Just Say No To Attending Weddings (when you can’t go)

There has been a bit of a backlash against the insanity of weddings lately, with a couple of blog posts coming out about people finding it too expensive and time consuming to be part of the bridal party or even just a regular guest.

Jezebel has discovered that Americans spend almost $600 PER wedding. They justifiably find that nuts, but seem to be placing the blame on the couple getting married.

A Practical Wedding published an advice column where a woman was asking how to get out of being a bridesmaid ever. Without having actually been asked or discussed what the costs might be with the bride.


What people need to understand, is that you absolutely can turn down invitations to weddings and even requests to be a bridesmaid or groomsman.

We had a great conversation about why people are feeling the pinch and why you shouldn’t feel guilty about saying no.

Jaya: I actually saw some comments that I thought related to it on APW. A long time ago APW had this piece about how “your wedding is not an imposition,” and guests can be big kids and decide whether or not they can come, and some people in the comments were like “some weddings are impositions!”

Victoria: HahahaI mean, I guess I can see how a very few family weddings might put you in a tight spot. Like say your sister decides to get married in Timbuktu and you are expected to be there, and pay, and pay for all the expensive bridesmaid stuff, but for the vast majority of weddings, you can say NO.

Jaya: Definitely. I feel like there are tiers. There are friends/family where I’d do anything they want, and there are friends where if it’s anything more than a weekend a short drive/cheap flight away, I won’t. Is that awful of me? Omg no one should separate out friends like that.

Victoria: I mean, you have to! Our time, vacation, and money are finite resources. Sometimes you might be able to fly across the country for your childhood best friend who you haven’t seen in 5 years, and sometimes you can’t. And I think people understand that. I mean, are you having situations in your own wedding where people can’t come for various reasons?

Jaya: Definitely, and it’s all understandable! One friend is taking her exams at medical school in Israel, another has a 6-month old baby and has a hard time traveling.

Victoria: Right, and that’s all totally understandable and you are okay with it.

Jaya: Absolutely. Of course I want my friends there. If I didn’t I wouldn’t have invited them, but everyone has their own shit in their lives. Like please, become a doctor! That is really important!

Victoria: Right, that’s why I was so surprised reading that RSVP thread on APW where people were actually offended that people they invited couldn’t come, and were saying it was a reflection on their future relationship. I think that is not a good attitude to have,for me it treads into bridezilla territory.

Jaya: Even if a friend just said they couldn’t afford it, or some other smaller reason, that’s fine.

Victoria: Right! It was funny to me too, when people say they were hurt when their declining guests gave no reason that they couldn’t come, when proper etiquette says that you should never give a reason. I mean, it’s fine to send a note saying they wish they could come but can’t because ____ but it is also fine to just send regrets and a card and/or gift.

Jaya: People just feel the need to justify everything these days. Okay, so, with Jezebel, the thing that struck me is wording like “request to spend a luxurious weekend getaway’s worth of time and money on someone else’s event.” That “someone else” is, presumably, someone you know and like! Do you think of going to birthday parties as “now I gotta go to dinner for someone else’s event”? No, it’s a fucking party for a friend!

Victoria: And I think for the most part, it’s not that they are having a particularly extravagant wedding, it’s that there’s a really good chance everyone’s friends are spread out across the country and so you do have to fly to get there, and stay in a hotel, and rent a car.

Jaya: Exactly. There’s a difference between a week-long destination wedding on a remote island, and just asking you to fly to Boston for a weekend because that’s where they live.

Victoria: Yep, and thems the breaks. So you do have to make a call on your own of what you can afford to do.

Jaya: Like, you wanna go back to when everyone had one friend because you never left your town? Cool.

Victoria: If you know you are tight on funds and are pretty sure your besssst friend will be getting married in the next year, maybe don’t go to the wedding of an acquaintance that will cost you $500. And all these people who are saying they have to buy a new dress for each event, and shoes, and spend $100 on a gift, STOP. You do not need to do any of those things.

Jaya: You don’t! Hell even you were talking about buying new dresses and ahhh you are so pretty already don’t do anything else!

