To invite or not to invite – that is the question.

Taking the Guess Out of the Guest List

One of the trickiest decisions in wedding planning is the guest list. Almost every couple I speak with expresses that they want the people they love the most to share their special day.

But how do you handle it when there is someone you don’t want to be there yet, superficially, seems a natural for an invite. This could apply to a friend or co-worker but is the most difficult when it’s a family member. Then there is the question of whether or not to have children attend, but I’ll save that for another day!

Who will fill these seats?

First let’s think about the reasons you may not want someone at your wedding. It could be a past grievance, or the person in question may have a drug or alcohol problem that you feel would be disruptive. Maybe they are a loud and divisive person and you feel no love for them, or to a lesser extent – you just don’t feel close to them. Your parents say yes, but your gut says no.

There is also the real possibility that the person abused you. I know it’s hard to bring up this sensitive topic – but child sexual assault survivors may not have disclosed to their family. If the abusive person (sometimes a beloved uncle, or other close relative) seems like a natural for the guest list (given no one knows about this) you have every right NOT to invite him. Just be aware that this could force you to disclose, even if you don’t want to do that. I clearly believe any molester or abuser should NEVER be invited. Survivors, please seek counselling on this. From here on I’m not speaking about perpetrators, but just family disagreements or the other issues I mentioned.

Assuming you did some real soul-searching and you feel strongly about it, is there any wiggle room? Maybe it’s an opportunity to mend some fences? Maybe it is a compromise, especially for your parents. Can you live with it? If you simply can’t, what do you do?

The choice can be made even more complex if parents are paying for the wedding. A long and honest conversation must be had, and that in itself is hard. You may be creating a new family drama, one that goes on for years. But if you feel strongly about this, you have to find your way through it.

If you find you have to explain to the uninvited why they are not invited – try to not exaggerate. Don’t say you’re having a very small wedding, if you are not, because it will come back to bite you. Oh, they’ll hear about it! Simply tell them it was a difficult decision, and you’re sorry that it upset them. Most likely you won’t have to speak with them directly, but your parents or other family members will hear about it… maybe forever!

For friends you have fallen out of touch with, such as college friends, sorority or fraternity people, former co-workers, and even some who invited you to their weddings, it is a bit easier. If you start hearing from people who are, for example, suddenly commenting on your engagement pictures on Facebook or reaching out to you, they may be fishing for an invite. For this situation the answer is – keep it real. Just explain that the wedding list is getting out of hand, and your budget won’t allow for invites other than the very closest relatives and friends. If they truly value the relationship, they will take it well, and if you value the relationship, try to make an effort to catch up in other ways in the future.

Waiting for the guests (photo by Lois)

I don’t advocate going overboard with the excuses. Remember that sometimes less is more. Again, just express that you’re sorry and understand it may have surprised them or hurt their feelings. It’s always a good idea to validate feelings. Tell them it was a hard decision. Be as compassionate and gracious as possible, but in the end, don’t let family talk you into inviting people you truly don’t want at your celebration.

Think forward five or ten years from now. Will you regret not having them at your wedding? Will it matter? This will also help guide you.

If you are talking about your wedding at work, you may find that suddenly your boss or coworkers are dropping hints about being invited. This one is easy. You are under no obligation what-so-ever to invite them.

One final thought: you may be thinking people are hurt because they are not invited, but they may be relieved! Maybe just as you don’t want them there, they may not want to be there. You could be doing them a favor.

This is why people elope!

thank you Lisa Rhinehart for your beautiful photography!

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