You're on standby: why I love being a B-list wedding guest

Updated Oct 12 2015
Plentiful Blossoms Wedding Invitations from Minted.
Tweaked version of Minted's Plentiful Blossoms Wedding Invitations.
A co-worker recently invited my fiancée and me to her wedding in a month. She told us the invite is late because we were on her "B" list. Once everyone on her "A" list had RSVPed, she could invite others.

I always thought you invited everyone at once. I feel like an after-thought. Should I be offended? -B. Lister

The sad truth about a LOT of weddings is that, due to budget or space restrictions at the venue, not everyone gets to invite everyone they want. Plus, when you add the "parental guest list" factor to the mix (and if they're paying for it they get some major say), your invite list can start feeling the pinch.

Still… even the idea of a B-list can send shockwaves throughout the land of Wedding Etiquette-ville. While I get that the concept could make some people have the sads, I think as wedding guests, we should all start embracing the B-list… starting with me!

True story: I was recently, and admittedly, a B-list attendee at a wedding, and it was awesome. I didn't have any less fun because I was a last-minute addition — I just felt lucky to be there. Let me explain why…

The A list

Don't let the name insult you. It doesn't mean "the better people" — it mostly means "the totally necessary people" or "the people that would cause the most turmoil felt for years to come if they aren't invited." This list includes your close family members, your bestest friends, your wedding party, and possibly people you can't stand because of Game of Thrones-type politics and whoever is footing the bill.

The B-list

What's that you say? Crotchety Aunt Begonia refused to attend because she's always hated your father? (Yay!) And best friend from out of town is going to be giving birth around that time? (Bummer.) There is only one way to celebrate or bounce back from a declined RSVP: Turn to your B-list! Guess who's getting an invite now… that new friend you made two months after you sent out your invites, and a couple of your partners' favorite co-workers.

A and B lists are often a part of wedding planning realities, and they don't speak for how much a couple cares for you. So snatch up those B list invites, and have a great time! Because Aunt Begonia wouldn't even come close to having the kind of fun you're about to have at your friend's wedding.

Fess up: Who here has a B-list or has been on the B-list? How are you handling the invites?

  1. We ABSOLUTELY have a B list, and have been pretty open about it. Our venue is fairly small and not a traditional wedding venue (a brewery) so we have to keep the guests to 100 or less. That's a blessing AND a curse because it's tough to narrow down the guest list, but it gives us an excuse to keep it to the people closest to us. Our families are so large that it doesn't leave a lot of room for others but I've found that people are more understanding about that than you would think.

  2. I am 100% unashamed that we have a b-list! They will be welcome to the ceremony either way but we just don't have the money to invite everyone we want!

  3. I've been a B-lister before, and we had B-list guests at our wedding. At the wedding we were invited to, the bride worded it as "People who we didn't really want coming anyway RSVP'd 'no', so now we can invite some of the people we really wanted to the first time!" She sent an electronic copy of the invite and that was it. We weren't offended, and I was happy she included us. It's not like anyone else there knew we were on the B-list, and we enjoyed the wedding just as much as everyone else. As for our B-listers, we used much the same wording (adding that we had blechy family invitations we'd been obliged to send), and they all came and frankly seemed to have the best time out of all of our "friend" guests. I think if any of them had been offended, they probably would have declined, but it all worked out for the awesome as far as I could tell. I say go for it, just make sure you word their invitation right by making it clear you want them there, even though you weren't sure you'd initially have the room. If you're on the B-list, that means they WANT to party with you or they wouldn't have bothered inviting you at all! I say, take it as a compliment and party on!

    • Oh, I'm going to do that if we use our B-List! Possibly as an insert in a paper invite, but more likely electronically – I'd feel much better being up-front with people, in a kind of "I'm relieved you can come" way.

      Really, I don't think my friends would be insulted by that. It comes with the economics of paying for a wedding.

    • I don't think I would be offended or hurt to receive a B-list invite unless a) it's from a person whom I expected to put me on their A-list, or b) it's an obvious gift grab (like inviting me to a wedding across the country with very little notice). If it's from someone I was not expecting an invitation from, I'd be pleasantly surprised and not offended. If it was reasonably local and I was available I would make an effort to go.

