Madeline: No More Apologies

A friend’s stylish manners blog, How To Do The Right Thing, recently addressed a question I’ve been struggling with: How to engage with someone whose nuptials you are skipping.

My questions are variations on the other side of this debate: How to approach people you skipped off your nuptials list, even though you really love them? Or: How to deal with people who you actually don’t like at all, and didn’t invite? And even the record-breakingly absurd: How not to feel bad about not inviting people you hadn’t even met yet to your wedding? Yes, in an epic stroke of anxiety creation, I have regretted not knowing people soon enough, or well enough, to send them an invite.

WTF? I ask myself. Shouldn’t there be a way to talk about the fact that I just got married without the knee-jerk justification that follows? “It was really really small, there were only, like, two and a half people there, we almost didn’t attend ourselves, so no hard feelings?” When did I start feeling so apologetic about the whole thing?

It’s partly because we really did have a small wedding, but that’s no excuse for crazy-making. As How To Do The Right Thing says, by not attending a wedding “you are not doing anything wrong or weird.” For not inviting someone, the same must hold true. Or, as Meg puts it in her book, “Your wedding guests are adults and should be treated as such.” This is such a sanity-restoring message that I’d like to reiterate it. Wedding guests? Grown-ups. Non-wedding guests? Grown-ups. Almost, would-be wedding guests? Also grown-ups! Barring, of course, actual infants, but that’s not the point. The point is that our decisions are made, our knots are tied. Why look back saying “If only we could’ve…” when we should be looking back saying, “That was awesome!” (Note: See photo of pie. Seriously. It was awesome.)

It’s also because, for me at least, putting on a wedding—even in miniature—really raised the bar in terms of celebratory event planning. I didn’t even think it was possible to know that many people’s home addresses, let alone mail out invitations and coordinate RSVPs. It’s easy to think that this year is the only year of my life I’ll go to the trouble of collecting close friends and feeding them all in one night. But that doesn’t need to be true. It’s just the only year when there will be such pressure and expectation involved.

In short, my conclusion this post is the same as it was for my last. (Turns out one can suffer withdrawal from even the most practical of weddings.) How to include everyone and everything in celebration of your new marital reality? More parties!

Photo credit: Joe Lingeman

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  • Rachel

    “It’s easy to think that this year is the only year of my life I’ll go to the trouble of collecting close friends and feeding them all in one night. But that doesn’t need to be true. It’s just the only year when there will be such pressure and expectation involved.”

    This is such a breath of fresh air. I don’t know what it is about wedding planning that has often caused me to think that this one day is the be-all and end-all to, well, everything. I have to keep reminding myself that the world will not stop turning on October 27th–that there IS life on the other side of my wedding date!

    Thanks for the much-needed reminder!

    • Rachel

      Oh, and those pies look fan-freaking-tastic!

    • That quote really resounded to me, too. I LOVE playing hostess and throwing parties, but I can’t wait for this particular party – probably the biggest one I will ever throw – to be over because of the PRESSURE. It’s ridiculous. September 29th will be a wonderful day, but September 30th will bring sweet relief.

  • Cleo

    All I could think about when reading this post was, “I’m hungry for pie.”

    Focusing on the awesome parts is definitely the thing to do — especially when you did nothing wrong by not inviting someone (I’m assuming) and ESPECIALLY when there’s pie that looks like those do.

    So I can continue to live vicariously through this pie — what kinds of pies are those?

    • Steffanyf

      Hah! Seriously! I want pie! All I can think is, “yum. Pie is delicious. I LOVE THAT THE WEDDING PIE IS LAYERED LIKE A CAKE”.
      In other news, yes. I have a friend who always apologizes profusely for not inviting me to her wedding back in 2009 because we just didn’t know each other super well yet. I always tell her not to worry about it-after all, there are always going to be people you meet AFTER you get married (well, presumably) and there will always be many different occasions to party. :)

      • Madeline

        Strawberry and rhubarb. Seriously, I logged on this morning and said to myself, forget parties. What about MORE PIE?

