How to Tell Someone That They Aren't Invited to Your Wedding

Tips on how to go about addressing an invitation inquiry from an uninvited person.

If you find yourself in this unfortunate situation, here are some tips on how to go about dealing with these questions if they aren't invited to your wedding.

Photo: Katie Stoops Photography

The dreaded ask. You may not think it will happen to you, but unfortunately, it occurs far more often than people believe. Let us set the scene: you’re newly engaged, relaxing at home, and surfing the internet, when suddenly, you get a Facebook message from a former work colleague, a distant relative, or a friend of a friend. Curious, you open their note, which reads something along the lines of: “Hi Jennifer! Long time no see. Congratulations on getting engaged! Just wanted to know if I’ll have to keep my schedule clear for next fall.” Sadly, you’ve fallen victim to the invite inquiry – someone who you never intended to send an invitation to has crossed the line of etiquette and asked if they would be offered a seat at your wedding. Of course, this is only one approach: some are more subtle, some ask your close friends or relatives, some even corner you in person. It’s terribly gauche, but it happens.

If you find yourself in this situation, here are some tips on how to go about dealing with these questions:

First off, don’t just offer up the information. There are a few brides and grooms who believe they need to specify who is not invited to their nuptials on their own, without the inquiry being made to them. This is a faux pas – don’t casually slip it into a conversation with a friend to get ahead of the question, even if you believe they’re leading up to asking. Don’t post general social media announcements including who is or isn’t on the guest list. This rule also includes your invitations themselves. If your nuptials will be child free, there’s no need to write those exact words on the invitations – address the envelope to “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” and denote that you have “reserved two seats” in their honor.

Though you may be taken aback, don’t let emotions get the best of you. If someone approaches you with this question, the best thing you can do is to stay calm. Some brides and grooms, in their stressed-out states, will snap at someone who upsets them in this way, but this will just stir up negative feelings and create issues – why increase your stress level? It’s important to be prepared with your answer, deliver it, stick to it, and walk away.

Stick to the logistics. When it comes to the actual words, we recommend using a few key phrases that have to do with the logistics of your big day – namely, that you had to work with a limited guest list allowance for a certain reason. If you’re getting married at a smaller venue, say, “We had to keep our guest list really low due to strict capacity rules.” For those hosting destination nuptials, you can let them know that travel expenses were high and you needed to keep attendance low. Chances are, there will be some aspect of your wedding that requires you to limit guests – someone else is paying, smaller budget, etc.

Don’t let them try to negotiate with you. Never set the precedent that your wedding is something to be bartered for. Sticking to the decisions that you and your partner have made – especially when it comes to the guest list – is of the upmost importance. Shut down any negotiation attempts right away with a polite but firm repeat of the logistical restraints and then excuse yourself. Giving in to any guilt tripping or arguing won’t solve any problems: you’ll simply be forcing yourself to extend extra invitations and make room for people you were never going to invite, and this could also cause even more folks to come out of the woodwork looking to receive that RSVP card.

Resist the urge to lie. Even if your logistical situation doesn’t feel solid enough for you, it won’t do you any good to be fully dishonest. If you aren’t having a destination wedding, don’t say that you are – the truth will get back to them. Don’t say that your venue allows for a limited amount of people when you’re only inviting about 75% of the maximum capacity. Find the logistic that fits your particular wedding – besides it being bad form to lie, there’s always a chance some chatty guest will find out the details of your big day and spread the word around.

Find out how to politely refuse to be someone's bridesmaid, read up on how to handle your divorced parents at the wedding, and discover tips on ensuring plenty of quality time with your partner during your nuptials.