leave you out because we don’t like you”, but “if you got an invitation, we would be happy to have you join us at the ceremony/reception”, and otherwise, you can join us at the church coffee hour the next day or we can get together another time. That lets us celebrate with church friends and work friends and other people we like without killing our budget or our intimate chosen-family ceremony (or forcing us to invite the cousins who voted Yes on Prop 8).

      • Class of 1980

        Well, that’s a weird situation. He purposely sought you out to give you the web site, and the web site seemed to be inviting everyone.

  • When I was a little girl, weddings were my most favorite events. Something about dreaming about being that Cinderella someday… I was a very well behaved child and never caused a ruckus.

    Most of my friends never went to weddings as children, and have no idea about wedding traditions (like staying til the cake gets cut, don’t wear a white dress). I think weddings are a cultural event children should experience. Otherwise, the only exposure to weddings is the Hollywood/WIC spectacular – and how is that necessarily good?

    And wouldn’t you expect parents to keep a handle on their children and not let them ruin the wedding?

    • For me, children at a wedding is less about causing a ruckus and less about space/money. I don’t have any children in my life that I’m really close with and feel the need to have at my wedding. I’d rather fill the space with friends and family I’m actually close to. When you include everyone’s kids, the numbers can really add up. It’s great to include children if you can and want to, but I don’t feel like I really missed out not going to a lot of weddings as a girl.

    • carrie

      I had friends decline their invitation and part of the reason why is that they knew their 2 year old would likely cause a ruckus and they didn’t want to ruin any part of the wedding. I thought that was really sweet, even though 2 year olds are 2 year olds.

      • McSchnieders

        Either way you decide to go, I think the important thing is to be respectful of your guests (who are parents of smaller children).

        My brothers and I were usually invited to all the weddings in my large, Irish-Catholic family, which was lovely. We were good little kids (in public) who never disrupted any of the weddings we attended. However, one male cousin got married and his parents had the nerve to tell my mom that her children were not invited to their son’s wedding because “We really want to impress her family.” Seriously? Seriously.

        My main point? Invite the kids, don’t invite the kids, just don’t be a rude jacka$$ about it. Good rule of thumb all around I think.

    • meg

      While this is great point, I also think that part of our cultural drift towards spectacle and madness is assuming that kids have the right to be EVERYWHERE no matter what. And they don’t. It’s perfectly ok to have Adults Only Things: booze, the occasional wedding, dirty jokes, etc. It gives kids something to aspire to grow up and joint. And while I’m not in favor of barring kids from all weddings ever, if someone doesn’t choose to invite my kids to some wedding sometime, I’ll get a godd*mn babysitter, and be THRILLED to leave them at home.

      But still. Excellent point on cultural trends.

      • My initial inclination was to disagree and say that we’re actually heading in the other direction – maybe because when I was a kid, we were invited to all the family weddings, and now my young cousins are only invited to about half of them? – but then I remembered* this story:

        My great-grandfather spent DECADES not talking to one of his brothers, because when my grandmother was a kid, she wasn’t invited to a wedding that he thought she should have been invited to. This was the ’30s or ’40s. I’m pretty sure this is an age-old dilemma that persists despite cultural trends in any direction.

        *And also, remembered that I was only invited to weddings on one side of my family, and was not invited to weddings on the other side. Only remembering the weddings you’re at is recall bias, I guess!

        • Vmed

          I have to exactly your comment on recall bias.

          Because I was sure one friend of the family was going to put up a big fuss about her kids not being invited. Then I figured out that the reason I didn’t remember she had a no kids policy at her wedding, was that I was a kid and wasn’t invited.

      • Class of 1980

        I loved weddings when I was a little girl, BUT they were cake and punch receptions, so having children there wasn’t expensive. I can understand the cost constraints when a meal is involved.

        No one expects their children to be invited to other adult parties. I don’t know why they think weddings are an exception.

        • meg

          Indeed. I think that’s how I’m thinking about it. My great grandparents on one side of the family had Money (long gone, but that’s a story for another day). There are plenty of pictures of them at very formal very adult very expensive weddings and parties, with no kids.

          For a long time their existed, for better or worse, and adult-only world. I think it’s an error to make *everything* kid friendly. There should be rewards to growing up, after all.

          • generally, i agree that there’s no right or wrong answer as to how to conduct your own wedding. but i would like to emphasize that there is a big difference between allowing kids at something and making it “kid friendly” (at least the way people usually mean that).

            after all, one of the rewards of growing up is that being in grown-up spaces stops being painfully boring and starts being fun! at least, sometimes.

        • Was I the only kid who hated weddings? As far as I was concerned, weddings were just an extra church service followed by a long, boring dinner party with “weird” food (i.e. not chicken fingers or mac and cheese) where people talked about me like I wasn’t there. (“She’s so cute! How old is she? How does she like school?”) The only part of weddings I liked was the cake. My brother and I used to *beg* to be left home with a babysitter and a pizza.

          … which is not meant to scare anyone who’s inviting kids! I think people are much more creative these days about including little ones in their celebration. But I also think that parents are more likely to get bent out of shape over an adults-only wedding than their offspring.

          • Vmed

            I hated weddings, too. For all the same reasons.

            In my only role as flower girl (age 4), I ripped the rosette off the front of my dress because I thought it was stupid looking. No one noticed until the professional photos came back and I didn’t match my sisters, so at least it’s just funny now.

          • Class of 1980

            I probably just liked the pretty clothes and CAKE at weddings!

            When my brother, sister and myself were young in the 1960s, we went to one wedding where the bride and groom started talking to each other in the middle of the ceremony. The minister stopped talking and was silent. Eventually, the bride and groom turned around and faced the congregation and said they’d decided to call off their wedding!

            I heard later that the bride and bridesmaids took the wedding cake and had a blast that night.

            The next time we went to a wedding, my brother asked if we could keep the wedding present if the bride and groom didn’t get married. ;)

          • @Class of 1980 — When I was about 12 I went to one (the fanciest, most formal wedding mass I’ve ever attended, to this day) where the groom looked really sick and pale at the altar. Later, I overheard that he’d had a little too much fun at the bachelor party the night before. I thought the 2-hour ceremony was torture but I can only imagine how the groom felt!

            I learned some exciting new vocab at the reception, like “sh*tfaced” and “hangover” :-)

        • No one expects kids to be excluded from other family parties, I don’t know why weddings are an exception.

          I’m fine with not inviting the kids of friends – we didn’t. But we invited ALL of my cousins, whether they were 2 or 30 (and I have cousins who are 2 and cousins who are 30) because in my mind, you invite all your cousins, you invite none of your cousins, or you invite only those few who you’re close to – like any other group of people (same applies to nieces and nephews, etc.). Inviting “all the cousins except those under 12 (or 15, or 18, or 21, or whatever)” is just as exclusionary as inviting “all the cousins except Uncle Ralph’s kids” or “all my mother’s cousins except those over 65” or “everyone from work except the guys from Accounting.”

          • Jennifer

            I think this varies by family, and how that family defines “family party.” My father’s large family frequently had dinner parties or big restaurant outings for just the adults (i.e. he and his siblings and parents) and their partners without the kids invited. Weddings are a bit different, I grant you, than birthday dinners since they’re about the creation of a new family unit, but at least in the family I grew up in, there definitely wasn’t an assumption that all events for family members were events for all family members regardless of age.

            On the other hand, “family events” such as major holidays were generally exclusively for family members, and not for whoever was hosting to invite their friends and such along to as well; I think once more than just a very few friends are invited to an event, it’s no longer necessarily a family event.

    • And wouldn’t you expect parents to keep a handle on their children and not let them ruin the wedding?

      I stopped expecting things like that a long time ago, and not just at weddings. :)

    • Stephasaurus

      And wouldn’t you expect parents to keep a handle on their children and not let them ruin the wedding?

      I think, based on a lot of parenting these days, it’s not always wise to expect this anymore!

    • I think I’m coming from a perpective of seeing weddings not as an adult event. :) In my church community, which is largely made up of homeschoolers, children go to what their parents go to. It’s how kids learn how to become an adult. For example, I never would have learned how to throw my best friend a fantastic bridal shower if my mother had not taken me to bridal showers at 9 or 10.

      But I completely understand cost/space restraints. :)

      • Class of 1980

        When I was a child in the 1960s, weddings at our church involved a blanket invite to the whole congregation. But receptions were cake and punch, therefore inexpensive and lots of children were there.

        I never got invited to a shower until my friends started getting married. Again, many of them were church friends and our mothers were there too. Somehow, we knew how to throw a shower … perhaps because we had mothers to help us.