        • I think I commented somewhere that we were going to have a pie for every three people at our wedding. That ratio has gotten bumped to one pie for every 1.9 people. Pie FTW

          • Your wedding sounds awesome. As does any wedding where each guest gets about half a pie.

            But I am a teensy bit sad it didn’t stay around 3 so that you could claim it was one pie to every 3.14 people.

          • OMG. Thesasha…I totally wish I would have thought of that. <3

          • Jashshea

            Mini pies. I found a mini pie place! 4 inch pies. Which is sharing sized (or, you know, not sharing sized).

        • Cleo

          yum! I love how the strawberry/rhubarb juices bubble up and coat little pieces of the outer crust.

          And I do love how the pies get progressively smaller, like cake layers.

          anyway…how about parties with pie?

          • Madeline

            Parties with Pies Per Person…damn, someone should trademark this.

        • That has to be one of my favorite types of pies. It reminds me of the strawberry/rhubarb stuff my grandpa used to make with strawberries and rhubarb he grew himself.

          Darn it all. Now I want some strawberry/rhubarb jam on my ice cream! (or grandpa’s peaches)

  • I wish i held more ground when a not so close friend (but close enough to be invitied) asked me if she could bring a date (her bf of 2 weeks) i relunctantly said yes out of stress from the wedding and figured, “maybe she’ll marry him and he’ll be apart of our lives for ever” well instead, they broke up 3 days after our wedding… and now this stranger is all over my wedding pictures forever!!! i wish i had read this and stuck to “no dates unless they’ve been dating 6 months or more” rule :( My not so close friend is a grownup, she would have understood.

  • Leslie

    More parties, and definitely more pie!

    As I squee over small party details (hot cocoa bar! mason jars! individual pies!) or worry about inviting some close friends, and not inviting other friends, and yet am still ending up with a few of those that fall into the category of “never met”, this is GREAT advice.

    The wedding is but one party of many, I’ll save the individual mini pies for that.

  • Christine

    ““Your wedding guests are adults and should be treated as such.” This is such a sanity-restoring message that I’d like to reiterate it. Wedding guests? Grown-ups. Non-wedding guests? Grown-ups. Almost, would-be wedding guests? Also grown-ups!”

    I know this is true. But I have to keep reminding myself that these people who are being so difficult are actually grown-ups and they are the one’s who are behaving out of line (nothing major just not grown-up-like behavior) and that I’m not doing anything wrong.

    Basically – people are grown-ups so if they are not acting like it, that’s on them, not you.

  • I constantly tell my clients “your weddings guests are adults, or if they’re not then they have an adult with them. Adults are good at lots of things.”
    Also, I have never been offended to not be invited to a wedding. And as most of us get older, and see lots of people around us getting married, we realize that there are so many logistics involved in putting together wedding guest lists (money, capacity, family, etc) that any reasonable person will feel the same way.

    • meg

      Indeed. I always feel really sad for our friends having small weddings/ weddings across the country/ weddings full of family without space for all their friends, etc, that seem visibly embarrassed that we’re not invited, and don’t know how to talk about the wedding with us because of it.

      Truth: I don’t care! Your wedding is small or full! I want you to have a happy wedding day! I want to take you out to dinner afterwards and for you to show me pictures! Seriously, I don’t care! (And it’s WAY WEIRDER if you try to pretend that your wedding isn’t/ didn’t happen, and change the subject when it comes up. Seriously. Tell me about your small wedding, I want to hear about it. I’ve gone to plenty of weddings in my day, and I’ll go to plenty more, I swear to god it’s fine.)

      • I’m the same way. I have a “friendly” acquaintance at work who is getting married, and I was so excited to talk about our weddings! I knew she wouldn’t be inviting me, and I’m not planning to invite anyone from work, so I was totally comfortable with it. But she clearly felt bad. I just kept bringing it up after the invitations went out, so she would know I wasn’t upset. It just never occurred to me to be offended!

    • ElisabethJoanne

      See, lots of reasonable people I know have been offended to not be invited to a wedding – my parents and future in-laws, for starters. [Not OUR wedding, but other family weddings.] Of course, I also read about people who think a wedding invitation is a summons and order to appear, and are offended to be invited.

