Dealing with Uninvited Friends and Family
Q: My fiancé and I are having a small, intimate wedding, with only family members and a few close friends in attendance. If people ask me if they’re invited to the wedding—and they’re not—what should I say? —Charleston, South Carolina
A: Just be gracious. Let them know how flattered you are that they would like to attend your wedding, and then explain that as much as you would love to have a huge crowd, you’ve decided that a smaller gathering is more suitable. You can elaborate further— limited space, budget constraints, large families—or simply leave it at that. And if it’s someone you really would have liked to attend, promise to have him or her to your home after the honeymoon to look at your wedding photos or video.
Inviting Guests with Dates
Q: My fiancé and his family think we should invite everyone to the wedding with a guest. What's the rule? —Mobile, Alabama
A: You needn't invite every single person to your wedding with a guest. In fact, most couples today don't unless they have an unlimited budget. You should, however, include partners of the following people:
Everyone who is married (even if you don't know their spouse)
Couples who are engaged
Couples who are living together
Guests who have had a steady significant other for so long that it would seem awkward not to include their partners.
The last instance is a judgment call, but in most cases your gut will tell you what to do.
Guest Responds with Uninvited Date
Q: We sent an invitation to my cousin and her teenage daughter. She returned her response card with the name of a man we’ve never met instead of her daughter’s (whom I’d really like to have at my wedding). None of my other cousins are invited with a guest. What should I do?
A: People can be very presumptuous, can’t they? Bottom line: Even though your cousin prefers bringing a date to your wedding instead of going with her daughter, it’s not fair to you, her daughter or the other guests—nor is it up to her to make this decision. As uncomfortable as it may be, you have every right to give her a call and explain that since you have not asked any other family members with dates, you wouldn’t want them to be upset when she shows up with her escort. Also tell her that you included her daughter on the invitation because it’s important to you that she attends. Let your cousin know that as much as you would have liked your guests to have the option of bringing a date, space and budget limitations won’t permit it, and you simply can’t accommodate her friend. Hopefully, she will understand and comply with your wishes.
Dealing With Guests Who Don't RSVP
Q: What should I do about people who still won’t tell me if they will attend my wedding, even after I’ve followed up several times? I only have a couple of weeks left, and my caterer needs the final head count. —Hartford, Connecticut
A: Go with the number of RSVPs you have and give that head count to your caterer. You shouldn’t have had to phone anyone repeatedly, but the fact that some people still can’t make up their minds is inexcusable. If any of your undecided guests should call you at the last minute with a “yes,” you can either inform them that you’ve already given your caterer the head count, or if it’s important to you to have them at the wedding, say you will do your best to accommodate them. If you decide on the latter, let your caterer know immediately and update your seating plan.
Q: My wedding will not be big enough to include all of my coworkers, but I would like to invite some of them. How can I do this without offending anyone? —New York City, New York
A: Deciding which colleagues to invite to the wedding has to be one of the trickiest etiquette issues. Much depends on your particular situation, so you really have to go with your gut instinct. Of course, it's perfectly acceptable (and often easiest) not to invite anyone from the office. But many of us are friends with the people we work with and want them at our weddings.
Where to begin? With your boss. It would be improper (and not too smart!) to exclude your supervisor if you'll be inviting others from the office. It's also a wise and kind gesture to invite your assistant or secretary if you have one. After all, nothing motivates like flattery, and such an employee will surely feel honored. From there it gets tougher. If you have a regular crowd you lunch with, you pretty much have to go the all-or-nothing route, as leaving someone out will cause tension. If a group of people work for you (say you're head of a department), you have two options: Invite all of them, or just the most senior members of the group. Other than that, it's up to you to pick and choose without stepping on toes. Just don't do something glaringly obvious, such as inviting only one of two vice presidents. And as far as the president or head of the company goes, unless you're on pretty familiar terms, I'd pass. He or she is surely going to be too busy to give up the time, and it may look to some like you're fishing for gifts or brownie points.
Remember, too, that if coworkers are married, engaged, living with someone or seriously involved, you must include their partners in the invitation. You need not invite single colleagues with dates, however, or include children. Finally, keep in mind that most people understand the limits of wedding budgets and don't expect to be invited to every office wedding. In fact, many people are relieved to not have to buy a gift or give up a night they'd rather spend with their families. So, aside from especially close relationships, don't worry too much about offending anyone.
Inviting Difficult Family Members
Q: My fiancé and my brother do not get along. In fact, no one really wants be around my brother, who’s always nasty and mean-spirited. Should I include my brother in my wedding or even invite him at all? —Orlando, Florida
A: You don’t have to include your brother in the wedding, but you should invite him. He’s your brother, after all, and regardless of how difficult he may be, he still warrants an invitation. Not to extend one will cause greater problems down the road and damage any chance of ever salvaging a relationship with him. People do change, and he may be going through a difficult time. Years from now, neither of you would want to look back on your wedding day and realize that you didn’t invite your brother because he was being a jerk at the time. So, extend the invitation and let him decide whether or not to attend.
Inviting Parents of Bridal Party
Q: My girlfriend told me that it’s proper etiquette to invite the parents of the bridesmaids and groomsmen. Is this true? —Duluth, Minnesota
A: Not at all! I’m sure you already have enough names on your guest list without adding the parents of the bridal party. Unless these individuals have shared a close relationship with the bride or groom, there’s no need to invite them.
Can I Invite My Ex?
Q: My fiancée and I have a very good relationship with my ex-wife. We all get along and I would like to invite her—and our daughter, of course—to my wedding. What is the etiquette on this? —Vienna, Virginia
A: As a rule, it’s usually recommended that ex-spouses not be invited to the wedding, even if you have an extremely amicable relationship. There are several reasons for this: Your child may be confused by her mother’s presence at your nuptials. Guests, too, may feel a bit uncomfortable and not know what to say to your ex (putting the focus on her instead of on you and your new wife). Finally, your former wife may not really want to see you tie the knot, and she’ll be in the uncomfortable position of having to decline.
However, I do believe that these situations should be assessed on a case by case basis, and if you and your fiancée have a great relationship with your ex, go ahead and send her an invite. (After all, Bruce Willis happily attended the marriage of his former wife, Demi Moore, to Ashton Kutcher!) Just be absolutely sure that your fiancée is OK with it. If she indicates even the slightest bit of hesitation or doubt, don’t do it. After all, you wouldn’t want your wedding day to be marred by any misgivings or regrets. You should celebrate your commitment to your new wife to the fullest.