When Just Not Inviting Them Simply Won’t Do: How To Tell Someone They Can’t Come To Your WeddingS

Just after college, a friend of mine mentioned he was getting married, and I expected to be among the guests. Cut to a few months later, and suddenly mutual friends were discussing plans for the upcoming shindig. I bugged a friend with an invite and found out it was not an oversight, which stung (I was an ex-girlfriend, and naively thought our longer tenure as friends would trump that). Still, I can't imagine how it would have felt to receive what appeared to be an invite, only to open the envelope and realize it was an announcement of the wedding letting me know I would not be attending.

But apparently, unsatisfied with current levels of awkwardness the world over, people are doing this now.

A recent Dear Prudence letter laments:

Recently I received two separate announcements letting me know that I'm not invited to the wedding of a friend. Both of these came out of the blue; I had not precipitated them by asking if I was going to get an invitation. Apparently, it's a trend for brides and grooms to tell people who didn't make the cut that they aren't going to witness the special day. (Google "How to tell someone you're not inviting them to your wedding.") I have no idea how to respond. It seems churlish to say that I'm relieved, but it's also awkward to admit my feelings were hurt. Please help.

-A Perplexed Nonwedding Guest

Prudie falls on the usual side of responding with brief, but gracious, well-wishing for the friend, but I can't help but wonder if this wedding trend is not the scheming of a new generation of overzealous brides, delighting in the power trip of the dis-invite, as if it's just another grown-up game of picking a kickball team. You, you and you, *smirks*, but not you.

Perhaps that's cynical. Maybe it's the result of an overly anxious new generation of people afraid of offending anyone, and in the process, overinflating their own wedding-invite value. In other words, this might actually be done under good intentions (cough*road-to-hell*cough). I understand that often with weddings more folks want to come than you can reasonably pay for. I'm not suggesting, even remotely, that to avoid hurting feelings your wedding should become some kind of free-for-all. I'm saying that who to invite is up to you, and let everyone else process their own feelings about whether that includes them. If they disagree with your planning, let them ask. Only the truly bold will broach the subject.

Either way, if you really do care enough to rescind the very best, there are allegedly a number of ways/lies to let someone down "gently" directly to their face if you must, such as:

Do not send the person an email, but rather give them a call and meet them in person. Explain to them your budget for the wedding and let them know how important they are to you.
 Example: I would really love for you to be in attendance on such a special day in my life, but because of out tight budget for the wedding, I was not able to invite as many people as I would have liked. But if possible, I would love for you to help me_______(find a dress, look for a shoes, pick a cake, etc...)

Gee, nothing says "you're important" like recruiting someone to help with the shittiest parts of a wedding but without getting to drink the booze or flirt with the groomsmen — and framing it all like a consolation prize. Look, if I like someone enough to actually leave my house and meet them for coffee to tell them they can't come to my wedding, but I would actually let them help me pick the cake, then I like them enough to invite them to my wedding. Right? That is so much effort to make to not invite someone, especially when you can literally do nothing to not invite them, too.

Also, how do you determine how many people to formally reject? Isn't coming up with a list of people you think want to come your wedding, but whom you won't be inviting, kind of presumptuous, like telling a guy who hasn't even asked you out that you don't wanna fuck him? For all I know, everyone in the known universe would trample just to touch the hem of my vintage sack if they could, so rejecting everyone would not be feasible in my case. I say just assume you are rejected until told otherwise. That is the whole power of the guest list.

Oh, apparently people invite too many people to their wedding and then suddenly realize they need to cut the guest list by two-thirds!!! Seriously, whut? Isn't that like, super bad planning? Shouldn't you have your bride card revoked for that crime?

In conclusion, according to the informal poll in my head, eloping merely not sending an invite is still the single most efficient way to keep the plebes away. Sure, things get lost in the mail, but discreet inquiries on the part of the person who expected to be invited usually clears this up, and without half the embarrassment.

But if that's just too indirect for you, other "excuses" you can use tell someone they won't be breaking bread with you include:

Say you're keeping the wedding "pretty intimate": Translation: You're not a close enough friend to be invited.

Say the venue has strict limitations on guest list: Translation: You're not a close enough friend to be invited.

Say the guest list "isn't finalized yet": Translation: You're not a close enough friend to be invited.

I'm all for being direct and I'm all for new approaches, but this isn't direct or more efficient. It's making up other excuses to not invite someone when, again, there is a perfectly functional approach already in existence — not inviting them!

But if you're going to go all out, go all out, you know? A few suggestions:

Hire a skywriter to circle the home of your uninvited "friend" to let them know the wedding date, and then make a pass back through while the actual wedding is happening, as a friendly reminder that you're still sorry they can't be there.

Send everyone you won't be inviting an attached quiz with possible explanations as to why they weren't invited, and let them guess, such as: a.) Slept with groom or b.) Haven't been friends since 8th grade or c.) Wouldn't look good in wedding pics.

Go ahead and invite everyone you planned on rejecting, but sit them all together at a separate group of tables right next to the bathroom. First reject who figures out what is going on gets their pick from the wedding gifts table.

More suggestions in the comments, please. Let's make this thing stick!

Image by Jim Cooke.