      So you can’t win.

      • KC

        I was horrified to find out that some people feel obliged to send a gift to anyone who sends them a wedding invitation. No! Really! An invitation is to invite *you* to the wedding, in case you want to come, because I like you or you have played a significant part in my life or because I just plain think you might like to come and would like you to have that option (we had a… large… guest list). But there were a few people who were in the must-give-gift-if-paper-invitation-is-sent who I sent verbal invitations to for that reason. It’s frustrating.

        • I always thought this was a weird etiquette rule. I typically send a card or write a note on the back of the RSVP card. But we had a few people that my future mother-in-law insisted we invite “because they won’t come but they will send a gift.” Ughhh.

      • Jess

        There was a wedding I wasn’t invited to, and I was totally okay with that. But then I actually got invited (along with a couple other Z-list friends) one week before the wedding, even though I would have to fly internationally (read: across the ocean) to make it. That DID offend me, and I sent my friend an email saying as much. Now that I’m planning my own wedding, I feel really bad about my reaction, though I still think it was really rude.

        I would have loved to have been invited as an A-list guest, and I was totally okay when no invitation came, but the week-before thing really got me. I guess when you aren’t invited, you can justify to yourself the reasons (“their wedding was small, I’m sure”, or “we aren’t as close as we once were, I totally understand that”), without the bride or groom having to justify it to you, and you have no problem dealing with it as an adult.

  • We had to hold firm against my grandmother trying to invite people in her family whom I’ve never met in my entire life. “But what will they think of me if you don’t invite my brother’s daughter’s stepkid and her family?” “Well, grandma, I don’t think they’ll know, because *they don’t know me* but if you’re dumb enough to tell them, hopefully they’ll realize you don’t control our guest list.” Over and over.

    Eventually we got it out of her that she had gone to all the extended family’s graduation parties and weddings and bridal showers, and felt it was my turn to get some presents from them. NOT THE POINT OF A WEDDING, especially when they’re apparently not close enough family for me to have ever even met them, despite spending my childhood only two hours away from their family’s home base.

    Solution? We told her that she could send announcements after the wedding, but they had to be clear that they were from her and not us. Placing the burden on her to order and send the announcements if she wanted them set left us free to not worry about it, and the announcements never materialized. I don’t know why people (even grandmas, who we love) think they have the right to burden other people with their expectations, but not have any desire to do themselves what they want you to do.

    • Madeline

      Nice! Compromise is the way forward, especially with grandmas we love and other supposedly helpful advisers!

    • Jashshea

      Yuuup. What’s with other people? Long story super short – I have a particular vendor-type that I don’t want at the wedding fullstop. My dad wants this type of vendor. He’s paying. I ran down quotes and they were outside of his comfort zone (4 figures for 2 hours). He asked for more and I told him to google Mytown+vendortype. I haven’t heard much about it since then.

    • Senorita

      We’re having this exact problem! My grandfather literally sat there with me on his couch and went through his entire. address. book.
      At the same time, he doesn’t want me to invite some of his sisters because he’s worried it would be too much of a burden for them (it’s 30 min from their house).
      Since he helps out alot with expenses while I’m in med school, it’s really hard to say no to any of the above.
      I actually thought of announcements as a possible solution, but I have NO idea what the etiquette is.
      Do you send them before or after the wedding. Should they be from him or me? Wouldn’t it be rude to recieve an announcement for a wedding you weren’t invited to? Won’t it look like the couple are just trying to get more presents?

      any advice from Team Practical??

  • Hope

    How not to feel bad about not inviting people you hadn’t even met yet to your wedding?

    I don’t recommend this as a technique BUT….
    The friends who I met and became close with after I got married, who listened to and supported me during the woes of my marriage, I invited to my next wedding to a much better man :)

    • KB

      Hope, this cracked me up!

      • Lucy

        I am still laughing out loud…hehehe. I am sure it was meant to be taken this way :)

  • Dude. That post on How To Do The Right Thing…does she have one for how to graciously handle a friend not coming to your wedding? ‘Cause I think I loused up a no RSVP pretty bad.

