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I am in the midst of planning my wedding, which as most people know is a long, painstaking process. We've had a long engagement and fairly early on one of our friends began asking us if he would be invited to the wedding (usually after having a few drinks). He is in our circle of friends, but not someone either of us is particularly close to. This started well before we had made a guest list, but even then I knew he wouldn't make it. He'd probably end up on the C or D list.

My response was to never give an outright answer, but to say that the wedding won't be too big and both of us have large families (etc, etc). It was always very uncomfortable, and after this happened a few times things now feel awkward whenever we see each other. He hasn't asked about it in quite a while, but we also haven't seen each other much (for other benign reasons).

What is the best way to respond in a situation like this? I'm looking for a way to defuse the situation as non-painfully as possible, whether that means telling him "probably not", "definitely not", or just successfully deflecting.

  • 5
    Weddings inevitably place rankings on your friends/family. Consider yourself lucky if you only have this problem with one person. – Nacht Oct 12 '17 at 21:47
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    "just successfully deflecting" You're not deflecting, you're just postponing. – pmf Oct 13 '17 at 8:14
  • It's possible, though not necessarily likely, that he is planning a trip, or is nervous in crowds, or doesn't own a suit, doesn't have a date, DOES have a date but the invites might not be "plus one", or somehow just needs to know rather than wants a particular answer. – Grimm The Opiner Oct 13 '17 at 8:30
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    Just wait until that person needs to write the guest list for his wedding. Then he'll understand ;) – Eric Duminil Oct 13 '17 at 18:18
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    Is there any reason why you feel this person needs such a gentle response? Most not-terribly-close friends would understand that you can only afford to have so many people at your wedding and family/closest friends are always the priority. If you and your fiancée both have large families, than it shouldn't really hurt this person's feelings to hear that you simply do't have the space/funds to invite them. – user61524 Oct 14 '17 at 7:20

10 Answers 10

54

However you word this, unfortunately, the person may choose to take offense. Just be as diplomatic as possible when letting them know they won't be invited, something along the lines of:

"I'm sorry, but we have a limited amount of space, and I can't invite everyone. I'd like to invite you, but we are looking at inviting family and our closest friends."

There is no really good way, and you do risk offense if he considers you a close friend when you obviously don't reciprocate the feeling. However, letting him know up front is much better than a vague "Well, we haven't finalized the list yet, so if you get an invite please RSVP". If he isn't invited, telling him up front is much better than a long wait with no invitation.

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    Clearly, I am totally the kind of people would could get over a frank answer, even if it take some time and not forgive any of the others methods. – Walfrat Oct 12 '17 at 8:18
  • I had this situation, and I told them they couldn't come because we had maxxed out numbers. It was in a different country too so I told them we wouldn't have evening guests as it'd be unfair on evening guests to make a long trip just for a few hours. They seemed to understand that. – mickburkejnr Oct 13 '17 at 11:30
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    Personally, I would avoid the "closest friends" mention. Even if he's not one of your closest friends, you might be one of his. In the interest of not making him feel like he's low on the list of priorities, I'd remain vague about where the line is drawn, and simply point out that the number of attendees is limited. – Flater Nov 17 '17 at 11:17
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    @Flater....really interesting (and poignant) consideration: Even if he's not one of your closest friends, you might be one of his. – elrobis Dec 15 '17 at 20:04
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Answer: This depends on your priorities.

If you want to make sure you keep him as a friend then invite him to the party

If on the other hand you are ambivalent about his friendship, (you don't mind being his friend but are fine losing his friendship) then just keep saying what your are already saying, "We are keeping the party small."

Advice to make it less awkward.
When you tell him your keeping the party small add a "thank you" preferably genuine, and then change the subject quickly. Having a list of quick subject changes that he will be interested in may be helpful.

For example you could say something like this:

Actually we are having a smaller wedding, But thank you so much for caring! We wish we could invite more people. Have you seen the new star wars trailer?

Personal Suggestion: this doesn't really answer your question but I feel it is important. The fact that your friend has brought up the question multiple times usually after a few drink loosens him up, suggests that he is a bit insecure about his personal relationships with others. To me it appears that he is seeking for some sort of approval. He wants to know that he matter enough to you, or maybe just that he matters enough to any one to be invited to their wedding.

I would suggest considering inviting him to the wedding for his sake. It might not mean that much to him, but then again I just might make his life a little bit better. And I promise you the more kindness and service you give to others the more you will receive back in return. But of course it's your wedding your call.

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    Inviting someone to your wedding to make them feel better, when you wouldn't have invited them otherwise, seems a bit crazy to me. I mean, I would never suggest such a thing, and I personally wouldn't think it such a good idea - then again it doesn't really matter what I think, it's ultimately up to the couple. – David Z Oct 11 '17 at 23:14
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    @DavidZ: It's a "borderline" thing. If this person doesn't mean anything to you, don't invite him/her. On the other hand, the person has just given you a clue as to what will make him/her happy. That might be worth something in the right situation. There was a woman I knew from childhood (single digits) whose wedding I very much wanted to attend. I brought it up and she snubbed me, even though her wedding was "large." I got the message and never spoke to her again. This could be an "up or out" situation. – Tom Au Oct 12 '17 at 1:13
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    Dan I note your empathy, and salute you for it. The part about friend perhaps being insecure would likely not have occurred to me 'til too late... – akaioi Oct 12 '17 at 2:19
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    @DavidZ you'r right, it is up to the couple and admittedly having limited time and energy we can't extend love and acceptance to every person in the world. What we can do is offer our friendship to those few people who happen to be with in our circle of influence right now. I have found in my life that helping other people has created much greater feelings of happiness and satisfaction with myself than focusing on my own pleasures ever has. – Dan Anderson Oct 12 '17 at 19:10
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    @DanAnderson Sure, that's a perfectly fine opinion, I'm just saying I think suggesting it to other people is a bit of an overreach, at least if you are "suggesting" in the sense of "I think you should do this". If you're "suggesting" in the sense of "This is something you could do if you want", I have no complaints, but that's not how the last paragraph of your answer came across to me. – David Z Oct 12 '17 at 20:38
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I think that after having deflected him a few times, and that making the situation more awkward, it's now time to let him know in more explicit terms when he asks again.