  • Erin

    Oh gosh, what a timely post! I just sent out invites a week ago (finally), and have been feeling uber guilty over the people at work I didn’t invite. We’re relatively small group (at least, who all report to my boss), but everyone plus spouses and kids and dates would have been about 22 people – which would increase our guest list by an extra 22%. In the interest of keeping the wedding small and intimate (difficult enough with all the family we just have to invite per our parents who are helping out and certainly get a say), we ended up asking just my boss and good friends, and I’m feeling a bit better about that decision. Thanks!!

    • I’ve been stalking you and TOTALLY planned it that way….

  • AAHHH! We had all these issues (although not the work friends). Our biggest decision was about which country to have the wedding. And, to be perfectly honest, we decided based on which side of the family would be most understanding about a LIMITED ADULT guestlist. It was mine. Hubby’s very large, very traditional, Croatian family with lots of devil children would not be okay with not inviting every other Croatian in Auckland and all thier cousins, kids, girlfriends, etc. My family in the US; not so bothered (although there was a little stink about a cousin’s girlfriend I didn’t know exisited and so didn’t invite, and a group of cousins I don’t know but Gramma insisted on, blah, blah, blah. But nothing compared to the battles with in-laws). So a wedding in Cleveland meant that only six people from the Croatian clan showed up and we got to invite all our friends.
    We ended up having a second reception in Auckland and purposely chose a very small venue so we could still invite a limited amount of people. Although that backfired as the in-laws invited more than could fit and pointedly ignored our list of friends, including our Best Man who travelled all the way to the US, but was then left out of the party in his backyard.

    Ahh family. Gotta love ’em.

    • Oh yeah- cousins sure seem to come out of the woodwork when it comes time for a wedding! I had the same issue. And I couldn’t fight my Gram too hard, so they got invited. It was all good in the end, though. :)

    • Noemi

      Cleveland?? I just moved to Cleveland! Do you live here?

      • Jo

        I do! (ish). I’ll be friends!

        • Do it! (Be friends, I mean) And then come with Jo to the Cinci bookclubs and we’ll all be friends! :)

  • Noemi

    Wow, definitely a great post, answering questions that a lot of engaged people can relate to. For me, the work one was a tiny bit difficult, as I worked at my last place of employment for about 3 years, and was engaged for two of those years. I tried so hard not to talk about it at work, but when somebody asked me point blank (When is the date? Do you have a dress yet?), I just had to answer. Our office was mostly females, and one of them was also engaged around the same time as me. She was married last summer and had a beautiful wedding, she brought in her wedding album to show me. However, I know there were some difficulties with her guest list. My supervisor was invited to her wedding, but most of the other co-workers were not. One co-worker, the receptionist, was so hurt to not be invited when she heard some others talking about the wedding.
    The receptionist asked me if I could please send an invitation to her for my wedding– of course, I just smiled and had nothing to say as my mind instantly went blank. I really didn’t want her to think it was personal, so I ended up not inviting anybody from my workplace, though they have all asked me to send them photos after the wedding. I am so glad that they all cared about me and my fiance and our marriage/wedding, but it’s so tough to just tell people no.
    I also ran into the problem of some people asking me about the wedding, but I figured that if they asked, they just were genuinely curious and not fishing for an invite. However, I hated answering the question, “Will it be a small wedding?” I know the answer to that is supposed to be “Yes!” but realistically, having an entire weekend of events planned out for different groups of people with possibly over 200 people in attendance at some events, does not spell small.
    I definitely struggled with some of these guest list difficulties, and I am always so encouraged by people who have also experienced them and survived! We’re just about 20 days away now, wish us luck!

    • That’s the biggest problem I am having (or dreading I suppose, the wedding is till a year away). I feel like it would be so easy to tell people who are not invited “Sorry we’re having a small wedding” but since we’re not, I am worried that there will be many more people offended. How do you tell people, who we really do like, “sorry you didn’t make the top 300.” (I have a huge family, we both have lots friends, and then there are all of my family friends…)

      • GeePuff

        I feel you on this one. It’s hard to have a “small” wedding when your side of the family (yes, just one side, we’re a fertile bunch apparently) clocks in at 89. I’m in discussions right now in my head and with the fella about work friends. We want to invite them because they’re (mostly) awesome, but I’m getting to the point where I’ve stopped seeing people as guests and started seeing them as dollar signs, which is not the happy place in which I imagined I’d be.

      • Stephanie

        I understand! We invited 300 and are telling people it’s a small wedding. It is, compared to the 1000 people we could have invited if we invited the whole community! But at first I felt bad about saying small because I read wedding blogs where small is 20 people. But I’ve come to believe that small is relative to the expectations, so if “we’re having a small wedding” is what you need to say to those self-inviters, do it.

        • Erin

          I seem to remember Miss Manners saying something along the lines of “any wedding to which the person you are speaking is not invited can be considered a small wedding.” So it’s all good.

    • I’ve been struggling with the SAME thing. We are having a small wedding, and I feel bad when people at work take an interest but are not invited. Both of us decided to nix coworkers because of the need to be all-inclusive with the work bunch, but sometimes I worry that it looks rude that none of them are invited.

      I feel soooo much better. (About this and the kids issue as well! No kids for us either. Again, muy small.)

    • Hilary

      I haven’t at all interpreted my co-workers’ questions about the wedding as fishing for an invite! Crap. Are you not supposed to talk about the wedding with people you’re not inviting? Because I get asked a lot. And it comes up in conversation on my side too… (“What are you doing this weekend?” “Walking through the land mine that is the [registry] [save the dates] [shower] [caterer].”

      • I know that I love asking people about their wedding plans, even when I’m sure I wouldn’t be invited and am perfectly happy not to go. It’s still fun to hear about it!

      • If someone is fishing for an invite, you’ll KNOW. Besides, in those situations faking ignorance of their motive is an option, so you’re totally covered. :-)

  • Ah, the guest list- such a treat. On the kid front, we invited our flower girls, their siblings, our niece & a few close friends’ kids. There was no way we were inviting my hubs’ co-workers’ kids that we had never meet. Anyway, out of the kids we invited, only half came. We were surprised at how many couples said, no thanks, we’d rather have an adult night without the kids! We didn’t hear any complaints from the couples whose kids weren’t invited. The kids that came were little angels & had a blast!

  • NNN,

    We did the small wedding, large reception thing & it worked out really well. I was really nervous that people would be offended at first, but overall, everyone was really understanding. We really wanted to keep the ceremony small, and private. It felt like something really personal to us, that would lose something if it was witnessed by a bunch of people we didn’t know intimately & love dearly. (I’m not saying that I think this is the right choice, or the best choice. Just that for us, personally, it was.)

    Were there some guest list problems? Heck yeah.For instance I got a guilt trip for not inviting a second cousin I barely see to the ceremony. One whose behavior I was worried about having to deal with at the reception. Tony & I being a united from really helped to weather these situations as they came up.

    In the end it was a perfect day, just what we wanted, and needed it to be. No one who knew & love us (or just one of us) was bothered by the arrangement. Everyone had a great time at the reception and was happy to celebrate with us, period.

  • Emily

    I’m still confused on the work colleagues question. I know I’m going to come off sounding dense/naive here, but still:

    If you’re genuinely close friends with a couple coworkers, why would inviting them mean that you are *required* to invite your boss? I agree that if you’re inviting people from the office generally, even the ones you don’t socialize with outside the office, you should include her. If you’re inviting Bob the receptionist and Kerry in accounting, then it probably would be rude to exclude your boss. More than rude — it would seem intentionally unkind, which to be honest, it probably is.

    But if the only coworkers you’re inviting are Susan and Kelly, the girls with whom you have a standing Thursday night drinks policy, who have met your husband-to-be (and in whom you may have confided over the course of the relationship)… why on Earth would you then have to invite your boss, with whom you never socialize?

    I mean, I get that this woman is probably going to be offended if she doesn’t get an invite, no matter who else is invited. And I understand how this situation is going to affect the bride’s job situation. I actually used to work in a very similar office, for a very similar woman who was always awkwardly trying to insert herself into my life as mother/sister/best friend and I can’t tell you how much I sympathize — it blows. But from a common sense perspective, I feel like I would still just invite Susan and Kelly and not the boss. And if the boss says something about it or gets angry? Talk to HR. It’s completely unreasonable for her to use your non-invite as a reason to retaliate against you at work! I feel like everyone can see how unreasonable that is, even Bob at reception.

    Am I just being unrealistic? It’s a sticky situation, but the “all or nothing” approach just seems extra unfair (even more unfair than most sticky guest list issues, which are usually inherently unfair to someone).

