More Wedding Guest List Woes

Not everyone wants a 500 person wedding!

Not everyone wants a 500 person wedding!

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.

Groom’s mom


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.

Victoria: Yes!

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.

Victoria: Yeah

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!

How to Buy a Wedding Gift

We’ve talked about this before, but I have some seen some startling things about wedding gifts on blogs lately, so I thought it would be good to do a refresher.

I was prompted in this by seeing several times over the last few weeks, wedding guests lamenting that the only things left on the wedding registry were super expensive so they were *forced* to spend so much more than they had been planning.



Um, no. My friends, a wedding registry is a suggestion of items that the happy couple would like to have. Granted, if you want to buy them a toaster and they have a specific toaster listed, you should PROBABLY get them that one since it probably has particular features that they like. But you are perfectly well within your rights as a guest to get them something that is NOT on the registry. If that seems too risky for you, EVERYONE likes checks! And honestly, people get all silly about a $25/30 check not being “enough.” But honestly, $25 is still $25 they didn’t have before and they know that their mixing bowl set is $25 so if you had gotten them that, they would still know what you spent. Don’t be embarrassed!

And if they have a honeymoon fund but only set it up to accept certain denominations (ahem, couples, do not do this. Do not start your honeyfund contributions at $75. Start them at like $10 and go up from there.), send a check with the amount you would prefer to give anyway. Honeyfunds are a total racket that deduct a percentage of the gift anyway.

So please, go forth and be joyous without destroying your budget. And honestly, if you are paying for airfare and accommodations for the wedding, your presence is definitely a present and a very sweet card or token gift should be fine. And couples who bitch about it should get over themselves.

Deal With It Devil Wears Prada

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?