      I recently invited two people a month before the wedding whom I wish I had invited to begin with. I just told them they had been left off the list by mistake, which is basically the truth. These are people I was close with in grad school but have sort of lost touch with or maintained occasional contact since I moved away, so I don't think they expected invitations. Hopefully they won't be hurt. I talked to one of the two and he didn't seem hurt.

  4. Amen, girl! Our guest list was split three ways, 50 for his parents, 50 for my parents, and 50 for us to split… And we all have B lists ready to go if the A listers can't come! It is what it is, etiquette be damned! I wish we could fit everyone but we simply can't afford it.

  5. For our wedding last week we had a B-list, C-list and a few more in reserve! The people who were invited last minute weren't after thoughts at all – they were people we were delighted to be able to invite after we'd sent our duty invites to our huge family! The people I invited last minute were my childhood friends, friends who I was really happy made the effort to come and they made the day even more special.

  6. HALLELUJAH to this post! I very recently got married and man, did I need this article to prove my point. I had SO MANY people I had to invite because of family-ties and family relations but honestly, the idea of having them at my wedding left me with a bad taste in my mouth and due to a super strict budget I just couldn't invite some close friends. Luckily one or two of the dragons cancelled so I could invite the people I actually really wanted there. So to the poster of the question: Dude, you we're probably a high priority and they thought you will understand being on the B-list. Most of the times it should be a compliment!

  7. My fiance and I are paying for the entirety of the wedding so we didn't have a secondary list. I did however invite some of his parents dear friends, and it's obvious that they are really excited by that fact. I do think that having another group of people to invite if your initial invitees aren't able to attend is a great idea though! Most people will understand that it's not that you don't want them there, but the budget is definitely a priority over everything else.

  8. I had a "b-list" bridesmaid – a newer, but increasingly close friend who was able to take over a couple months out when I learned one of my out of town besties would be unable to make it. In that situation, it was a bit awkward to be essentially, like, "hey, you know you weren't my first pick, but I'd love if you'd be a part of the wedding party" but she understood and actually was incredibly helpful as my only local bridesmaid and we're now very close.

    Several years later a good acquaintance had a similar situation and I became a "b-list" bridesmaid. Having been in that situation before, I totally understood and everyone's right – it's fun just to be included at that point.

    Then just a couple weeks ago I got invited to another good acquaintance's wedding – I had been a bit surprised we weren't invited in the first round because we had been at the engagement party and I'd consider this couple part of our friend circle and invite them to mine were I having one. All that being said, she did a fantastic job of explaining why we weren't initially invited (had to invite obligatory family guests first) and made me feel like she was excited to be able to invite us now – so I also think so much of it is just in how you word it and in making the new invitee feel you really want them there, not just as an afterthought or to pad out numbers or something.

  9. We had a B list, though we didn't call it that because admittedly it does sound like those people somehow matter less. Our guest list had to be small due to budget and venue restrictions, but we were reasonably sure that everyone would receive an invitation eventually because our wedding was in Cleveland and most of our guests were from Chicago and New York.

    The A list included immediate family members, very close friends we were in contact with, and local work people. The B list included aunts and uncles, friends we considered very close but hadn't been in touch with, and work acquaintances. We sent out B list invitations once some of the initial responses came in. We were really happy to have the secondary invitees accept their invitations and celebrate with us because it gave us a chance to reconnect and spend some time together in person.

  10. I absolutely love being a B-list wedding invitee! There is less pressure to move mountains to attend if I have a conflict, it's a great chance to witness something I would not have otherwise been a part of, and (most of the time) an amazing party with a bunch of people I really like.

    I have never been married but I so admire my married friends (and some friendly acquaintances) who are shameless about the B-list last-minute invite. An invite is an invite and I love it!

  11. I just invited someone from our B-list today and it felt so good! She's my dear friend and has been so supportive of our relationship since day 1. It was a shame that I had to wait this long to invite her, but we had a very small budget and space constraints. She isn't upset at all and immediately said she was going to book her flight.