    • meg

      Yup. If you invite people from work, the hard and fast rule is that you have to invite your boss, and TRUST ME, your boss knows the rule. That said, if your really best friends with some girls from work, you can invite them and have them keep their mouths shut and tell the office they didn’t go, if asked. But you need to be best enough friends for them to do that, probably.

      • Emily

        That makes sense. I think it probably works best in an office where everyone is a reasonable, polite person. It just seems like a shame to have to choose between (1) inviting your close friends and your horrible boss who will definitely come and will likely make you uncomfortable or act weird on your wedding day, or (2) avoiding the mess with your boss but not being able to share the day with your friends.

        I think you’re always safe following the rule, but for me personally, I think this is a rule I would choose to break in this particular situation. I’d rather risk offending my boss than excluding genuinely close friends (and I wouldn’t want to ask anyone to lie — you’re right that they would literally have to be your best friend for that to be worth it). But that’s just me. Which is a major reason why my guest list a terrible nightmare — my stubborn nature is making it pretty hard to swallow sending invitations to people I actively don’t want to come.

        • Morgan

          It’s hard to risk offending your boss if you need to keep your job. I’ve worked for a boss who had, shall we say, boundary issues, and a slight like that would have got me fired and there’s nothing HR could/would have done to save me. In an ideal world, your personal choices don’t affect your work life. In the real world, sometimes you have to not piss off your boss if you want to get that promotion.

          Or, you know, get a new job with a new boss.

          • meg

            Agreed. I’ve been in workplaces where this sort of slight would have stopped all further upward movement, nothing HR could have done about it. Damn imperfect worlds, damn.

          • Totally with Meg, I’ve been in that office too and it BLOWS.

      • Another Alice

        Huh. Wish I had known that this was a hard and fast rule before our invites went out. The fiancee & I are planning to invite my boss, but it’s a later invite (the others went out a month or two back), and I don’t know if she’ll feel insulted (though I think not). I had thought before that inviting your boss might look like you’re trying to suck up.

        Now the question becomes that if I invite the current boss, do I have to invite the previous boss in the same office?

        • meg

          The rules would say no. Office politics might say differently.

          • Another Alice

            Thanks. I thought I’d been good about researching all the etiquette I never learned from friends or family, so when I hear things like this and realize that there’s more I still didn’t discover, sometimes I just groan and feel like I live under a rock. Or on the moon.

            Etiquette feels like a foreign language sometimes (except I’m so much better at languages). If you learn enough to say “I don’t speak Russian/Hindi/Chinese”, even if you can literally only say those words, the locals assume you’re being modest and attribute all sorts of linguistic skill to you. If I know enough to hand address the envelopes, I must know to invite the boss… right? Pshaw.

    • memery

      hmm. I’m going to have to agree with Emily here. I work in an office of about 200 people and I have 3 bosses, depending on how you slice it (“eight, bob!”) I’ve worked here for 8+ years and have two very close friends who also work here. Yes, this is where I met them, but I consider them both very close friends regardless of work now. If I left my job, they would still be very close friends. They are not “work friends” in my mind. I know their wife/kids and fiancee very well and we all three hang out outside of work on a very regular basis. I am inviting them to my wedding this fall, but no one else from work. If it helps, I am part of a small work group of about 15. One of those two friends is part of that workgroup. All of them know about the wedding, none of them expect to be invited (or will be surprised to hear that our co-worker/my friend DID attend.)

      So I guess in short — I believe Meg that there is a rule here (though I didn’t know about it before), but I still think it depends on the situation and maybe specifically about whether you consider the invitees “work friends” or “lifetime friends.”

      • TNM

        Agree. Size and culture of the office matters. I now have a v. small office, invited all, and the all or nothing rule definitely applied. Previously I worked for a huge firm, and I don’t even know what “inviting you boss” would look like in that situation. And I’ve been to at least a dozen “big firm” weddings, and it’s typical that only close work friends are invited. Sometime a partner who the bride/groom works with a lot, but I’d say there are few expectations on that front. (To the contrary, really, it would be outright odd to invite all partners who could be deemed your “supervisor”…)

        • Definitely, which is why I said that we can’t offer advice that’s going to fit every situation because only the people involved are aware of the dynamics. It’s tough, but you have to weigh your options and do you best. Any decision that’s made thoughtfully, even if people’s feelings get hurt, isn’t all wrong.

        • Thanks for this – baby lawyer here, at a large firm, and I was having a hard time navigating the advice in this thread – I can’t even identify my “boss” since I do work for 5-6 partners on any given day! Essentially, what I ended up doing was inviting a few other associates that I’m close with (i.e. my fiance plays soccer with one, I go running with another, etc), and one partner. That partner was invited because I do most of my work for him, I genuinely like him, I’ve met his family, etc. I don’t think he’ll come, but wanted to extend the invite. But, like you said, I definitely feel that it would have been weird if I invited all the partners I work for!

          • Amy March

            Also work for a bunch of partners! One other consideration for me was my wedding- kinda princessy. Strapless, sparkly, I’m probably going to cry all my way though it. I expect to get tipsy on champagne, share a bundle of kisses with my new husband, and make a fool of myself on the dance floor. And while it’s not that I think being a bride on my wedding day is unprofessional, it doesn’t really fit with the hard working no-nonsense image I have at work, so I decided no partners, and one associate only, who went to law school with me.

    • Midwest Lantern

      I differ from the rule books on this question. Like the letter-writer, when I got married I worked in an office of only 7 (offices of 7 don’t have an H.R. department, by the way). It felt like I needed to either invite all or none – and 7 becomes 14 when people bring guests, and some coworkers did not get along at all. I ultimately invited only 1 person, who was not my boss – she was the one coworker who was my age, knew my husband, and whom I regularly hung out with outside of work (people knew this, so I think they understood why she was invited). I did nervously talk about the wedding being small in order to hopefully stave off any potentially hurt feelings, but it was fine. Our office culture was not very chummy anyway, and I knew I would not be at that job much longer. I am really happy with my decision because I would have felt very nervous if certain personalities had been there — I wanted good energy people.

  • Angela

    Ooooh….I dunno. I know inviting some people to the reception only is becoming more common in the US, but I still have a problem with it. I guess because to me, the magic is all in the ceremony…the vows, the rituals, the community of it all. Being deemed worthy only to party with you afterwards would sting a little. If you want a big party, invite me to your anniversary party next year, or a blow out Fourth of July party or whatever…but I’d feel a little bummed about being invited to a wedding reception only.

    • meg

      No one’s wedding is an imposition. If you don’t like what you’re invited to, kindly decline. If you’re lucky enough to get an invite to their fourth of July party next year, go.

      But is it a totally ok way to do things? Hell yes. Lots of people want their vows to be semi-private, or just for close family, and that’s fine. They can still have a party. I want to celebrate friends weddings any old way I can. If we don’t get invited, we have a standing policy of taking them out to a fancy dinner when they get back from their honeymoon. If it’s small and we only get invited to the reception, or hell, the after party, we will Be There, if we can be. Because the point is celebrating them.

      What wouldn’t be ok is having a ceremony with 100 people and a reception with 110. That would be a snub. But a ceremony with 10 people and a reception with 50? Hell, I’d be honored to be part of the 50.

      • Yup. If you only invited me to your reception and not your ceremony (and it wasn’t something local), I more than likely wouldn’t go.
        But I’d be glad for the invite, send my regrets AND a nice present, and DEFINITELY never tell you why I didn’t come. Because that’s just sh*tty.

        • Angela

          Well yeah, of COURSE I’d never tell someone I wasn’t coming to their party because I wasn’t invited to their reception. Depending on circumstances I might very well get over my hurt feelings and go, bring a great gift and toast the hell out of the couple.

          But for me the whole point–the ONLY point–of etiquette in the first place is to consider the feelings of your community. And as we’re hashing out the question, I was just registering a vote for “yeah, this doesn’t feel so good to me.”

  • Sarah

    Oooooh boy….

    1. I don’t have a lot of imput on the small wedding large reception issue … other than to say if I received an invite for the reception only, I would be just as thrilled as if I received an invite to the ceremony.

    2. Co-worker invites: I actually invited my boss… and no one else. She’s astute enough to keep it to herself, and everyone was happy. She declined (as we were married on the opposite side of the country), but was still touched we’d invite her.

    This issue, though, came up with my family. My mom has a zillion cousins, some I’m close with, some I’ve never met. She was DETERMINED that we would invite them all (to our sub-100 guest wedding), but I put my foot down and did the all-or-nothing route … in our case, non of the cousins were invited. The ones I am close with understood, and it worked out, for the most part.