Victoria: Hahahah! I am actually not buying a new dress because I couldn’t find one I liked. But anyway, I would like to see a new trend where couples and their guests do consider the travel expense to the wedding to BE the gift.

Jaya: Yesss. If any of our guests taking any more than a subway to get to us don’t feel like getting us a present, I’m totally fine. Hell even subway people don’t have to get us gifts, it’s not for gifts. Except for you, Victoria. Will your gift be covering your plate?

Victoria: Hahaha, I don’t know, because I don’t know how much my plate costs because it seems very rude to me to be adding up what people spend on things.

Jaya: I’ll leave you a receipt on your plate.

Victoria: That would be very helpful, thanks

Jaya: And some people say “I just feel uncomfortable saying no” and that is not the married couple’s fault.

Victoria: Hahah, yeah! Saying no is fun! Learn to love it! Oh and a good point, don’t forget that you DO need to RSVP either way..

Jaya: Absolutely. I think some of this frustration comes from wedding-related events, which we’ve talked about before. As a bride, I had to make it pretty clear, over and over, that I did not want any extra parties. And there are all sorts of factors. Sometimes brides want them. Sometimes bridesmaids feel like they have to throw them, and brides feel like they have to have them, and no one says what they really want.

Victoria: And I will say, as someone close to you, I did keep checking just to make sure you hadn’t changed your mind and weren’t being falsely modest (which is pretty dumb because that is not you) but there is such a cultural expectation.

Jaya: There is! Even if the person getting married has given no indication that they would ever want something like that, people tend to think getting married magically transforms you.Because in some cases it does transform an otherwise normal person into a crazy person. But mostly I think everyone just feels like there’s this really strange thing they have to live up to. Sometimes I think this is just a case of people not understanding how reality works, as vague as that sounds. Like, if you are getting married away from where a majority of your friends/family live, then you run the risk of more people not being able to make it. Just a fact of life, no one’s fault.

Victoria: Yeah, not to mention the whole growing up in one place, going to college thousands of miles from there, and then living as an adult in yet a third place that is again thousands of miles from both of those places (this is my life) then you are going to be stuck with a LOT of people having to travel or not make it (pre-emptive apologies to everyone, if I ever do get married.)

Jaya: Yes! Also, lots of people have destination weddings for the specific reasons that they can send lots of invites but not have many people come. Not a great loophole, but if I got married in Hawaii I would not expect 130 people to be there. I just got Jen Doll’s book about going to tons of weddings, I’m curious to see what she says about it.

Victoria: Yeah, it sounds interesting. With that many weddings attended, I do wonder if she has ever said no?


Things In The Emily Post Wedding Etiquette Book We’ve Never Heard Of

9780062326102The thing about etiquette is that there are now thousands upon thousands of “rules,” and all of them have precedent. With many ceremonies we rely on “tradition,” and though that’s a fleeting and ever-changing thing, you can always reach back to something a specific group of people did a few times 200 years ago and say “well, it’s tradition!” and everyone will take you at your word. The flip side of this is that, during the ongoing pressure of planning a wedding, people will insist on traditions you have never heard of, and you may feel forced to comply just because you’ve been convinced said-custom is indeed a tradition.

Recently, I received a copy of the 6th edition of Emily Post’s Wedding Etiquette, a lovely hardcover filled with tips on seasonal flowers, invitation wording, and updated text about same-sex marriage and having a “man of honor.” (It does still say that “men may choose not to wear a ring” but makes no mention that women don’t have to wear rings either. Ugh.) But looking through, there were a number of things that I realized I have never seen in person. I have been to 15 weddings in my lifetime (18 by the end of the year, including my own), from Catholic to Polish Orthodox to secular, Indian to Jewish, formal to garden party, and none of these things has ever happened. That doesn’t mean they never happened, or don’t still happen, or that you shouldn’t do them; this is just a reminder that you do not have to take every bit of advice given to you.