    A friend (who had formerly been my best friend but we’d drifted a bit) called so say she wouldn’t be able to come because it “wasn’t feasible” but she wished us well. We had friends arriving so I told her we’d talk later but I never called and she didn’t either. Now I sorta feel like I dropped the ball and don’t have a clue in the world how to open the door again. (Or even if I should…maybe despite the fact I was more than happy to pull out my credit card to buy a plane ticket to her wedding and be there with her we’d drifted even more than I thought…)

    • Madeline

      You should definitely submit that to the blog, I bet she would help out! I say if you’re worrying about it, just call. Some friendships drift for a reason, but in that case, there’s no need to feel bad!

  • KB

    I totally needed this post. I need to figure out a way to stop apologizing for a long list of things that includes:

    – Replying with actual answers when people ask how the wedding is or what we’re doing for X, Y, Z (if your eyes glaze over when I start talking about lighting options, then why did you ask me about it??)
    – Not paying for a hair and make-up artist for bridesmaids (Would you rather have an hour of booze or an hour of beautifying – and are your own hands broken??)
    – Not immediately responding “Of COURSE you can bring a date!” when friends hint obnoxiously that they would like one (I’d rather invite someone I know than your loud and annoying college roommate)
    – Not inviting blood relatives I’ve only ever laid eyes on twice, my offensive boss, my weird co-workers, and any children at all (’nuff said).

    Seriously, what is it about weddings that make people get offended AND worried about offending in a way that’s different from REGULAR parties…

    • ElisabethJoanne

      My uncle is just back from visiting some third cousins of mine (if I’m reading my Table of Consanguinity right; I think they’re his first cousins, which I think in this case makes them my third cousins.). I’ve met this family twice. There was lots of talk before his visit about whether he should mention my wedding to them. My father and uncle feared they’d be offended to hear about the wedding but not receive an invitation.

      I don’t think a third cousin would expect to receive an invitation to a wedding these days, even if another family member brought it up 2 months before. I’d think it’d be weird to not mention it. I told my uncle to go ahead and tell them about the wedding, and I still haven’t decided whether to invite them.

  • Em

    What’s tough for me right now is there are friends/coworkers we aren’t inviting to our wedding, and when people find out about that, they assume (or I think they will assume) that it’s because it’s a small wedding. It’s not! We have over 230 people on the invite list. Lots of family, lots of my parents’ friends – and they are footing the bill, so that’s fine with me. There really isn’t anyone I’m not inviting that I wish I could include, but I’m feeling guilty that when they find out they weren’t invited and so many others were, that they’ll be upset. Irrational? Let me know!

    • anonymous

      Eh, it’s fine. My co-worker is getting married and invited the whole department except me. They’re having a big wedding. I don’t mind and I’m happy for them. Just don’t mention to folks that they aren’t invited unless they inquire. That’d be weird.

  • Remy

    Our tiny guestlist has fluctuated — the same people we’d planned on inviting from the very beginning are invited, but a few have health concerns, and there’s some family drama that may (or may not be) resolved in the final weeks. But even well-meaning folks (people we like! people we would totally have invited if it were a party and not a wedding, or even a different sort of wedding) find it hard to come to terms with our choice not to invite more people when it seems like we’ll be having a slightly smaller turnout than expected. No, just because my elderly grandmother can’t travel doesn’t mean you can have a plus-one! No, the uncertainty of my sweetie’s parents’ attendance won’t result in you and your three children getting an invite as surrogates! We’re not trying to make a quota here. (Although I can appreciate the struggles of couples who are trying to fit everyone they love into a particular venue, and might anxiously watch the RSVP list.) We selected a very small number of people whom we really want to be present with us on this day, and if those people sadly aren’t able to make it, we will have a smaller group of people who are still supportive and loving.