    We DID, however, have one great aunt who forwarded her invite to her children, and their children. I received an RSVP from her (the invite she received was for 2) for *22* people. And she was asking where they should stay. Um … no? Luckily, my godmother stepped in and explained to her that w e just could not include an extra 20 people. G-A said ok, and backed off. Then then declined to come, herself. ::sighs:: You just can’t please everyone.

    3. Kids. Oooooh, here’s one near and dear to my heart. Only a few of our guests have kids, and ideally, we wanted none. But, my 2 year old godson was our ringbearer, and both his parents were in the wedding party (and don’t live in the area), so finding a babysitter/someone staying with him wasn’t going to happen. That’s fine, he’s a good kid. BUT, now we had to include my cousins’ demon children (seriously, I went to give one a hug and he kicked me … while his mother told me I shouldn’t have come to bother him. Um, what?), also in the 2-3 year old range. Including the godson, but no other kids was a fight I was not willing to have.

    Which is all to say … GAWD, invite drama SUCKS!

    • Jo

      the elder family is the most interesting. His grandma decided to expand our guest list by over 100, which was the total guest list. We said no and she backed down some, but there’s still snark from it.

      I’m finding cultural influences most interesting. Some people expect everyone we know and everyone they know to be there. His grandma? totally had three people at her wedding, but expects to use ours to impress everyone she knows. You cannot please everyone, and unless you go for just doing the right thing/pleasing yourself, you’re going to piss off EVERYONE.

      • Sarah


        It was an open secret that my family viewed our wedding as a way to “impress” their friends / my husband’s family (who wouldn’t have cared if we were married on a street corner, so long as we were happy!).

        Which meant my mother sent invites to a TON of her friends, (some I’d never met …. good thing they turned out to be lovely people!) and gave me huge amounts of guilt for not including girls I’d grown up with, but am not still close to.

        I guess I should have been surprised. My aunt was married with 400 guests, most of which were business contacts of my grandfather. I still don’t understand it.

      • Midwest Lantern

        Wow, I am shocked by these people trying to expand your guest lists! Just…wow.

      • The wedding as the American Dream. You didn’t have many people at your wedding, but your kids and your kids’ kids better have huge affairs.

    • Yowza! 22 extras!

      I’d be worried about something of the same because my family will (and has) done stuff like that, but doesn’t bother to RSVP at all and so you get people on your wedding doorstep with extra guests in tow like “Hey! You can totally seat this many extra, ok! *whizzes past*”

  • Kristin

    What’s the problem with inviting people to the ceremony only? My friends got married last summer at a huge church and the ceremony was open to everyone- parents of friends, church aquaintences, classmates, students (bride is doing her PhD), swimmers (groom is a swim coach) etc.. There was tea and cookies afterwards and everyone just enjoyed being able to see them get married. The reception was later in the day and only close friends and family were invited. That seemed ok to me. (Although I was invited to the reception, so I guess I don’t have the other perspective)

    • C.

      Hi Kristin,
      I just posted on this above, but another observation: I’m getting the sense that this is more acceptable and common in Church communities. Which is kind of what I meant when I referred to subcultures.

    • As someone posted above, since your friend had tea and cookies afterward, there was a reception of sorts, albeit small, for those people only invited to the reception. I think that’s acceptable because then the newly married couple will be able to greet and thank those who came.

      If they just had a ceremony and took off immediately for a small reception without greeting anyone, that doesn’t seem right.

    • In some of the church communities I participated in growing up, everyone was invited to the ceremony, and close friends/family were the only ones at the reception. I always thought this was semi-backward because the ceremony was more intimate, but it is the norm in some places.

  • Jo

    We set rules early, stuck to them, and tried to make them be as Miss Manners as possible. My favorite thing was her response that it’s a small family thing, regardless of who/how many are coming.

    We lucked out in that the only people we know from work/want to invite are the bosses. WHEW.

    The interesting thing to me is that the people I was pressured into inviting, the people that I knew I had to but it was really hard to do so because they can be jerks–those are the people who aren’t coming! I count myself lucky in that. It’s going to trend heavily toward his people because of location, but they’ll be wonderful.

    • emily rose

      This happened to us, too! The random extended family members that we were forced to include (many of whom I literally had never met) didn’t show up. Some didn’t even send in an RSVP card, which – rude? Yes. But it was good in the end.

  • One of my friends told me while she was pregnant that if I had a no kids policy at my wedding she wouldn’t come!
    I only know 2 people with young children, one will be 18 months at my wedding and she’s fine with not bringing him, and the other will be 7 months (the aforementioned bump!). I just don’t think they’ll have fun, I don’t want them to cry in the church and their parents have to go outside (or not go outside and I have to put up with a screaming baby during my vows!), and I don’t want their parents to have to leave super early.
    But I think I’m just going to invite them both so I don’t offend.

    • For us, nursing babies were invited. It’s really hard to leave an infant who has to eat every few hours alone. Toddlers are different, and need more distracting. We had 5 nursing babies, and they mostly slept the whole evening, in between nursing.

  • Harriet

    APW is magic. I am getting married tomorrow (yay!!!), and we are having a tiny courthouse ceremony in the morning (basically immediate family and a few very close friends), and then a bigger reception (about 60) in the afternoon. We pretty much followed the advice here: we spread the word that we were having a tiny ceremony and could not bring more than a certain number to the judge, and then made it clear on the invitations that guests were being asked to a reception. Most everyone has been thrilled to be invited to the party, and understanding of the reasons we chose to to dour wedding this way.

    The only people who complained were a couple old friends of my parents. This was very upsetting to me at the time, but the closer we’ve gotten to the wedding, the more I’ve realized how valid our personal and practical reasons for our choices were, and I don’t regret ruffling a few feathers. The people who are dearest to us are not at all offended: they just want us to do what’s right for us.

    It is true that people who might have come to the wedding if they were invited to the ceremony are not coming–not in protest, but because traveling a long distance for a party on a Saturday afternoon is difficult, and they probably don’t feel as compelled to be present as they would if they were invited to a ceremony. We understand this, and I must say it makes the presence of our guests who are traveling to be with us even more meaningful.

    I would add one final thing about presents. We made a registry, because friends and family wanted us to, but we did not advertise it anywhere (certainly not in the invitations, and we didn’t make a wedding website). People asked us, our families and friends if we had one, and the word got out that way, but we made it very clear we did not expect presents. It was especially important for me to emphasize this because we’re not inviting everyone to our ceremony. And people have been incredibly generous anyway.

    • Erin

      Congratulations in advance! Hope you have a wonderful day!

    • First off – Congratulations!!! So exciting :) Just curious about the language you used on the invites…I’m a little worried that just by saying “wedding reception” people may not pick up on the subtlety.

      • Harriet

        We said, “To celebrate their marriage, Harriet and Partner cordially invite you to a reception on x date at x place.”

    • Congratulations and enjoy the day . . . soak it all in.

    • Sarah

      Congratulations for tomorrow – have a fabulous day!

    • Oh congratulations! Have a wonderful, magical day. I’ll send good vibes your way!

    • YAY FOR YOU!!! Congratulations, it’ll be wonderful!!!

    • Congratulations, lovely!

    • Amber

      I’m getting married tomorrow too– crossing my fingers for both of us lol. Congratulations!

      This is my second wedding so we said absolutely nothing about gifts to anyone, and I have no idea whether anyone is doing anything or not. I guess we’ll find out, but we didn’t want people who gave me a gift for my first wedding to feel like they had to do it again, so no registry.

  • Erin

    Last spring I was invited to “just the reception” of a very good friend. I did not feel snubbed at all, since she made a point of letting everyone know that the ceremony was going to be just immediate family and their small wedding party. (It was not the first marriage for either partner, so they wanted to keep it low-key.)

    So glad I don’t have to even think about kids at our wedding. I love ’em, and I don’t think the day would be complete without them! However, all my friends with kids have been known to attend weddings child-free, and they were grateful for the evening out!

    Is it really required to invite bosses if you are inviting co-workers? I have a few that I’m considering inviting because they have been such good work friends. At the end of the school year (I’m a teacher), my vice principal was asking me when the wedding was and saying that he didn’t think he’d be able to make it. I made polite chit-chat, but in my head I was thinking, I don’t recall sending you an invitation! I have two “bosses” (assistant principal and principal), and while I like them and don’t have any worries about their behavior in public, they weren’t on my initial guest list at ALL. Should they get invites? For what it’s worth, it’s an early afternoon wedding with a light lunch buffet (finger foods) and wine and beer. Adding a few extras wouldn’t kill the budget, but I want to be careful since I only have $5,000 for the wedding.