  • Having a separate “bridal bouquet” and “tossing bouquet.”
  • During the Best Man’s toast, it used to be customary for him to read any congratulatory telegrams. I’d actually be cool with bringing this back, so someone send me a wedding telegram.
  • Seeing the bride and groom serve cake to their parents. “Tradition has it that the bride serve the groom’s parents, and he serves hers.”
  • We knew it was tradition for the bride’s family to pay for the ceremony and reception, and the groom’s family to pay for the rehearsal dinner. However, the groom’s family is also apparently supposed to pay for the engagement and wedding rings, the officiant’s fee and transportation, and all the corsages. This seems complicated.
  • “Always address wedding invitation envelopes by hand, even when inviting hundreds of guests.” I have received plenty of wedding invitations with our names printed on the envelopes, and the world kept spinning.
  • Checking whether throwing rice/confetti/etc is allowed with your venue. Does anyone actually throw rice anymore???
  • The groomsmen also serve as ushers and show the guests to their seats.
  • Technically, this is from the 5th edition of this book, but traditionally, the couple was supposed to pay for the accommodations of their bridal party.
  • One of the groom’s traditional duties was to plan the whole honeymoon, often not telling the bride where they were going until they got there.

The Care and Keeping of Wedding Attendants

While I appreciate the trend for tasteful bridesmaids dresses, the world seems less rich without dresses like this.

While I appreciate the trend for tasteful bridesmaids dresses, the world seems less rich without dresses like these.

Etiquette has nothing to say about how many wedding attendants you have, whether they are the same gender of the half of the couple they are standing up for, what you ask them to wear, all of that is optional and completely up to you, no judgments.

However, if you do have attendants, here are some things to keep in mind.

  • The only job of an attendant is to wear what you tell them to wear and stand up with you during your ceremony. While showers, bachelor/ette parties are duties that are traditionally and frequently arranged by the wedding party, they are absolutely not required and you can’t throw a fit if your attendants choose not to do so for whatever reason.
  • In the US, you can ask that the wedding party cover the cost of their attire/hair/make up even if you are picking it out. But you should be upfront about the potential cost and be understanding if someone needs to drop out because they can’t afford it.
  • Special gifts for the wedding party aren’t required, but they are very nice. A big thank you IS required.
  • Remember, these people are doing you a huge favor and you need to treat them respectfully throughout the whole process.
  • During the ceremony, you can have them perform certain duties such as holding the bouquet/rings and helping to arrange the dress before walking down and then back up the aisle.
  • Did you know that traditionally the groomsmen other than the Best Man were called Ushers and they would actually help usher guests to their seats before the ceremony?
  • While you can make your attendants wear pretty much anything you want, you should take their thoughts and feelings into consideration.
  • You can expect that you attendants show up on time and ready to go for the rehearsal and on the wedding day itself.

Now it is not unreasonable that you will want help and support from the people who are supposed to be your best friends and that you will want them to go above and beyond what etiquette requires of them. You just need to talk to them before they agree to be part of your wedding party and see what their expectations and abilities are and if they align with what you want and need. See this really excellent post about the management of a wedding party on Offbeat Bride for more ideas.

Wedding Invitations

Dare I say that this invitation seems more modern than what you would expect for a royal wedding? [Via Flickr user markhillary]

We’ve talked about what to do with a wedding invitation for a guest, so now we have the etiquette of actually sending out wedding invitations.

Save the Dates

Save the dates are a relatively recent invention— a pre-invitation of sorts. They should be sent out as soon as you finalize your date and rough location. These do not have to go out to everyone you think you are going to invite. They should mostly go out to the most important people and especially the ones that live furthest away and will need to make major travel plans. If you send someone a Save the Date, you MUST invite them to the wedding, no take backsies (with a few exceptions), thus you should be judicious about sending them to only the people you are sure you are going to invite, lest you wind up in a position where you invite 100 friends and then realize your parents had a list of 200 relatives and your venue only fits 150. I should note that Save the Dates are absolutely optional, but something that many couples find useful.


The style of your invitation should match the style of your wedding. This helps guests have a hint of the style of dress to wear and what to expect. Never include information about gifts or registries, the invitation should be about your desire to have the guest attend your very important day, not about what towels you need. I do like a discreet wedding website URL on an invitation because then your invitation can be simple and elegant and your guests can get all the nitty gritty details online.

