Wedding Guest List Dilemma: How to Put This Nicely…

December 29, 2011 | By | Comments (4)

“I am planning my wedding and trying to keep it as small as possible,” wrote a reader named JackiM15. “However, we are nearing 200, yikes! …

“It is going to be an evening wedding, and my fiance and I have decided to not invite children, except for out of town guests and family members,” JackiM15 added. “My question is this: is there a way to word the inventions or response cards to make this clear? Or are we going to verbally tell our friends?”

This is a wedding etiquette question that appears as reliably as tulips in April, even though the answer is obvious: The solution is to address an invitation specifically to the people you’re inviting. If you write “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” on the envelope, rather than Mr. and Mrs. Smith and Family,” it means the Smiths’ children are not invited.

The bigger questions: Why do so many brides and grooms agonize over limiting the guest list? Sometimes it’s because of guilt — you feel bad about saying no to people. Or perhaps you empathize with parents, many of whom would prefer to bring their children to a party than to leave them with a babysitter. Or maybe you’re trying to avoid offending guests who might wonder, upon encountering your niece the flower girl on the dance floor, why their own darlings were excluded from the fun.

But no matter why you’re fretting over this, here’s the bottom line: It’s your wedding, and you have the right to decide who attends. The guests should be people you want to see, not ones you feel obligated to include. Remember this, also, if your prospective in-laws are pressuring you to add their golf buddies or next door neighbors to the list, or if an invited guest calls you to ask if it’s OK to bring a tagalong date.

To review: Be clear about who’s invited when you send the invitations. And if Mrs. Smith doesn’t get the message, and sends back an RSVP card that says “and 2 children?” Pick up the phone to clarify the situation. Say, “I’m sorry we had to limit the guest list, so your children aren’t invited. The only children attending are family members and out of towners. We’re looking forward to seeing you and Mr. Smith, and hope you’ll still be able to attend.”

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