    • Rachel

      I don’t think it is required to invite bosses if you are inviting co-workers. I am inviting one co-worker out of a very large group and so far so good. Many of my other co-workers love to ask about the wedding (often the same damn questions over and over again) but they are not invited and if they think they are well….that will be one empty mailbox. I think not sending him an invite is ok. My policy for co-workers has been “if I don’t socialize with you outside of work and you don’t even know my fiance’s name of the top of your head…no invite”. In the end though you have to do what works for you. Good luck and yes, guests list suck.

    • Meg and others discussed this above, but yes, that’s the ettiquette rule. But, consider your environment and your options and make the best decision you can.

  • bpye

    I have been stalking this website for a few weeks now. It has become my one and only wedding guilty pleasure. Jerry (the man I will be lucky enough to marry in July, I hate the word fiance and I hated the word boyfriend before that… husband sounds just right to me) and I have been planning the most awesomely non-traditional wedding since we decided to make this whole thing official. We struggled through a lot of these issues, did well with some and broke the rules on others. A friend bought me a tiny book called Wedding Zen (which I think was supposed to be a joke) that has been saving my life. It had, what I thought was, some wonderful advice on guest lists for a small wedding. As you think about inviting someone, think about if you would take them out for a nice dinner. If the answer is yes – they stay on the list. If the answer is no – think twice. It worked for us!

    • No need to consider it a “guilty” pleasure – I think you can classify APW as mandatory pre-wedding reading to ensure your sanity ;-)

  • C.

    Re: the kids issue, we have a bit of an variation on it, that this post is making me rethink.
    Basically we were very happy to have a kid friendly wedding. My fiance has two younger brothers (9 and 12) so they’ll obviously be there and we figured they’d like company. On my side there are a handful of friends with kids; on his there are lot of cousins, many of whom are kids or have kids (big family).
    Since we made the initial list, however, we got a bit concerned about numbers – we were right up against the venue capacity with no room for dancing and some important friends still not invited. (we couldn’t get a larger venue) His mother then suggested that we cut out cousins – that they wouldn’t be too perturbed by not coming.
    Now that exclusion rule is around category – cousins – not age. But if we’re consistent about it, it means that there are a couple of families where parents (aunts and uncles) will be invited but their children (between 2 and 16) are not. Meanwhile the kids of friends (and of course my fiance’s brothers) are currently still invited.
    Is this going to come across as inconsistent and unfair even though, in another way, it is consistent? If so, do we need to change the guest list again, either to accommodate those cousins who still live at home with their parents (and is that a problem when that splits siblings) or cut out the kids of friends too? The further complicating factor is that I’ve already mentioned to friends that their kids are welcome… It’s not impossible to let them know it’s changed – they’re generally understanding and some have intimated that they probably wouldn’t bring their kids anyway as they’re very young and its a night wedding. However I’d rather not change if I don’t have to. I was actually really looking forward to kids at the wedding!
    I think I’m going to have to talk it through with future mother in law, but any ideas are welcome…

    • KateM

      I have a number of cousins who I grew up with [my parents both one of 8 kids (crazy Irish Catholics)] and some are invited and some are not. I think aunts and uncles are must invites, but cousins are not. Especially if you don’t know the kids. I think it is ridiculous to invite kids you aren’t close to, and by default leave out an adult that you would like to have there. Frankly I would rather have a miffed Aunt than a missing friend.

      • Beb

        Thank you for this, KateM. My mom is one of 9 (crazy Irish Mexican Catholics!) and I have a buncha cousins, some of whom I am close with, some of whom I am not. Of the ones I am not close to, several have children that I have either never met or have met once, as well as significant others who I’ve never laid eyes on. These cousins also happen to be rather disruptive/creepy/otherwise undesirable presences at family events.

        I struggled with this issue and both of my parents told me, listen, it is MADNESS to not invite a close friend so that a cousin (who I’m not even close with or even particularly want at my wedding in the first place) can bring his or her child/baby momma/baby daddy. So yeah, I am going to be inconsistent, and invite the kids who I know and/or whose parents I like. There it is. We are also facing an extremely strict seating limit and I feel like every seat is precious.

    • We stuck to categories too, rather than ages. All of our first cousins got invitations. One of mine is 4 years old, so he’s the only kid invited.

  • KateM

    I have 7 nieces and nephews under the age of 5 who are all in the wedding. The only other children invited are the siblings of those in the wedding. A ton of my friends have kids, most of them small, and many of them are terrible. I am planning on calling them each up and telling them no kids, but I have babysitters on reserve for the out of towners and am planning on helping them make arrangements if necessary. I know certain cousins will put up a stink, but their kids are the devil and have been major distractions at other weddings. That being said, my siblings are planning on sending their kids home with a babysitter after dinner because it will be bedtime and they want to party without them!

  • supershineystar

    We are getting married in April next year and already have had people enquiring as to when the wedding is and whether they are invited or not. We decided to tackle the issue by saying that we’re having immediate family (approx 30-40) only to the ceremony and afternoon sit down meal due to cost restraints (though in reality we will have close friends there too but can’t say that to people because then they get offended that they are not your close friend!).

    We are then inviting everyone else (approx 120) to the evening reception, and to certain local friends I plan on informally saying to them that they are welcome to pop in and see us get married so long as they understand we can’t accommodate them for the sit down meal. We’ve also said no kids, with the exception of our own, my niece and nephew and the 2 kids of friends who are travelling from Australia to the UK to see us get married. No-one seems to have had a problem with the no kids/exception rule and we’ve been quite up front about it. A few friends have said ‘oh thank goodness, we’re so looking forward to having a night off from the kids!’

    Having a smaller ceremony and sit down meal, and then a much larger evening reception is very much the norm in the UK and while not everyone does it, its certainly not so unusual that people suck their cheeks in in shock! Likewise the ‘pay-for-drinks-yourself-bar’ especially at the evening reception is normal. We will probably pay for the first drink per person (via a card they give to the bar) and then they’ll pay for the rest themselves. Having no kids is more controversial but only because we are older (2nd marriage for both of us) and have kids ourselves and most people we know have kids, but we wanted the day to be about us, and spend money on us and our friends, not paying for loads of kids meals and listening to the screaming/chattering kids. Noone seems to mind and frankly, if they did, they can take a running jump :-)

  • Rachel

    The child free wedding is spot on. “Just because you were born does not give you the god-forsaken right to go to a wedding”. We struggled with this one like no other but in the end have decided to go to the no-kid policy and for the most part everyone has been understanding and somewhat grateful. This means that they can party all night with us and not have to leave early because it’s bedtime for little Johnny.

    I say we struggled with this because while our friend’s child is darling and is like a niece to us but my fiance’s actual nephew and cousin’s child are devils or totally inappropriate to bring to a wedding. His sister bitched about this but in the end understood.

    When people ask me why we aren’t allowing kids I either cite that we want our friends there to have a good time and party with us all night or budget reasons. They usually nod their head and if they are lying while noding their head…too bad.

    It is a sticky ass situation.

  • Paige

    I was a late invite to a friend’s wedding. She was up front in the beginning that their families are huge and they wouldn’t be able to invite friends because of it. Then the week before she called and said that people couldn’t come and would I like to. Of course! I wasn’t upset about being “second string” it’s a wedding, not the end of the world if you don’t get invited.
    My future sister-in-law’s mother had a great quote when talking to her about being invited to my wedding (I’ve known her family since I was little and love her, so not an awkward conversation). She said “I didn’t live my life to be invited to a wedding, so if i’m not, who cares!?”

  • Dori

    About the kids thing. I felt VERY strongly about this. Most of our friends have kids and in almost every social situation I graciously accommodate nap time, melt-downs, interruptions, and stories about sleep and toilet training. I was not willing to do this on my wedding day. Kids’ names were not on invitations, nobody was confused, and nobody complained. Local people made childcare arrangements, a few faraway friends attended sans husband and kids (making a great, rare, girls-only night possible). Two families brought their <2 year-old-tykes from across the country (no way around it). We hired a babysitter and they were tended to in a room adjacent to the reception area.

  • NNN – That’s exactly what we did because we pretty much had to. There were about 35 people at our ceremony, basically adult family only (adult cousins weren’t invited even). And then the reception that evening had 150-200 people at it. And nobody got offended. But that’s also because it is the cultural norm for us. A marriage in an LDS temple is a very small event and only those who have a recommend to enter a temple may attend. The room the ceremony is in is always rather small. I think the largest ones seat around 40. Some of the smallest ones seat around 10. On our invitations we listed the day we were getting married and all of the reception details. For those invited to the ceremony we included an extra card with all the details for that.

    • Seraph

      One of my coworkers when I worked for my dad is LDS (or do you say “is a Mormon”? clueless girl is clueless) and managed to absolutely bewilder us all by managing to keep the wedding a secret! She didn’t want to have to explain that we couldn’t go to the ceremony, so she took a random vacation and came back married. I guess she had a really small wedding.