The great thing about wedding invitations these days is that the style can really represent your event any way you want. This is a far cry from back in the day when only engraved invitations on white, ivory, or cream paper (with no borders or other decorations!) were considered acceptable and all the old biddies would turn your invitation over so they could check for the slight tell-tale engraving indentation on the back. And don’t even get them started on mechanically-made embossing dies.

Invitation Wording

There are many ways to word an invitation. This is the very traditional formal version:

Mr. and Mrs. Gideon Humperdink

request the honour of your presence

at the marriage of their daughter



Mr. Dudley Winklesmith

on Saturday, the fifteenth of March

Two thousand and fourteen

at five o’clock

The Church of the Holy Rollers

New York City

and afterward at

“The Snobby Club”

Now this invitation is worded for the parents of the bride as the hosts and at a church wedding. If the wedding is not at a church, you would substitute “request the pleasure of your company” for the words “request the honour of your presence” (honour is always spelled with a u in formal wedding invitations and is only used for a church ceremony). Also, traditionally in Jewish weddings, you write “the marriage of their daughter Geraldine and Mr. Dudley Smith” (using “and” in place of “to”).  On a formal invitation, you can put RSVP in the lower left corner. Dress code does not belong on a formal invitation, except, Black Tie may be written in the lower left corner. (But please, do find a way to tell your guests what the dress code is.)

The modern formal invitation often acknowledges the joint hosting by the couple and/or their parents and often includes both sets of parents regardless of who is hosting. A modern formal invitation would look more like this:

Mr. and Mrs. Gideon Humperdink

and Mr. and Mrs. Irving Winklesmith

request the honour of your presence

at the marriage of

Miss Geraldine Humperdink


Mr. Dudley Winklesmith

on Saturday, the fifteenth of March

Two thousand and fourteen

at five o’clock

The Church of the Holy Rollers

New York City

and afterward at

“The Snobby Club”

If the couple is hosting on their own, the invitation would look more like this:

The pleasure of your company

is requested at the marriage of

Miss Geraldine Humperdink


Mr. Dudley Winklesmith

on Saturday, the fifteenth of March

Two thousand and fourteen

at five o’clock

 The Snobby Club

New York City

Of course, these days you are welcome to do almost anything with your invitations! You should, however, include:

  • That it is, indeed, a wedding. (or a commitment ceremony or whatever, just some indication of what kind of event you are having).
  • Who is getting married (including the last names somewhere [in the examples above, Geraldine is used alone only following her parents names—if she had a different last name then them, she would be noted as Miss Geraldine Smith).
  • The date and the time (the time is traditionally listed as when the ceremony starts, but you might want to give ½ an hour or so buffer so everyone is definitely there before you start.) And don’t feel like you have to spell the date and time out, numerals are just fine.
  • The location.

Some informal invitation wordings that I like are:

Geraldine Marie Humperdink


Dudley Michael Winklesmith

request the pleasure of your company

at their marriage


Together with their parents

Geraldine Marie Humperdink


Dudley Michael Winklesmith

request the pleasure of your company

at their marriage


Please join

Geraldine Humperdink


Dudley Winklesmith

at the celebration of their marriage


See many more great examples here.

Addressing Invitations

In the interest of space, please see this post on forms of address.

If you are using both an inner and outer envelope, you can use the formal address on the outer envelope and then just use first names on the inner envelope. The inner envelope is also a great space to include the names of kids you are inviting—parents only on the outer envelope and then everyone by first name on the inner.

Mailing Invitations

Invitations should be sent out 6-8 weeks ahead of time, especially these days with the abundance of Save the Dates, the actual invitation is really more of a formality.

Response Cards

Technically response cards are against etiquette because including them insultingly implies that the guest doesn’t know to RSVP correctly (which is technically with a handwritten response on their own stationery). However, nowadays, many people don’t know how to RSVP “correctly” so I think they are a useful tool. If you do use them, make sure to include a self addressed, stamped envelope. And for your own sanity, make sure to include a line asking for their name so you know who is responding! Email, phone, and wedding website RSVP instructions are all perfectly acceptable as well.

