Wedding invitation cut offs – where do you draw the line?

Today I’m going on a journey down memory lane. It’s not an easy journey – deciding who to invite to our wedding was perhaps one of the hardest parts of the whole process. We agonised over the decision for months on end, procrastinating over the final list until we couldn’t avoid it any more. We argued the merits of different levels of friendships – we made decisions that we ultimately knew would upset people we cared about.

Looking back on it all it seems a little bit silly. A wedding makes you second guess yourself – and that’s the big problem. You see, if it’s not immediately obvious when you think of a friend that they must be at your wedding, it goes without saying that there’s no real reason to invite them. But I worried too much about how people would feel if they weren’t invited, I ended up asking people to come who, let’s face it, I’m barely in touch with. People who probably wouldn’t invite me to their wedding.

Then came the learning curve: all those people I invited for the wrong reasons? They dropped out. One by one, the week before the wedding – leaving me with hundreds of pounds of food, place settings I’d spent weeks making and copious amounts of booze – all of which went to the bin. Some of them just didn’t show up at all – without so much as a text message. And did we hear from any of them later? Not really – one or two sent cards or phoned (those who were close to us and were really, really ill) but the rest didn’t even congratulate us on Facebook.

The problem is, if you’re not close, you’re not close. You can’t manufacture that relationship through a wedding – the truth is if you invite people who aren’t an important part of your life, they will assume they’re not important enough for you to worry about them dropping out. Well on my wedding day I had roughly 30 drop outs (15 day guests, 15 evening guests). When you think of the cost per head (I’m not even going to get into that) it pains me to think how much money we wasted on people who weren’t that bothered.

So what’s the lesson here? One I should have learned when I was busy worrying about what others would think of me: have a cut off.

This seating plan was changed at least 15 times in the week preceding the wedding. Seriously. Image © Satureyes

How to manage an invitation cut off

Shut your eyes and imagine your dream day with all your friends and family around you. Who are you imagining is there with you? Those are the people who should make up your core invite list – the people you couldn’t imagine not being there on your big day.

Manage groups of friends. Here’s an example – you had a close group of friends at school or university. You stayed very close to some people and fell out of touch with others. However, the people you’re no longer in touch with are still part of that friendship group by virtue of the fact you’re close with people in common. Tricky. On the one hand, you don’t want to look like you’re excluding people – on the other hand, there’s probably a reason you’re no longer in touch with them. My honest advice? Just invite the people you’re close to. You’d only be inviting the ones you aren’t for the sake of a group that obviously doesn’t exist any more. It’s easy to forget that a wedding is not a reunion. It’s nice if it works out that way, but don’t feel pressure to fund a big get together for everyone else. It’s your big day and you have whoever you want there.

Don’t invite people just because they asked for an invite. First of all, asking for an invite is rude. It’s awkward. Unless you’re someone’s best friend, never assume you’re invited to their wedding. And brides, if somebody has basically begged you for an invite and you wouldn’t have invited them otherwise, just politely explain that you’re having a small wedding and it’s very close friends and family only. You don’t owe them a justification and you certainly don’t owe them an invite.

Decide a cut off for partners. I can’t stress how difficult this is: I mean, how can you judge from the outside how “serious” someone’s relationship is – and why should that matter? Well, it matters for the following reasons: the first is that, if someone is in a long-term, committed relationship, it feels rude not to invite their partner, even if you don’t know them. Part of being married or living together is that your invite is for two. But inevitably you will get friends who want to invite their boyfriend / girlfriend of two weeks along. Well, that’s one expensive date – and it’s all on you. When friends were very insistent, we were too polite to say no. Can you guess what happened? That’s right – either they didn’t show up because they couldn’t be bothered (because they didn’t know us) or they split up when it was too late to cancel all of their food, chairs, plates, place settings, drinks, favours etc etc. There are two ways to go about deciding a cut off – either do it on a case-by-case basis. This can be a risky strategy if your friends talk amongst themselves – or if they discuss their relationships at the wedding… or decide that anything under six months (for example) doesn’t count and be brutal about it. Either way, you don’t want to end up doubling your guest list and expenses for the sake of a few short-term partners who probably won’t come to your wedding.

Kids or no kids. That is the question. There’s only one answer. You can’t have it both ways, I’m afraid. Either invite all your friends’ kids or none of them – it’s not like you can hide the children that were invited on the day and it’s more hassle than it’s worth explaining why some people had to get babysitters and others didn’t. It’s nice to give parents the option if you’re inviting kids – that way everyone’s happy.

And, last but not least, decide on workmates. If you’re not close to your colleagues, just have a cut off and say no work invites. If you’re close to one or two, invite them very, very quietly and don’t rub it in people’s faces. If you get on well with half your office but not the other half, I’m afraid I’d have to say don’t invite any of them. It’s not worth the problems it will cause at work later when half the office unsubtly ambles out to go to your wedding, leaving the other half bitter and rejected.

We should have had a better invitation cut off strategy – the problem is when you get numbers in your head you feel you have to fill spaces, when really we ought to have just cut the numbers and saved some time, stress and money. Remember, when the pressure is on, your wedding is not any of the following: a performance; a reunion; an opportunity for a fun date.

Have you struggled with your guest list? Have you got a cut off? How are you managing trickier situations? I’d love to hear from you!

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