  12. Most of my B-list came from one group of friends. A few people from this group (who we were closest to) were on the A-list, but once enough family members said no (some we were expecting, but we wanted to hold off until we were sure), we invited the rest of the group, and I'm so happy they all came! It wouldn't have been the same without them.

  13. People have a bad reaction to being b-listed because it's rude to b-list people.
    I don't know why this is hard. Invite the number of guests you can afford to host and plan to host them all well. If some can't make it you can upgrade your menu or just save the money you would otherwise have spent on those guests. Don't insult people by b-listing.

    • part of what I like about offbeat bride is that the site isn't afraid to share alternative perspectives, recognizing that what feels "rude" for one person might not for another. if it feels rude to you, then don't do it at your wedding and decline any b-list invitations you might receive. if it doesn't feel rude to other people, then how does it impact you?

      I say this as someone who would never do a B list at my own wedding, but if the idea works for someone else's wedding, then right on for them

    • because some people would prefer to be able to invite more friends and loved ones rather than "upgrading the menu"!

      I think a lot of people (myself included) remember the fun they have with the people they are around at events like weddings, more than they remember how fancy the food was – and given the chance, they'd rather upgrade the fun and number of friends than upgrade the entrees!

    • I don't think it's rude to have a B-list of people you'd like to invite, but can't until someone you absolutely must invite can't make it. I don't think you should advertise the fact, but I don't think it's rude to have one. As long as you treat everyone who comes to your wedding like they're A-listers, who cares?

    • While it wasn't a true "b-list", we had invited essentially the max number of people for the venue, and only extended the invitation to plus-ones (ie people we didn't already know) after we had enough declines that we knew we could accommodate them. It had nothing to do with money and everything to do with capacity.

      (Though I also don't think it's necessarily rude to b-list, more just pointing out it's not all about money)

  14. The way I see the bigger picture is that mature adults understand constraints. People on both sides of the invite have constraints, but those don't reflect underlying emotions. When constraints loosen for one reason or another, I hope everyone can enjoy the new capacity.

  15. I would have never considered a B-list until my daughter was recently married, but I believe it worked out well for everyone involved. I still sent these (few) invitations a month out, and requested an RSVP a week prior to the wedding. Every one of these guests was quite gracious and fun.

    Admittedly, I did not do this at my own wedding over 25 years ago because it was considered bad etiquette, and traditionally, well it just wasn't done. But in the last few years DH and I have definitely been the recipients of the B-list invitation and we just couldn't bring ourselves to feel badly about it. Almost every bride let us know how happy they were to have been able to invite us, and we just allowed the ones who didn't say anything to think we believed we were A-list guests all along.

  16. One of my favorite moments in my wedding planning process was inviting two B-list guests. They were two co-workers who I had been growing increasingly close with, and I was able to say "when we made the guest list 6 months ago, I thought about inviting you but didn't because I wasn't sure if it was weird because we are coworkers. Now that I am that much closer to the event I am realizing that you are not just co-workers you are also dear friends and I would really like to have you there." They were THRILLED and not at all offended that their invite was delayed, and they ended up being two of the most awesome, party-hearty guests there.

    Sometimes if you are just really up front about the realities of the situation (whether they be family obligations, financial constraints, or social awkwardness) people actually end up appreciating your honesty and understanding the situation. Yay communication!

  17. Excellent. I've had some similar experiences, though not quite so formal as having a b-list, just waiting patiently until I knew I had enough space in the hall to invite a few other people. Also, allowing people +1s after all.

    The only thing I don't think I'm on board with is TELLING people they are on your b-list. I'm sure they'd work it out anyway, no need to throw it in their faces.

  18. I met the man I plan to marry as a C list attendee at a friend's wedding. Seriously got the invite a week before the wedding. Never turn down an invite just because it comes a little late. I am also now even closer to the friend (said gentleman was the best man) and their daughter.

  19. I think this is where expectation-setting can come in handy. I believe that people want to feel special, included, thought of as important, and they also understand that obligations can interfere with desires. I have B-listed and been a B-list, and I think it goes the smoothest when the couple / hosts had told me already beforehand, "We really wish we could invite so many more people, and especially you, but we have to wait to see which family members are coming first to know how much space we have." That way, when you go back to them, you get to say, "Guess what? Space opened up, and we would be so honored if you could make it."

