Q: My fiancé and I both grew up in a church where our parents have lots of friends and there were all sorts of people that helped raise us or contributed to our childhoods in some way. The number of people that love us is large, but obviously, we can’t invite them all to the wedding. We simply do not have the money for a five hundred–person party.
Our guest list is already huge by my standards (over 230) and we’ve designed our reception (evening desserts and cocktails) specifically so that we can afford to invite more people. We want our wedding to be an opportunity to celebrate not just us and our decade-long relationship (we started in high school), but also all the family and friends that have helped us along the way. We’ve done the best we can to include as many people as possible, while still respecting our budget and our venue’s capacity limits.
However, it’s recently come up there may be people who show up uninvited. They love us, want to see us get married, and want to celebrate with us. And I appreciate that, I really do. BUT, I believe it’s rude to show up anywhere without having been invited, and I can’t help but feel that it’s selfish and disrespectful to do so.
We’ve discussed this situation a bit, and I think these are our options:
Passive: In our parents’ church community, it’s very common to have an open ceremony followed by an invitation-only reception in a different location, with a reminder that the reception is closed at the end of the ceremony. We could put on our wedding website something like “due to space restrictions, both ceremony and reception are by invitation only.” However, ours are in the same place, with no gap time, and I think that an announcement would be extremely tacky.
Active: We could have some sort of check-in, like writing personalized notes to each guest and having someone hand them out as they enter. But, someone would be tasked with the uncomfortable job of turning someone away, AND someone’s feelings would get hurt.
Doormat: We do nothing. We let however many uninvited people show up (five? ten? thirty?) for the ceremony, and have no control over who stays. They feel good, but I’m upset that they chose to come despite not having been invited.
I feel like I’ve already put in so much effort to accommodate and make people feel loved and appreciated, so for this potential—and in my mind, very disrespectful—situation to happen is extremely frustrating. Do I try to prevent it, or do I just let what happens happen?
A: Dear Anonymous,
A little of both, probably! But it sort of depends on how this came up. Were you warned that specific people are planning to show up uninvited? Is it just a hypothetical issue? Will your parents’ congregation assume your ceremony is open to everyone, but it’s actually not? There’s a big difference between folks intentionally showing up fully knowing they’re not invited, and someone being confused a bit about what kind of event you’re having. How you handle it largely depends on what kind of crashers we’re dealing with.
If we’re talking about that last possibility, your parents can start letting people know now, by word of mouth, that you’re having a private ceremony. Then, plan on tacking that “reception is closed” announcement onto the end of the service. I know, I know, you think it’s in poor taste and frankly, I can see why. But you mentioned that this crowd is used to it, and they’re the ones you’re trying to appeal to. If the message is suited for the intended audience, then you’re fine.
On the other hand, if you know of specific folks who’ve said they don’t care that they’re not invited, they’re coming anyway, give those people a call and be straightforward. This scenario seems unlikely to me, but you know what, I don’t put anything past people any more.
Finally, if this is a hypothetical issue, go with the combo Passive/Doormat plan. Put the announcement on your website and then let it go. Whatever will be will be. That’s not being a doormat; it’s being a realist. You can’t control what anyone does, so put your little note out there, and then don’t stress about it. It sounds tough, I realize. But barring the above possibilities, it’s unlikely that you’ll end up with thirty wedding crashers. And a dessert reception can flex a smidge; it’s not like anyone will be out a plate of dinner. And every single time we run a question about wedding size, so many readers are happy to chime in that they didn’t even notice one or two randos mixed into their crowd of lovelies. That goes extra in a group of 230 (!).
It’s frustrating to have to think about this when you feel you’ve already done so much to make people feel involved. But, in the grand scheme of wedding problems (and trust me, I’ve seen some doozies), this could be much, much worse. You have what sounds like an amazing, huge community of people who love and support you. It’s not such a bad problem to have! Whether or not extra people show up, ehhh, you can’t really control (that goes for most wedding rudeness). But you can choose not to worry about it. That’s the part that’s up to you.