How Do I Keep People From Throwing Me Bridal Showers?

Leave YOUR advice for the bride in the comments. [Via Flickr user Ceng Design]

Dear Uncommon Courtesy,

I am getting married soon, and this is completely a ridiculous problem, but I am being inundated with offers to throw pre-wedding parties and events. People want to give me bridal showers, bachelorette parties, and pre-wedding family get togethers. I’m very grateful of course, but I am not really interested in being the center of attention and I don’t really have time to attend all these different events. How can I turn them down politely and without hurting anyone’s feelings?


Low key bride

Official Etiquette:

Strangely, Miss Manners has tons of advice for guests who want to get out of attending (and bringing gifts!) to a never ending string of pre-wedding parties, but she hasn’t covered advice for brides who don’t want to go to their own parties. Therefore, the default answer is to just be gracious and go, you monster! We kid of course, but this is sort of the problem with the trend of greedy brides- people just can’t fathom the idea that someone wouldn’t want to have a bridal shower or bachelorette party.

Our Take:

Jaya: Oof, this is really a problem! I was dealing with this a little myself, and I’m someone who gets burnt out on social interactions pretty easily, and gets anxious about being “on” and such. I know I’m lucky that so many people want to celebrate, but it can be overwhelming when you just want to throw one party and everyone insists on half a dozen parties to ring in that party!

Victoria: So how are you handling it?

Jaya: Trying to graciously turn things down, in a “oh you really don’t have to do that” way, with mixed results. Like, if I say to my friends “you know what, i’m just not feeling a shower” that’s fine. But there’s more of a scolding tone of “they’re just trying to be nice” when an adult does it. Haha, “adult.” I’m 27. But you know what I mean. What should I be doing?

Victoria: Yeah, that’s such a touchy situation, I don’t really know how you would handle that tactfully and without offending anyone.

Jaya:  Victoria you’re the one who gives me answers!!!! What am I supposed to do, try to politely communicate by myself?

Victoria: I mean, I think it’s less of an etiquette thing and more a family relations thing. I think etiquette strongly encourages going along with it unless theres a particularly good reason not to.

Jaya: Ahhh, and “I’m overwhelmed and want people to stop fussing over me” isn’t particularly good?

Victoria: Haha there’s the rub. You have to decide which hills you want to die on, and in a wedding, there are a whoooole lot of hills.

Jaya: And, like with many other words thrown around at weddings, a bride is often “selfish” when she doesn’t live up to what others expect she should be. I think it’s also hard because often times, at least for me, these requests are coming from people who don’t communicate with each other. People from my side want to throw things, people from his side want to throw things, and it all adds up.

Victoria:  Yeah, exactly. Although, multiple showers are fairly traditional for exactly that reason. But ugh also, showers, traditionally, should really only be for your closest friends and relatives.

Jaya: And I guess, if your goal is toning down pre-wedding events, multiple showers, however compromised, is not really a great end game.

Victoria: But then you also don’t want to end up with a shower with 50 guests. After thinking about this some more, the advice I would give is to just gushingly thank people for offering and then be like, “but really I am just so overwhelmed with the wedding and my regular life, I couldn’t possibly.” And then if you need to pull out the big ammo and say “there are so many people wanting to host parties, I couldn’t possibly attend them all, so I would prefer to not show preference to any of them.”

Jaya: That’s perfect. I mean, it’s the truth too, but somehow I always think that would sound ungrateful like “wahhh too many people want to throw parties for me and it’s giving me anxiety.”

Victoria: Hahah yeah. I mean, if you have some attendants or at least a maid of honor—someone is at least nominally in charge of coordinating all that stuff and can be the bad guy. So that’s an option for people who have attendants.

Jaya: And showers can be so intense and huge events these days, it’s bananas.

Victoria: Why don’t people understand anymore that showers are supposed to be small with tiny little gifts like wooden spoons? They would be so much less objectionable that way, for both brides and guests.