      We don’t live in a very LDS-heavy area, so it would have taken a lot of explaining–we come from the land of the enormous, everyone is invited, let’s fill up this church wedding. But how you keep a wedding that secret, I have -no- clue.

      • We got a few questions from people (a work colleague got a little tipsy one night at a gathering and started going on about it). We opted to explain why to people and even wrote a page on our wedding (now family) blog about why that type of marriage was important for us. And why it limited who we could invite.

        I think a random vacation where you come back married is an elopement. :)

      • Feel free to contact me at my blog if you want any explanations or have any other questions. I’m happy to talk about it.

  • Sarah

    We decided to have an aufruf (a Jewish ceremony where the groom (and bride since we are egalitarian like that) are honored during a torah service. I’ve always wanted one. Traditionally it was the way a wedding was announced to the synagogue community. As such, we are able to have a big aufruf and a smaller wedding. It means my dad can invite his Talmud class, I can invite work colleagues, etc. We will serve a bagel breakfast afterwards. Part of the reason I decided that an aufruf was a good way to include people who we couldn’t invite to the wedding is that was its traditional role and that Martha Stewart never heard of it so she can’t tell me I’m doing it wrong. Perhaps your tradition has a custom that can be used in a similar way?

    • Rymenhild

      Another related Jewish custom for including additional friends and family (although rare outside the Orthodox movement and the most religiously observant sections of the Conservative movement) for including extra friends/family is the Sheva Brachot party. Sheva brachot are the seven blessings spoken over a newly married couple, and traditionally the couple’s supposed to have the blessings said over them seven times during the week after the wedding. You have to have a minyan (ten people) to be able to say the blessings, and you have to have at least one person present who hasn’t heard the blessings spoken over the couple already. So the couple’s closest friends and family host informal dinners in the week after the wedding, and they invite some of the couple’s friends, family, acquaintances and community members who for whatever reason weren’t invited to the wedding. In the end, everyone gets to celebrate!

    • GeePuff

      “…that Martha Stewart never heard of it so she can’t tell me I’m doing it wrong.”

      Holy crap, I love that sentiment. The fella told me the other day (while i was ruminating on lanterns vs. strand lights) that I needed to , “Tell, Martha Stewart or whoever the hell else got into your head to shut it. DO what you like and what you want and we’ll make it happen.” I love that goofy southern boy

  • LBD

    We’re doing the small ceremony, big reception thing. We’re having the ceremony on Friday, then a small dinner with just the attendees (I call it our backward rehearsal dinner). Then the reception is the next evening. I’m excited about the division between family time and friend time. I’ll have paid the appropriate time dues to the parents during the ceremony/dinner, so I will hopefully have more friend time at the reception. That’s the hope at least, we’ll see!

    We’re shy people, and didn’t want to be speaking our most personal feelings in front of a large group, but we did want to celebrate with our friends. So this was our compromise. No one has gotten mad at me yet, but there’s certainly still time.

  • LBD

    Oh, and we’ve somehow avoided the kid problem. Very few of our friends and family have kids. Not because we’re childfree or the like, but more because we’re all late-bloomers. The few kids we have among us are great, and I’m hoping if they can make it out, the natural history / dinosaur theme will entertain them fine!

    • Natural history/dinosaur theme? I’m so intrigued and must see pictures!

      • LBD

        After looking at more traditional places, we ended up having the party at the Natural History Museum on the campus of the local university. A good price, I’m supporting local science education with my rental fees, and as the boy and I are uncomfortable with the whole center of attention thing, we’re excited that there will be things for people to look at besides us the whole time, hehe.

    • Stephasaurus

      I’m SO JEALOUS of your theme. My “dream wedding” (I say that with quotes because I don’t really have a dream wedding, and I’m totally ecstatic about where we ARE having our wedding) would be in the Smithsonian Natural History Museum or the Field Museum…but waaaaaaaaaaaay too much $$.

      • Kara

        Wait – you can have it at the Smithsonian Nat. History Museum? Seriously? where’s the info for that? It would be awesome!

  • Stephasaurus

    These discussions came at such a perfect time, because my fiance and I have been talking a lot lately about our guest list, and about kids at the wedding (which we do not want, unless it’s cousins). A friend of ours suggested we do what she did: say on the invitation, after the ceremony info, “Adult reception to follow.” I was like, “Durr, why didn’t I think of that?” My only worry is that good friends of ours who are from out of state, and have kids, won’t be able to come if they can’t bring their kids (though the two people I’m thinking of both have parents or in-laws nearby the kids should be able to stay with, so they STILL have no excuse). But we’ll just have to hope for the best!

    • Lindsey

      Steph, I think we were writing almost the same thing at the same time! All of my friends who have kids (and it’s only 5 couples) live across the country, but almost all of them do have close family who can theoretically watch over them for a couple of days. So I’m really hoping they will choose that option (and hello–adult getaway weekend in LA sounds perfect to me!), but I am going to invite their kids just to be on the safe side. (Maybe.) Kids are so complicated!

      • Stephasaurus

        Kids ARE so complicated! Especially because the kid of one of the couples I referred to — I babysat him from the time he was a little baby up until I left the state when he was 1 and a half years old. I feel like he should be allowed to come, but what three year old boy wants to come to a wedding?! The kids/weddings issue is such a touch one because there are so many different situations, which makes it somewhat difficult to get advice!

        • Lindsey

          I went to a wedding recently where the 2.5-year-old (one of only 2 kids there) was the life of the party! He cracked everyone up during the toasts, joined the bride and groom for the first dance, flirted with all the ladies, and took a nap on the floor during dinner. It was pretty hilarious and adorable! So sometimes little kids can add a little extra fun to a wedding, whereas most people focus on the potential meltdowns and disasters. So hopefully you’ll have a similar good experience if he comes! :)

  • emily rose

    The guest list was a huge point of boundary-setting tension for us. My stepmom took it upon herself to verbally invite 30+ couples (Couples. Not invidual people.) without ever discussing it with us, and was rather unhappy when we told her she would then need to verbally un-invite about 25 of them. We gave each of our parents a total number of friends to invite and the rest of them respected that number (though this gets really tricky when it comes to who is paying for the wedding, of course). We had to be really firm about this decision over and over again, as her friends kept getting invited against our wishes. Literally, one week before the wedding, she was texting me with names of more people she “just really needed” to invite. We did allow a few extras to be added when her original invitees couldn’t come due to illness, but there were a lot of difficult “NO” conversations.

    So, set your boundaries. Then, be gracious and flexible when necessary and choose your battles wisely, but stick with them.

    • Oh my God, you must have the other half of this amulet. Guest list boundaries with my mom was my number one source of wedding stress. For us, there were cultural issues at play. I.e. my parents come from a segment of Chinese society wherein if someone sends you a wedding invitation, you HAVE to send them a gift or money whether or not you attend. My mom (kindly) didn’t want to put that kind of pressure on her friends, but rather than talking it through with us, she told me that she only needed invitations for our immediate family and then proceeded to verbally invite her whole church (thus getting around the gift-obligation thing). It wasn’t until I had a sobbing breakdown at my final dress fitting because of having to add another table of guests a week before the wedding that she finally understood why this wasn’t okay. (Moral of the story, communication, communication, communication!)

      • emily rose

        This came up for us, too – my (now) husband’s mother is Chinese, and at first we were sad that she didn’t seem to want to invite very many people. It was mostly because they were all from out-of-town and therefore couldn’t come but would have to send a gift; the few we did invite were really generous gift-wise despite not attending. Usually there are good intentions involved, but sometimes there sadly are not.

        Yeah. Communication. Sometimes sobbing in a dress store (or, in my case, yelling at my cell phone in the parking lot of work while reading a text message) is also a good solution.

    • GeePuff

      Man, I am with you on this. I’m a big fan of my FMIL most days, but she’s under the mistaken impression that my parents are the Kennedys and that this means she can invite everyone with whom she’s ever spoken. Seriously, she wanted to invite her 14 year old’s middle school principle (who fella and I have never met). Some difficult conversations were had and finally we just had to tell her that the venue only holds X people so she could only invite Y guests and that was that. She was pretty huffy about it, but what can you do? And she keeps trying to sneak people onto the list saying, “Oh, they won’t actually come, but we just have to invite so-and-so’s cousin, you remember her don’t you, she used to babysit fella when he was 6.” Sigh.