  • Jenn

    This (how to interact with people who aren’t invited) is what keeps me up at night! Even months after we made the guest list, I still worry about it. Our wedding is medium-sized (~100 folks including kids), and we have room to fit a few more, and yet…even after reading that whole bit about both guests AND non-guests being adults, I still struggle with it (invites going out next week). Ugh. That on-again-off-again friend who only lives 3 hours away from wedding and whose city we’re moving to, other not-so-close friends (former co-workers) in same city that we don’t know well yet, but probably will be friends with in the future, not on the list. Today must be the day I’m going to let it go, and know that we can plan an open house party in new city and invite all those folks, and that somehow they’ll all understand.

    • meg

      Interact with them normally. Tell them about the wedding if they ask. ALWAYS say it’s a small wedding to people who were not invited. A 500 person wedding can be small, in this situation. People won’t feel like shit unless you start signaling to them that they SHOULD fee like shit, being shifty, avoiding eye contact when the wedding comes up, trying to change the subject quickly. Then they’ll start to think, “Geeze, I thought I wasn’t invited because the wedding was small/ they don’t know me that well/ logistics. But do they really not like me and not want to tell me?”

      And that is why you treat your wedding guests like adults. It’s far less likely to hurt feelings.

    • Our reception was more than 100 people, but it was still too small to invite everyone. When some of them tried to invite themselves I told them we were having a smaller affair and regretted we could not invite everyone.

      Nobody needs to know the details of your budget or your guest list.

      We had a “shindig” (actual term we used) after for local people who weren’t invited to travel to our wedding. A lot of people who tried to invite themselves to the wedding didn’t even show up at the local shindig. Their choice.

      I’m thinking we need another shindig though, this time with pie. :)

    • Laura

      THIS. Our guest list is made up already, but I keep thinking of people that I could invite. I’m so worried they’ll be offended. But then I ask myself if I would be offended not to be invited to their weddings and the answer is always no. I’d be disappointed maybe, but not offended because I know how logistics can get unwieldy.

  • ElisabethJoanne

    Story 1: I wasn’t invited to a wedding, which was totally fine. I can’t even remember whose wedding this was. What I do remember was mutual friends’ talking about the wedding non-stop for the week or 2 leading up to it and the week or 2 after. I felt totally excluded from the conversation. [I think these mutual friends weren’t entirely polite in talking so much about a party I could have been invited to but wasn’t, but these days I’d also be more mature about asking questions about aspects of the wedding that would interest me or exiting the conversation.]

    Story 2: I decided early on that formally inviting my entire church (30-50 people) to our wedding was a non-negotiable. General “all are invited to attend” announcements in the bulletin and/or from the pulpit have resulted in awkwardness at best and hurt feelings at worst when such things have come up before. And see Story 1 about leaving some from a group out. But the Rector quipped I just wanted the gifts. I’d rather err on the side that people are (irrationally) offended for being included than (again irrationally) offended for being included.

    Story 3: I continually get flack from my parents and future husband for not inviting my best friend from high school, whose wedding we attended 16 months ago. I’d invite her and other high school friends, but I’m worried about space, and I really feel like it’s an invite-one-invite-all situation, which of course isn’t completely a reality when it comes to manners or feelings, but this was the path that keeps my mind closest to at peace.

  • Jaime

    “Wedding guests? Grown-ups. Non-wedding guests? Grown-ups. Almost, would-be wedding guests? Also grown-ups! Barring, of course, actual infants, but that’s not the point.”

    After freaking out over the guest list, I cannot tell you how much I needed to (read) hear this. Thank you so much!

  • Laura

    Ugh, yes, this is exactly what I needed to read right now. I had my first “awkward guest list moment” last week. My fiancé and I have had the guest list drawn up for three months already. Our venue is small, just under 100 people, and we’re inviting a lot of friends from overseas who probably won’t all have reason to be under one roof again. So to maximize the number of friends invited, we decided on a plus one policy of “one of us must have met them in real life” to keep it manageable.

    The other day my friend asked me if she would be able to bring her boyfriend of one week. To my credit, I did respond in a mature, adult manner. I explained to her about the venue size and that if we automatically gave everyone a plus one, it would mean cutting 30 friends in favour of 30 people we’ve never even met.

