Your wedding is a big deal, so you might want to invite the most friends possible, from your old college roommate to your favorite barista at Starbucks. You probably also have a list of people you do NOT want to come, which can get you in a sticky situation.
Let's break down wedding guest list etiquette and talk about big wedding DOs and DON'Ts to ensure you have all your loved ones around you without any faux pas that might raise eyebrows.
- Invite your family in groups rather than pick and choose your favorite relatives
- Always invite couples as a pair unless they aren't in a committed relationship
- Clearly write the guests' names on the invitations, so there's no question about who's invited
The Three Guest Lists
Your wedding guest list comprises three smaller guest lists:
- The bride's family guests
- The groom's family guests
- The couple's guests
You may want to create your list as a couple first, then equally divide the remaining places between the two sides of the family.
Do parents invite their friends to a wedding? They can as long as they are still within the guest count you provide.
However, avoid creating A and B lists, as people don't appreciate feeling like an afterthought.
Once you have the lists, address each invitation with only the invited guests' names to avoid ambiguity or confusion. For example, Shine Wedding Invitations allows inner envelope name printing separate from the mailing address to clarify the intended recipients.
Ceremony Guest List vs. Reception Guest List
Not everyone who you invite to the reception has to attend the ceremony. Some couples choose to create two separate guest lists for the two events.
If you plan to invite some guests to the reception only, be clear about this in the invitation. For example, you could write "reception" in the invitation instead of using vague terms like "wedding."
Proper RSVP Etiquette
Your RSVP cards are crucial for finalizing your guest list. Knowing who's coming allows you to finish your seating arrangement, give a head count to the caterer, and order the correct seating stationery.
Without an RSVP, you'll pay significantly more for empty seats and see gaps around the tables, as only 80 to 85% of guests attend.
Give your guests between four and five weeks to respond. Then ask for a response no later than three weeks before the wedding. This is the ideal timeframe to ensure your guests have adequate time to plan for the big day.
If guests add an additional guest to their RSVP that wasn't invited, you should call those guests and politely explain that there isn't room. The wedding is your day, so you shouldn't feel obligated to add uninvited guests to the list.
Wedding planning takes a full year, according to experts. Many events can happen during a year that will change the dynamics of friendships and relationships. In some cases, you might even want to uninvite a guest. For example, a couple might have divorced, or you had a falling out with a friend.
However, uninviting guests is never acceptable. Instead, rearrange the seating chart or find other ways to ease the situation, so you're still comfortable on your important day.
Wedding Guest Etiquette: Who To Invite to a Wedding (or Not)
Let's go through some specific rules for the wedding guest list and see who you should send an invite to and who you can politely skip according to wedding guest etiquette.
1. Family Members
Family is tricky. Just because you're related to someone by blood doesn't mean you like them or want them at your wedding. As much as you may want to pick and choose between family, traditionally, you should treat them as an all-or-nothing.
That means if you invite one aunt, you have to ask them all along with all the uncles. You can picture your family on tiers depending on how close they are in relation to you. Each tier comes as a package deal. The same rule applies to cousins and grandparents.
However, the all-or-nothing rule doesn't influence the groom's side of the family and vice versa. You might want to invite your extended family all the way to your second cousins because you are a close-knit family, but your fiancé might not feel the same way about his family. He can stick with immediate family without risking breaking etiquette by not mirroring your family invites.
2. Plus One
Should you or should you not allow your guests to bring another guest?
If a guest is married, engaged, or living with someone else, you should invite them as one unit, even if you don't know their partner. However, if the couple is dating and isn't in a committed relationship, you have a little more wiggle room and can take it case by case.
If you have the room at the venue, you can leave the option up to your guests by adding "and guest" to the invitation. That allows your guests to decide whether they want to bring someone with them.
You planned an elegant and classy wedding for adults only, so how can you guarantee all your guests will find babysitters for the day?
Unfortunately, spelling out that a wedding is for adults only isn't traditionally acceptable. However, you can strongly suggest this by only naming the parents on the invitation. Then, if the parents still add the children's names on the RSVP card, you can give a phone call and explain clearly yet politely that no children are invited.
Once a guest reaches 18, they're no longer considered a child. Not only should they be invited to adult-only weddings, but they should also receive their own invitation.
4. Married Friends Who Invited You
Your friend from college invited you to her wedding three years ago. Does that mean you have to ask her to yours?
If you're still close to that friend or that friend's wedding was recent, then most definitely. However, if the wedding was a while ago and the friendship isn't as strong, you don't have to invite her.
5. Gift Givers
Giving a gift isn't a free pass to someone's wedding. Therefore, if someone gives you a gift, you don't need to automatically add the gift-giver to the guest list. Instead, a thank you note is sufficient.
Coworkers, thankfully, don't have the same rules as a family. That means they aren't an all-or-nothing deal. You're free to invite whomever you want (and like). However, you should try to keep your personal life out of the workplace. So, avoid discussing wedding details with your coworker besties around coworkers you didn't invite because that can cause negative feelings.
Instead, wait till after-work drinks or morning coffee to share your latest wedding plans and excitement.
Invite Your Guests in Style
Shine Wedding Invitations blends elegant designs with a timeless style that will delight and charm your guests. Use one of our unique designs to send out wedding suites customized to your needs, whether you need specific names, reception-only cards, or any other personalized packet.
Contact us to prepare your perfect wedding invitation suite.
Wedding Reception: Katelyn Ortego Photography
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