Dear Uncommon Courtesy,
My son and his fiancé are adamant about keeping a tight rein on their guest list. They do not want a large wedding and they have a finite number they want to invite. My husband and I agree and support their decision.
One of my cousins desperately wants her son to attend and he’s just not on the list. Now the suggestion is that he’s a substitute for someone else in the family who can’t attend. How do I politely say there’s no substitution. My son and fiancé have other friends they want to move up to fill the spot. They are not giving automatic “plus 1” invites.
Victoria: As a person who has planned a wedding, why don’t you start?
Jaya: So, I think we can all agree that, while you might be disappointed at not receiving an invitation to an event, trying to coerce your way in, ESPECIALLY after one of the planners has said no, is just not a good look. And kudos to this mother of the groom for supporting her kid and backing them up on this.
Jaya: It’s hard, because it’s family so you really don’t want hurt feelings, but I think reiterating that they’re keeping the wedding small, and that while you’re very sorry, the answer is no, is about all you can do. And you may just have to accept that the cousin is going to be pouty about it for some time.
Victoria: Yeah, I think you don’t want to try to explain or make excuses. Just keep repeating, “I’m sorry, but we can’t accommodate him.”
Jaya: Right, making excuses just opens up more negotiating.
Victoria: Yeah, and hurt feelings of friends being invited over family, etc.
Jaya: And you want to make it clear this is non-negotiable.
Victoria: Aaybe once you repeat it a couple of times say “Cousin, I’m sorry, but I have already explained multiple times that we will not be able to accommodate your son. I will not discuss the subject further.”
Jaya: Yes. And yeah, weddings make emotions run high. You may be risking pissing this cousin off a lot, or the cousin holding a grudge for a very long time, but if your son has made that choice and you’re supporting him, that’s how it’ll be.
Jaya: It always baffles me, the lack of self awareness some people have about this stuff.
Victoria: I know.
Jaya: I obviously don’t know their family situation, but I’m not super close with most of my parents’ cousin’s kids!
Victoria: Hahaha yeah, me either.
Jaya: And just, the reaction that not getting invited to a wedding is the end of the world. And begging to get in.
Victoria: I’m interested to see if there is a shift when our generation are the parents of the couple, since we have seen a shift in weddings from being about the whole extended family and kinship/business circles to being more centered on the close relationships of the couple/the couple paying for a bigger portion vs the parents of the bride being the sole payers and hosts.
Jaya: Yeah, that will be interesting. Because right, for so long it was a party thrown for the bride and groom, not by them, and thus usually up to the parents who to invite.
Victoria: Yep, so all the aunts and cousins and stuff expected to be invited. Whereas when we are the older generation, we might not be as focused on that (but maybe it’s an old people thing, who knows?)
Jaya: Even within our generation it’s interesting to see the breakdown, between weddings where it seems like the couple got to invite a lot of their friends, or weddings where the parents got control of the guest list and there weren’t many friends.
Victoria: Haha yeah.
Jaya: It’s still such a cultural difference, depending on where you were raised, whether your family is all in one area, and your religions/traditions.
Victoria: Yeah, and even just individual family traditions.
Jaya: But even then, even if you grew up down the street from your 2nd cousin and have known him all your life, you’re still not obligated. This question is really sticking with me. I cannot fathom a situation in which, after being told that there is no room for me, I try to continue to make room for myself.
Victoria: Yeah, it’s absolutely mind boggling. Like, you just don’t try to negotiate invitations.
Jaya: Because then what, you’re there, and the bride and groom have in their mind everything you’ve done to get there when they’re interacting with you.
Victoria: I do kind of feel like with unreasonable people its probably better to just separate yourself from them, even if you are related. I mean, it depends on your family and blah blah blah, but by the time you are old enough to have a kid who is getting married, you probably aren’t going to be forced to interact with your cousins that much! Like, your grandparents and parents/aunts/uncles are probably dead or about to be, and those family ties tend to be easier to sever the farther apart everyone gets.
Jaya: Right. At some point those relationships pass to the next generation. And at this point, you’re talking about the relationship between your son and your cousin’s kid, who I’ll assume are closer in age. And if they haven’t forged that relationship on their own, that’s their business. This is also an instance where I hope, going forward, weddings become less of a *thing*. Treating them like the MOST IMPORTANT EVENT EVER makes people act crazy when they’re not present.
Victoria: Haha yeah, it’s weird, I feel like for a loooong time they weren’t a big thing. And then they became a HUGE thing.
Jaya: Right! Maybe that’s just because we’re in the thick of wedding age right now? But yeah, not getting in invitation turns into this huge personal affront instead of like, just not being invited to one thing.
Victoria: Yeah, I also have found it so freeing to turn down invitations. I have a rule that I am not getting on an airplane for someone I wouldn’t get on an airplane to see just for a visit.
Jaya: That’s a good rule!
Victoria: Yeah! So like limited to really close friends and my cousins/sister (who are awesome). Although, I suppose if it was a cool destination and a lot of other people I knew were going, that might make it worth it.
Jaya: Yeah, I mean obviously use your discretion. If it’s someone you like reasonably well and you can afford flying to Hawaii, go for it!