    • This exact thing happened to me! My old old friend got engaged to a woman and he told me as soon as they had set the date that they wanted me there but had to invite the parents and such as it was going to be very small. And two weeks later I got the call – I was in! I was thrilled I "made the cut" and happy that he reached out before hand so I knew I was "emotionally invited" even if I wasn't "officially invited" yet.

  20. We have a B-List too! We can only have 50 people at the ceremony and my fiancee has a lot of family plus my parents were keen that my Aunts and Uncles came. We managed to get friends coming by implementing a strict no cousins rule but we still only have about 10 people each that we can invite so we've got a rather large b-list. We're sort of hoping the no cousins rule will count out some of those aunts and uncles with younger kids.

    It's nothing against anyone and I think the reception will be more fun that the ceremony!

    The hardest thing is definitely telling some friends that are invited that their partners can't come to the ceremony, only the reception 🙁

  21. I'm basically treating plus ones that I barely know (or not at all) as the B-List. No idea what the etiquette is on this, but I just know that I would rather be able to invite another good friend over someone I don't know. That being said, I know that weddings are usually more special when you have your person with you, so I'm hoping I can extend more plus ones to people once the RSVPs come in.

    I'm not too worried about this, since almost everyone coming is local so it shouldn't disrupt travel arrangements, and most people will know a ton of other guests, so coming solo won't mean not knowing anybody, in the case that I'm not able to extend plus ones to some people.

  22. When I was invited (and told I was being invited) as B-list guest I was mildly insulted at first because it was a long time friend, and I thought well she didn't have to TELL me that I was a B-list guest. But then after I thought about all of the other friend's weddings that I didn't even get to go to at all for the same reasons that I had been put on to her B-list (parents paying for the wedding, small venues, tiny guest lists, big families, having to invite all of the family first and then friends) I changed my attitude pretty quick! I went to the wedding and had the time of my life, and what everyone else has been saying is right. It's not like the other guests knew that I was a "B-list" invite, and it's not like she didn't want me there, she totally did – and I was glad to be there.

  23. three years ago, i was a b-list to a new friend's wedding. she did not have much family, and when she started to get a lot of 'no's' from people, she invited my (now) FI and I, even though we had only known her about 2 months by that point.
    it was a glorious wedding, and cemented our friendship. she is now an a-list to my wedding this year!

  24. We're probably going to have a B list. We have everyone we want (and need) to invite in a kind of evil sounding hierarchy until we lock in a venue and a budget (this is going to be a long engagement). I think it's perfectly acceptable. I've been on a B list before… in fact, I'm pretty sure I was somewhere at the other end of the alphabet because I got invited to the wedding meal on the morning of the wedding (having already promised to attend the wedding and the post-meal dancing). Someone had the audacity to call the bride (!) the morning of her wedding to let her know that they hadn't been able to book a hotel (with however many months notice) and so wouldn't be there in two hours(!). I went quite gracefully, just focusing on being a good guest for the poor bride who had forked out all that money to spend a day with people, for them to consider RSVPing no an afterthought!

  25. I have a B-list and despite what those a-holes on a different popular wedding website say I am not ashamed! The B-list includes the following people: Three new co-workers who either started work or who I got closer to after the original list was made. A couple that I recently reconnected with, a new friend I made during a show I was in this spring, two couples who we love but only see at parties, and the roommate of our officiant who again we love but only see a few times per year. Like this article states there are plenty of people on the "A-list" who I wouldn't have invited if given a choice. My parents are paying for the caterer, chair rental, and whatever portion of the bar we can't fund so they got to add sixteen of their friends. I would've invited about half of them myself so that's eight seats gone. There are also a lot of distant relatives of FH's that we only see about once a year but again, it would be WWIII if they didn't get an invite so I'm hoping a lot will say no. I only need sixteen declines to get everyone I want there so fingers crossed!

  26. We have an 'A', 'B', and 'C' list. A is for everyone we would be heartbroken not to invite, B is everyone we want if there is enough room or budget, C is anyone our parents think they might want to add on if there is room (old friends they want to show off their kids too, etc).

