You’ve Been Invited

You’re probably very happy to have received an invitation to a wedding. But what does it all mean? And what if you aren’t so happy? Here’s some pointers.

If you really don’t want to attend the wedding, don’t go.

If you aren’t that close to the bride and groom and don’t really care to be there, it’s perhaps better you don’t attend. It may be that you have been included on the guest list at the insistence of a parent who, for example, feels a professional obligation to invite you. If it isn’t that important a relationship to you, why not free up your spot for another guest?

If you do not plan to attend the wedding, notify the couple as soon as possible.

There is probably a response card included in the invitation. Follow the instruction to indicate that you will not be attending, and perhaps include a short handwritten note. You may also want to follow up with a phone call and a short explanation why you can’t attend. If you do not attend the wedding, you are not expected to send a gift, but it would certainly be appreciated if you did. Or perhaps send a nice card with your best wishes to the bride and groom, to arrive the week after their wedding.

If you do plan to attend the wedding, notify the couple as soon as possible.

Your prompt reply will help them greatly in solidifying their wedding plans. There is probably a response card included in the invitation. Follow the instruction to indicate your intentions.

Who can you bring?

Weddings can be expensive. Each additional guest means additional cost to the hosts, and while in some cases that might be as little as an additional $10-$20 per guest, it can mean as much as an additional $200 (and even more!). Planning a wedding involves numerous compromises. The couple and their families probably can not afford to invite everyone they might like to invite. At the same time, they are undoubtedly eager not offend anyone.

Look closely at the envelope in which the invitation came. To whom is it addressed?

  • If it is addressed to only you:

    your hosts expect you to attend the wedding alone. They will no doubt attempt to seat you with other single people and/or acquaintances of yours. As the wedding date approaches, you might ask the couple if other mutual friends who have been invited solo, then arrange to arrive at the wedding with them. This might be particularly desirable if you are a single woman attending an evening wedding and have any qualms about not having an escort for the event.

  • If it is addressed to you “and Guest”:

    your hosts intend for you to invite the date of your choice. Make your plans immediately and, when you send your response card, indicate your guest’s name (write clearly!) so that they can personalize your date’s place card, if they are to be used.

  • If it addressed to you and your significant other:

    your hosts intend for just the two of you to attend. If you have children as well, sorry, but they aren’t invited. Take no offense. Your children are no doubt lovely and well-behaved. It just may not be a child-oriented event. Try to remember that this is the couple’s special day, and perhaps children don’t readily fit into the picture they have of their dream wedding. Instead of taking umbrage, find a sitter and enjoy yourselves. Be sure to indicate exactly how many of you are attending when you send your response card (if only one of you can attend, make sure that is indicated clearly, so the hosts can plan accordingly).

  • If it addressed to you and your significant other (if you have one), and then indicates your children’s names as well:

    then you are all welcome. This is also the case if it says “and children” or “and family” after your names, or if it is addressed to “The Your Name Family”. Again, when you send your response card, indicate exactly who is attending so to facilitate the hosts’ planning and creation of place cards, etc.

It is not appropriate to ask the couple or the hosts to let you bring extra people, even your children. If the exclusion of your children is such a problem that you can not attend without them, simply send your regrets, saying that family matters prevents you from being able to attend, and leave it at that.

If you have unique circumstances that you believe your hosts may not be aware of, such as needing wheelchair access, you might mention that in a note when you send in your response card. Just be sure to be polite about it (“I hope my need for wheelchair access will not create a problem at the ceremony or reception locations.”). It is not appropriate to make dietary request unless they are solicited. If you get to the reception and they are serving something you can’t eat, just don’t eat it. If you have food allergies or religious dietary restrictions, try to eat something before hand, just in case.

Being a good guest isn’t really very hard. Just remember your manners. If, heaven forbid, you never learned any, just remember that a couple’s wedding is first and foremost their day, and a special day for their families. They want you to have a good time, but the event is not about indulging you, so put the couple’s happiness ahead of your own. The couple and their families have honored you by inviting you to the wedding: return the favor by following simple rules of courtesy and common sense.

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