Just be honest. You're probably not going to invite him. You have reasons for doing so:

  • You've always seen your dream wedding as a family affair
  • There is not a large amount of money to spend on giving a huge wedding party. And you don't want to start off your marriage with a huge debt

Of course, I'm speculating here, but these are the kinds of honest reasons you could present. Being honest and having a legitimate reason for not inviting him should be something a true friend should be able to understand.

If you're only going to invite family, and you and him have a mutual friend, it might be a good idea to point out that you're not inviting that mutual friend either, for exactly the same reasons. This might soften the blow a bit, and prevent him from feeling excluded.

Maybe it's an idea to invite him over for coffee (and cake?) after the honeymoon? It shows that you're willing to celebrate with him, even though he's not invited to the main party.

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    This is a really good idea. For each group who didn't get invited - sport club, colleagues, drinking buddies - organise a round of drinks or a bag of doughnuts. – RedSonja Oct 12 '17 at 10:30
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I had something very similar occur during my wedding. A friend who I am not overly close with asked if he was invited to the wedding after having a few drinks.

I originally was not planning on inviting him so I brushed it off and did not really give an answer. Eventually I decided to invite him and his girlfriend, because our venue had some room and he's a nice guy who is close with a lot of our good friends.

He came to the wedding, was one of the most fun guests at the dance, and even gave us a great gift. So I suggest maybe re-thinking inviting this person if your venue has room to accommodate. The more the merrier as they say.

4

Look. He knows. You know. What's making this an awkward situation is the unresolved truth that no-one will state.

At present, the question is eating at you -- that is, it's a problem for you. If you tell him, it ceases to be your problem, and becomes entirely his problem.

Politesse demands that you be nice about it. Much depends on how formal/friendly/teasing/etc your interactions with this guy are already. The Q suggests that the guy is a friend, but not a close friend. Were it me, I'd tell him, "Bro, in re wedding invites. I'm sorry, we couldn't make it work. We still love ya." Your precise words will vary, but you get the idea.

4

We just had almost the same situation and we decided to not give much space for bad interpretation. Our first idea was also to our friend that we only invite very close friends, but then i thought this is a bad idea. If we say "We invite only close friends." for our friend it will sound like "You are not a close friend, thats why we don't invite you." and that hurts pretty much.

If you can't invite everyone it often has a limiting factor (space, money, ...). It's important to tell your friend, why you can not invite so many guests.

When we had to explain why we didn't invite this specific friend, we said that we had to make the hard decision to invite only the few friends we spent most time with recently. This reason doesn't give a good opportunity to be misunderstood.

It worked pretty well for us and our friend accepted our decision without beeing mad.

3

I am currently in the same situation as OP, I am planning my wedding which will be in the next two weeks. My interactions with some of my friends and close colleagues are starting to be awkward with them reminding me that am getting married in the next two weeks and asking me why they have not received invitations yet, I usually just tell them "My fiance and I have big families and because of limited space in the venue where we getting married they will receive invites only if some of our family members decline or cannot make it, otherwise it is going to be a family affair.", that usually works for me.

2

You may come off clean by telling something like you are not sure about, who's going to be invited yourself(that is true), so you can't answer the question, because you don't know, so you don't want any misinformation to be told about the event, you are organizing. In my imagination, it'll sound like:

it's really hard to submit the final version of the list due to limited space, large families, etc. and i still don't know, who will actually be present there.

2

Are you asking what should be done, or are you asking how to respond to his request?
My suggestion varies for how much effort you wish to make helping the person.

I am caught on the “after having a few drinks” bit.

  • Does he only ask this sort of thing from you, or does he ask it of others too? Would he?
  • What is his status?
    Does he have a significant other? Is he legally bound in a marital union? What is his religion? Does he have a favorite writer or philosopher?
  • How is he webbed in your “circle of friends”? Who is a better friend to him than you?

I would say that this guy has some semi-repressed emotional ‘anchors’ which are tugging at and urging him to ask for an invitation. It may be some wish to ‘hook–up with a drunk chick at a wedding’, or it may be some unprofessed sadness at the fact that he has not yet met The One and hopes to do so at your own event of sorts.

One more thing:

  • There is obviously some incompatibility between you and him which results with him on your C list or worse. How does that play into all this? Do you know him and not like him, or is he simply difficult to know?
    Not expecting an answer to that one; it is something for you to consider.
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You should really invite him to the wedding for one reason. He's interested in your wedding. If you choose to exile him from the situation you must be aware there could be a build up of negative energy from denial.

Don't still be friends if you don't invite him, it could end up being a messy situation between you two.

Tell him "I don't think so" when he says no tell him it's uncomfortable to be around you my wife is uncomfortable. We don't know you well enough.

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    So...your solution is to invite anyone that thinks they should be there or sever the friendship? Or flat out lie to them about how they make you uncomfortable? – JohnP Oct 12 '17 at 14:28
  • Someone might rather not come, perhaps you could offer to let them transfer their ticket (I mean invitation) and make two people happy. – KalleMP Oct 13 '17 at 7:23

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