  27. We had a B list and let me tell you I was so glad some of our A list people cancelled so we could invite the B list. They made our wedding and I'm so thankful they came at the last minute! Only regret we had was inviting those A list people in the first place!

  28. I only had one person left on my B list for the daytime, and when someone pulled out the morning of the wedding I was straight on the phone. She was so happy to be "bumped" up and totally got the whole numbers thing!

  29. I think the idea of calling a list A or B is bad. It sounds bad.
    We have two lists we're calling them "must invites" and "really want to invites". Unfortunately we have to send out invites to all the "must invites" first and see who is coming or not before we'll be able to send out our invites to our "really want to invites" group.
    Because of budget and space we can't invite everyone outright, but if some of the "must invites" can't come there are people we would really want there and so we've put them in that "really want to invite" list.
    I think a wording change for what you call your lists is all it takes to have someone go from offended to excited.

    • I haven't told anyone that they're on a specific list. I find it's less hurtful to just explain we're going to include as many people as we're able. The letter designations are for shorthand only between my fiancé and myself.

      Cassie added a comment in reply to You're on standby: why I love being a B-list wedding guest .

      I think the idea of calling a list A or B is bad. It sounds bad.
      We have two lists we're calling them "must invites" and "really want to invites". Unfortunately we have to send out invites to all the "must invites" first and see who is coming or not before we'll be able to send out our invites to our "really want to invites" group.
      Because of budget and space we can't invite everyone outright, but if some of the "must invites" can't come there are people we would really want there and so we've put them in that "really want to invite" list.
      I think a wording change for what you call your lists is all it takes to have someone go from offended to excited.
      Reply to this email to reply to Cassie.
      *Please note*: Your reply will be published publicly and immediately on You're on standby: why I love being a B-list wedding guest .
      Recently in this conversation…
      Jessica Forshee Jul. 29th at 7:12 PM

      *We had a B list and let me tell you I was so glad some of our A list people cancelled so we could invite the B list. They made our wedding and I'm so thankful they came at the last minute! Only regret we had was inviting those A list people in the first place! * Sam Kelly Jul. 30th at 1:36 AM

      *I only had one person left on my B list for the daytime, and when someone pulled out the morning of the wedding I was straight on the phone. She was so happy to be "bumped" up and totally got the whole numbers thing! * Cassie Jul. 30th at 6:15 AM

      *I think the idea of calling a list A or B is bad. It sounds bad. We have two lists we're calling them "must invites" and "really want to invites".
      Unfortunately we have to send out invites to all the "must invites" first and see who is coming or not before we'll be able to send out our invites to our "really want to invites" group. Because of budget and space we can't invite everyone outright, but if some of the "must invites" can't come there are people we would really want there and so we've put them in that "really … * Reply to this email to reply to Cassie.
      *Please note*: Your reply will be published publicly and immediately on You're on standby: why I love being a B-list wedding guest .
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  30. Thank you thank you thank you for this post!! I posed a similar question about this in another forum and got some really hostile responses. I get that the A-list/B-list issue is a controversial one but I love the way offbeat brides have turned an unfortunate reality (having more loved ones than resources to host them all at a wedding) into something that can be really positive. We definitely have a "must invite" and "really want to invite" list and we are struggling to juggle 2 huge, widespread families, friends and a limited budget. Hearing about all these positive outcomes for other b-lists gives me high hopes for group as well!

  31. I was a 'B List' bridesmaid once! I was shocked she even asked me, we really weren't that close but I'm never one to back out of a good time! At the wedding I realized the groom had a ton of super close friends, and she needed some fillers to keep the count even. At the end of the day, it was a beautiful wedding and I am happy to be apart of it, even if I was chosen based on height to match a groomsman.

  32. The B list is one of the rudest things I have ever heard of.
    I have been on a few "A" lists. I have been on a "B" list.
    The people on the A list are those who would offend if they were on the B list.
    But I would rather not be invited at all than be on the B list.