      • emily rose

        Eek. Yeah, we did a strict number and that didn’t even work. We set a rule that at least one of us had to have met all of our guests (barring specific reasonable exceptions), which knocked out a lot of random “extremely important” friends and acquaintances. Maybe that rule could work for you guys? I mean, if I’ve never even heard their name before, they probably aren’t actually “like a sister” to my stepmom (with whom I’m very close). We had the sneaking, too – a few women somehow appeared at my bridal shower who had not been allowed onto the wedding guest list, so they had to be invited.

        It was obviously just a big messy emotional issue and wasn’t really about the guest list itself – sometimes you have to breach the real deep stuff. Good luck :)

        • Sneaky guests! I love this. When I had been married to my ex for about a year, his brother got married during a huge festival in our home town. (I am not kidding by huge, this is the largest Octoberfest outside of Germany) Some very close friends of mine were in town for the fest and we asked if they could come to the wedding to celebrate. We asked, first point, and would have been okay with a simple “no”. My brother-in-law, however, FREAKED, due to pre-wedding stress I’m sure, and hollered at my ex for about an hour on the phone. We conceded, again understanding that it was their decision and remembering the wedding craziness.

          The part that got me was this. About a week before the wedding, I attended my FSIL’s bridal shower and bachlorette party and ended up talking to her mother…. about MY wedding…. which she was not invited to but attended anyway. Yup. A sneaky guest that I didn’t even know about until more than a year after the wedding.

  • Lindsey

    The children issue is weighing on me a bit, because originally I didn’t want any children at the wedding. (Not out of any kid-avoidance policy, just because it really didn’t occur to me.) I only have a handful of friends who have children, and ALL of them live at least 2400 miles away. Almost all of them have little tiny babies, meaning that if I didn’t invite kids then they most likely wouldn’t be able to come. So at this point, I think I’m going to err on the side of inviting kids…and then it will be a bonus if they are able to leave the kidlets at home with family members and show up ready to party! I mean…worst-case scenario is that I get to snorgle on some baby chub and their parents have to duck out early. (Not going to think about the real worst-case scenarios, la la la…)

    • Stephasaurus

      “Snorgle on some baby chub” might be my new favorite phrase. :)

  • My friends tried to populate the world last fall, so there will be a number of babies at our wedding. For cousins, we drew a line. If our cousins have children old enough that they can care for themselves, they are not invited. People are upset, but oh well. They can get over it. They do not understand the costs involved because we live in a bigger center than they do.

  • I don’t know if it’s okay to post a question, but this post has brought up quite a big one for me. Because my parents had children far later in life than their siblings, all of my cousins are 10-20 years older than me. I was invited to their weddings (less one), and I believe they all occurred when I was somewhere between 9-16.

    I was planning on having a child-free wedding. I’m not even close with my cousins, let alone their children. But this post has made me reconsider–do I have to invite their kids (ages range from 5-10) since I was invited to their weddings? To be fair, their weddings were much larger (and in MUCH larger venues) than mine will be; our current list is 174 with a max of 180. But the last thing I want to do is cause another feud. The last family wedding resulted in two sub-families not speaking to each other for over a year over a rehearsal dinner invite dispute.

    What do you think?

    • Invitations aren’t automatically reciprocal. However, some people think they are. Talk it over with your family and decide what’s best for you and your partner.

    • DtotheQ

      I am not even engaged, yet my cousins (also all 15-25 years older than me) keep messaging me on Facebook to find out whether I am “ready to get married yet”, so they can come to my wedding… Umm, what the? If they walked past me in the street I wouldn’t even recognise them!

  • I have something that I need to get off my chest.

    When I was two-ish, my parents took me to a wedding of one of my dad’s cousins (or second cousins– or something). We sat in the back of the church and apparently I talked the whole time. Just, like, blabbed and blabbed and blabbed. And we were all sitting right in front of the videographer, so my incessant toddler-speak was totally captured for all time in the footage of the ceremony.

    This is what I’m told, at least.

    So I’m sorry, random cousins of my dad’s who I’ve never seen since, that I totally ruined your wedding video. I am getting married soon and hope this confession means I’ve avoided any/all karmic retribution.

    • I was ten months old and at my parent’s wedding at the justice of the peace and apaprently, I spent the entire time saying my two favorite words, “Mama” and “No.” Apprently my parents and the JP couldn’t keep a straight face at the tiny human imposing her opinion on the ceremony by saying “No, no, Mama, no!” over and over again….

      I had no karmic retribution, so I have hope for you and your wedding. :-)

    • Bahahahaha!

  • Erin

    Am I allowed to ask a follow-up question here? Well, here goes anyways…

    One month after we got engaged, we threw a locals-only potluck no-gifts holiday party/open house (we just called it a holiday soiree) but since it was right after our engagement, it was kind of sort of an engagement party. I invited my kind-of-coworkers (I teach summer camp with them) and now they don’t fit on the wedding guest list…is this breaking A Rule? I would love to invite them, and totally will if I get enough regrets from distant cousins. But if not, have I snubbed? I don’t want to snub!

    • My initial reaction is that it isn’t a snub. You hosted a holiday party, and it would have been completely unreasonable for you to not acknowledge your recent engagement at that party. I don’t think it counts as a pre-wedding event.

    • You had a party where lots of people told you congratulations on your new engagement, you didn’t have an engagement party unless you said on the invites (or while inviting them) Come to our holiday soiree to celebrate our engagment!

      Invite them if you can, don’t worry if you can’t. You might snub even if you never had a party, you totally can’t please everyone, you can just do you best!

  • Amber

    Oh man, the kids issue is a big problem for us right now. We hired a friend of my aunt’s to decorate the wedding/reception site and do day-of coordination. When I met with her for the first time, she was going on and on about how I could use my little cousins (ages 13 and 10) as “hostesses.” Problem is, I wasn’t planning to invite them…they’re second cousins and I haven’t seen or talked to them since Christmas 2009. I assume my aunt is expecting the same thing. I have a friend who mentioned that he hopes he and his wife can come, but he’s not sure if she’s going to want to make a road trip with their new baby. Another cousin’s baby will arrive this month. And while I want them there, I don’t want a 2-month old screaming during my vows.

    But I can’t just say that it’s a kid-free wedding as I am absolutely inviting my beloved nephew and niece (they’re both 12). Hell, we’re considering having my nephew give me away along with my brother. We’re not inviting any of my fiance’s young cousins. My bridesmaid’s kids aren’t invited (she wants to have a grown-up night!). How can I minimize the number of people who are pissed? Can they really be mad if I’m only inviting TWO kids with whom I have a very close relationship?!

  • GeePuff

    Where do you practical ladies stand on inviting someone who you know won’t come, but who you also know will send a baller present? Tome, it kind of feels tacky (though, I do covet the dyson ball in ridiculous way). My mom and my FMIL have both wanted to invite people who they say they know won’t come (due to age, location or general southern crazyness) but will send gifts. My mom says this is totally normal and ok to do, but it makes me feel greedy.

    I do understand that in certain situations it may mean a lot to some people to get invited even though they know they won’t come (an aging great-aunt who needs 24 hour care, for example), but is there a line and if so, where might I find it and show it to the matrons of the party?

    • Class of 1980

      I think if you know the person would rightfully expect an invitation, then it’s okay to send it.

    • I often invite people to things I know they can’t attend because I want them to know that they’re still part of my life even though there are hundreds or thousands of miles between us now.

      There were people who we invited to our wedding that we knew couldn’t attend but we wanted them to know about our marriage and know we were thinking of them.

      • C.

        Even if i think someone won’t attend, i think it’s only a good idea to invite them if a) if they did come we could fit them in and b) I wouldn’t mind them being there. Otherwise I’m not really willing to take the risk! You never know… we invited all my overseas relatives, who have mostly never been overeseas, and really are quite poor, and it turns out that one or two are actually saving really hard to come. Luckily I’m really pleased about it but it could have backfired!

        • Of course. Don’t invite them if you wouldn’t actually want them there. But don’t not invite them just because you don’t think they’ll come. That’s what I’m getting at.

      • Since we are a two-country couple, we invited a good number of people (from my side/country- US) who we figured probably wouldn’t be able to come since the wedding was in his country (Canada). My parents and I had the hardest time trying to figure this out though, but finally we decided to evaluate my side of the guest list using this: “Would we be excited if this person were coming to our wedding?” or would we simply be perplexed as to why they had decided to come all that way for our wedding?

        By taking my expectations of whether someone would travel out of the equation, I was able to evaluate things based on the relationship alone. In deciding to invite the people I truly wanted to include and to let people decide on their own if they could/would travel to come, I felt a ton of freedom. I also prepared myself for a lot of “decline” RSVPs. The upside was that I felt truly joyful and thankful with each “Yes” RSVP. And that was what felt right to us…

  • I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Will and Kate actually did exactly what you’re “not supposed” to do in inviting an enormous number of people to the ceremony – nearly 2000 – and far fewer people to each of the reception events: less than half of the ceremony guests were invited to the luncheon, and less than half of THEM were invited to the evening reception.