    What I did not handle so maturely, however, was the bridesmaid question. She asked me about bridesmaids. I didn’t want to tell her that I have asked two mutual friends to be in my wedding party because I knew that if I did tell her, she’d wonder why I didn’t ask her. So I mumbled something about my best friend from junior high that she’s never met…and did not mention the mutual friends. I regret that. I should have just been upfront, because it’s not like she won’t notice on the actual day of the wedding that those mutual friends are bridesmaids. From now on, maturity will be my policy.

    Can I just say, those pictures make me want to throw a post-wedding party just so that I can have pie. Or maybe we should just have pie at the wedding.

  • Karen

    The church question has been a big one for us. I’m an active member in my church. I currently serve on a position on the board. I have no idea how to not invite everyone. It is a relatively small church and everyone would know about the wedding. And I would rather send invitations than put something in the bulletin. There are some people I know in passing and others I have actual relationships with but almost everyone knows me because of my activities in the church. Eek! I don’t know how this will be handled. And my partner is anti having children at the wedding. How do I tell families with children who go to the church that they are invited but not their kids? How can the parents tell their kids, “you are welcome at the church all the time but not for so and so’s wedding”? I’m trying to work this out. Any thoughts would be welcome!

    • Remy

      We faced a similar quandry, and decided to host coffee hour at the church service the day after our wedding. (It helped that we’re not getting married in the church, but at another location.) This gives us a chance to celebrate with church family and local friends (who otherwise might not have visited) at the cost of a few dozen cupcakes and some snacks. Perhaps you have a similar opportunity to make use of an existing church gathering.

      • Karen

        Well, that’s an interesting idea. But I’m rather set on having the wedding at the church. I’ll keep thinking on this. Thanks for the response.

  • Moz

    I think one shouldn’t assume to be invited to a wedding until the invite is in the hand. Or unless you’re in the wedding party. Then, it’s a nice surprise when it happens.

    In this day and age people understand how expensive weddings are, and all the complicated things at play with an invite list, so yeah – grown ups.

  • Moe

    I am so very glad that I found APW before all of my wedding planning shenanigans began.

    We eloped, very suddenly and no one was present for our ceremony. It was perfect. Now we are planning a second public ceremony and celebration for 100 people. Half the guests are my immiedate family it seems: my one surviving parent, my many siblings and their spouses and a handful of close friends and some of thier spouses.

    I am not inviting cousins, nephews, or nieces, aunts or uncles. I am also not inviting children. We are not planning a child-friendly event. I had a very hurt bridesmaid complain that her two daughters were looking forward to seeing me as a bride. I didn’t invite them, she did!

    The other difficult part is the friend who did not make the wedding party!!! How do I respond to the friend whose wedding I was just in a few months ago but isn’t going to be in mine?

  • Lee

    thank you thank you thank you APW! We are in the planning stages of our wedding next year and this is already a hot and awkward topic of conversation in our house. We are having our wedding (relatively small at about 80ppl) hot on the heels (4 months later) than my man’s sister (larger wedding), so we’ve had to coordinate our guest list to theirs (b/c if we invite relative/family friend-so-and-so to the first, they should get an invite to the second, unless we didn’t in particular get an invite to their wedding, but also must-keep-in-mind-the-imposition-that-most-of-these-guests-will-be-traveling-across-the-country-for-both-so-they-may-not-come-to-one). The only way I’ve found to keep my cool is to repeat to myself and everyone who questions our choices that “our guests are adults, they can make their own decisions”

    APW for the win!

    Now to only convince my dear mother that her first cousin (who I’ve met all of twice in my life, but last time didn’t know who I was, let alone that I have lived all of an hour from him for the past 5 years while the rest of the family lives across the country) does not make the cut just because “he lives close to the wedding! But we’ve become really close in the last year!” Especially not at the expense of not being able to invite my own first cousins who I am close with….*bangs head against table*

  • The only thing I have to say about this?

    I love your conclusion. Awesome. Totally summarises the whole article in one sentence. Must take heed and start doing more often :)