  33. I will never forget the time I felt truly B- listed: We were invited to an afternoon wedding and an evening reception for cake and dancing. We arrived at the hotel at 8:00, as the announcement indicated, and an entire room full of people had just finished a sit-down dinner with wedding cake for dessert. We were the only ones who arrived then, and friends from work greeted us from their table. The bride came over and thanked us for coming. We were served nothing. I still can't believe it happened. I hate B-lists.

    On the other hand, the formerly-little girl across the street grew up, went to college in another state, met a boy, and moved even further away. This spring, I saw her father outside one warm day, and started chatting with him. I asked how his kids were and if their daughter had married. He said it was coming up but was otherwise vague. I was fine with that because we've been sharing baking ingredients and vegetables for 30 years, but our kids haven't played together since elementary school. About a week later, we got an invitation for a wedding that was less than two weeks away. I acknowledged the invitation to our neighbor, thanked him, and suggested it would upset their arrangements. He said they hadn't locked in the number so we went, felt extremely welcome and appreciated, and had a lovely time. We were seated with important family of the bride, and received one of the vases of table flowers the next day.

    The first was a snub; the second just a thoughtful oversight. The neighbor girl probably didn't want to obligate us for a gift, although I was happy to buy one worthy of my daughter's childhood friend.

  34. I have the exact opposite opinion of having a "B" list. I find it incredibly insulting. We got our invite 5 weeks prior to the wedding. So obvious that we are on the B list. The "B" list is nothing more than another way to get more gifts out of people. We had a family event planned, to celebrate our Moms 80th birthday party, which is now cancelled and will not be rescheduled due to many conflicts with trying to get everyone together. My family feels obligated to go to every event they are invited to. And when you are expected to gift wedding gifts in the $100 plus range, being on a "B" is insulting. It is nothing more than a money grab. I guess if I gave a cheap gift, I wouldn't feel so ticked off. It is really obvious to people when they don't get a Save the Date and get an invite 5 weeks prior to the wedding. Hmmm.

    • I think your assumption is a bit of an overgeneralization. I disagree that the B-list is always a gift grab. Maybe some people do that, but people have many reasons for having a B-list. Some people don't have space or the budget to invite everyone they want, so they have to wait to see how many of the people they were obligated to invite RSVP before inviting people they wanted to invite in the first place but couldn't. Plenty of couples have people on their B-list whom they genuinely want to attend.

      In my case, I have a couple friends I didn't invite mainly because I had not spoken to them in a while and was afraid it would seem out of the blue. Unlike me, my fiance invited several friends with whom he has not spoken in a long time or had minimal contact. After seeing how many of them RSVP'd yes, I realized I should have invited these friends. Both of them work for non-profits, so I don't expect much of a gift if any, but I am genuinely hoping they come. I admit I told a bit of a half-truth and said they were left off the list by mistake because I did not have their addresses. But that's not really a lie because I don't have their mailing addresses, and I realize that not inviting them before was a mistake. Hopefully I didn't compound the mistake by inviting them a month beforehand. I don't believe they are the type of people who would be offended, or else I would not have invited them.

  35. As I always say (as a wedding guest, and now too as a Bride): B-List is better than no list! I'd much rather make the B-list to someone's wedding than not make it on to any of their lists and never be invited! People need to be understanding. They obviously want you there but when push comes to shove that's just how it has to be sometimes. I have no shame in the B-List game! Although, for my wedding I'm not outright telling anyone that they're on the B-List. I just didn't send them Save the Dates and as soon as the A-List "No's" start rolling in, I have the B-List invites ready to go out in the mail!

  36. I was invited to the bridal shower of a co worker friend . So I assumed I was invited to the wedding – have never heard of this b list thing . So I canceled a trip in order to be there Recently found out I Am on the b list. So if someone drops out then I may be invited. Im sorry but I feel this is so hurtful . Now I have no desire to go to shower as I will be with people who will be talking about the wedding and I wasn’t invited. I’m sorry but if you are going to have a b list tell people up front . Hey we have limited space but would really like you to come to shower. I get it . To some friends I talked to they also thought it rude and hurtful . I would rather she said hey limited list etc …I would still have gotten her a gift . I already did . But now I’m just very hurt. I wish she had been honest up front .

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