    • Class of 1980

      I think I read that it’s standard protocol for a royal wedding.

      • Rachel

        It’s good to be a royal…

  • holly

    I have a similar question–that I am pretty sure is some kind of Wedding no-no.

    I want a small wedding but I don’t want to hurt anyone. Do you think it’s bad form to invite people that you know probably won’t be able to make it and even encourage them not to.. as in, “I know you probably won’t be able to make it all the way from Turkey, but I want you to know you were thought of…”

    Is that a recipe for disaster? Or is that a safe way to spare feelings?

    • Class of 1980

      IF they are important enough to you that you would have invited them if they lived near you, then I would send an invitation.

      An invitation is not an insult; it’s an honor. Even if they can’t come, they will appreciate knowing they were important to you. As far as what to say to them, you want to sound understanding if they can’t come, but not sound like you’re discouraging them from coming.

      I have a friend who didn’t invite me to a weekend trip because as she said later … “I didn’t think you’d want to go.” She was right that I didn’t want to go, but it still felt like a snub because I knew she invited everyone else.

      I wasn’t given a chance to decline and I feel she handled the situation without grace or etiquette. A photo of the weekend with ALL her other friends is displayed in her house. It would be a lot less awkward to be confronted with the photo if I had declined, rather than not having been invited. I also had to hear everyone discussing the weekend afterward.

      She really really loves me and she’s done tons of wonderful generous things for me (and vice versa). She’s thrown several birthday parties for me. But she is often negligent when it comes to finer etiquette. And I’ve had to remind myself of it a million times rather than taking it personally. But it’s not always easy.

      • I agree. I would rather be invited to something (bridal shower, wedding whatever), even if the person knows I mostly likely am unable to come because of distance or whatever. I dunno….I really appreciate the act of being included, even if the inviter knows I can’t come in advance. Probably not a logical thing to feel, but…

  • wasabi

    We really wanted a small wedding (less than 50 people). We tried to write the guest list, and no matter what we did our nearest and dearest just couldn’t be whittled down to that number. We took some time to grieve the wedding we wouldn’t have, and then got on the 100 person medium wedding band wagon. It was perfect for us.
    For the civil ceremony, it was just us and our immediate family at the court house. That was perfect too. If you can stick to your guns and have the size you want- AWESOME! But, if your community doesn’t fit on the list or its something you really need to compromise on for an important family member- It will be OK. and you can still have a wedding that feels intimate.

  • Kara

    Ok. That totally rings a bell. We just did our ‘initial’ must-invite (family and close friends and like 3 people at work (for me)) list and it’s 308 people. 308 people. I may cry.

    • I hear you. When I thought of who I’d want there I thought it would only be a handful. Until I started writing them down. Who knew I had so many friends!

  • Dalia

    I just wanted to add that it’s hard for the guest list to come out perfect without offending anybody As long as you are not a malicious person and are not intending to hurt anyone, please cut yourself a little slack and hopefully others who truly care about you will do the same.

    Looking back two years later, I have a few friends that I invited who barely speak to me now- for distance reasons or for their own personal/emotional reasons. And then there are people who I was just getting to know or become close with, that I wish that I’d invited because I had a hunch that we’d be close. But with all the costs associated with having a wedding, I was about to have a nervous breakdown so I forgive myself for not inviting them. Anyway, my life has changed and evolved since then and they will certainly be included in upcoming, less stressful events!

    I work at a school and had some genuine friends from work. I didn’t invite my AP or my principal and hopefully, they didn’t hold it against me. I meant to, but I had some hard choices to make with my guest list so I decided against it. I think, with so many people getting married later in life, more folks are getting how much weddings really cost but in this economy, if you think you’d be burning bridges by not inviting your supervisor perhaps you should. But in my work environment, it’s not a given and just my personal opinion, it shouldn’t be. I think it’s kind of awkward (and pretty wrong) that someone who has the power to take away your livelihood should expect to attend a personal, sacred event. It feels almost like an abuse of power to me, but people have to do what’s right for them.

  • LaurenF

    I have read (and I thought I read it from Miss Manners, though I can’t find the exact article now) that you only need to invite coworkers to your wedding with whom you socialize outside of work. However, in this case, if the question asker legitimately believes that not inviting her boss could hurt her career, then she might just have to bite the bullet and invite Ms. Obnoxious, hoping that she will be on good behavior. Perhaps she can put one of the other invited coworkers on Boss Duty, getting her out of the way if she’s on particularly bad behavior. This Miss Manners article could be of help:

  • Ms…

    This is the first time I have commented but I think this website is fab and it has already proved to be a great help to me and my partner (we haven’t even set a wedding date yet).

    Last year I attended 6 weddings of our friends and family which has helped highlight the minefield of issues involved in getting married. I’m from the UK and it is common practice to have a larger attendance at the reception than the ceremony partly because of the restricted size of the ceremony venue (i.e. church). An idea that has been increasingly popular with my parents’ friends is for the bride/groom’s parents to throw a low-key (& low cost!) party at their home for their friends to attend, either before or after the wedding. That way they get to celebrate their child getting married with their friends without the bride and groom having to either have a HUGE wedding or being unble to invite their friends because Mum’s friends must be invited.

    I’m sure we will somehow manage to offend someone but fingers crossed that we are able to keep those numbers to a minimum.

  • RJ

    I’m another New Zealander. Here it’s very common to have the ceremony be the biggest part – that’s the wedding after all, everything else is just the party.

    It’s common to have a small sit down dinner/afternoon lunch with the formal speeches, then the wedding dance in the evening.

    The practical way to go is to have
    1 – Ceremony – at a church, congregation and wider friends and family invited. By law it’s a public event – the door must be unlocked – so in theory anyone could pop in to watch.

    2 – Cup of tea and wedding cake after the reception, a couple of speeches – father of the bride, groom, thanking people for support.

    3 – Everyone has a break – couple get photos taken

    4 – Dinner somewhere else for smaller numbers (the expensive bit) Best man’s speech – personal speeches and entertaining stuff here.

    5 – Dance with larger numbers – this is tricky as you don’t want to finish up the dinner too late.

    if it were me, I’d do the church ceremony with the biggest numbers, then cups of tea/coffee, and wedding cake after the ceremony in the church hall.

    Then family dinner in the evening, potentially with a dance after.

    I’d feel short changed to be invited only to the party, and miss the actual event – the vows.

  • JayC

    I think it’s okay to do the private ceremony and bigger reception IF you let people know in advance what they will be invited to. Last year I was invited to the bridal shower and bachelorette party of a friend of mine but not to the ceremony. It was pretty upsetting to find out my invitation time was for the reception and not the vows. If I would have known in advance I think I would have taken it much better but admittedly, a year later, I’m still annoyed!

  • I invited everyone to my first wedding, as I thought I had to, and most of them, with the exception of some relatives who live far away, came. At the time, I didn’t think too much about the guest list and just invited people. It helped that my parents gave me a lump sum to help pay for the wedding.

    What I remember of the day, however, is that I spent a lot of time talking to people that I didn’t want to talk to or even like. Between my ex-husband’s family, family friends and neighbors and my estranged aunts, whom I still don’t like very much, I had almost no time to enjoy my wedding or spend time with my friends, or my husband for that matter.

    Now, I’m older and wiser and marrying again. One thing that the boyfriend and I agreed on was that we want to invite only people whom we truly wanted to be there, the guest whose absence would pain us. This allowed us to make a very small guest list and to truly evaluate the importance of each guest. We have had no (fingers crossed) drama at this time. Luckily, we have a small circle of very dedicated friends and supportive and understanding families.

    I went into my first wedding thinking that it didn’t matter what we did or what happened, doing only what I was told to do. I left that wedding feeling like it was not a representation of me at all. I go into this wedding reverent of the act of marriage and excited to share that renewal of faith in love with the people I love most in the world.

  • Marisa-Andrea

    The wedding ceremony versus reception can be tricky. I’ve been to weddings where the couple was pressured invite a bunch of people they didn’t know and ended up inviting less to the reception. It was quite awkward to have people say to me “Oh, you’re going to reception? I didn’t get invited to the reception, just the wedding.” But perhaps it was not as awkward for me as it was for the couple.

  • G-Man

    We had a family wedding a bit ago. All of the family of the groom’s father were invited. The groom’s father also served as best man. Not one member of the Mother of the groom’s family was invited nor present. The groom’s father ignores his wife’s family if he sees them in public and she is beginning to behave just like him. What think you?