10 blunt-but-loving ways to tell people they’re not invited to your wedding

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“You're not invited” cards from Etsy seller MellieBellieBoutique

Oh, the trials of the wedding guest list. Especially if you're throwing a small wedding or micro wedding dealing with frustrations from family and friends who aren't invited to your wedding can be grueling.

You've sent out the invites, and then you hear from someone who isn't on your guestlist expressing confusion, concern, or even anger. WHY WASN'T I INVITED!?

I wrote about this in the Offbeat Bride book — dealing with your wedding's guest list can make you feel like a big mean club bouncer, deciding who's in and who's out of the VIP line.

While there's no way to make everyone happy, I do believe that there are a few key phrases you can use if an uninvited guests asks you if they're invited.

FIRST: I'm NOT suggesting you contact people to tell them they're not invited. 

The “you're not invited” cards featured in this post are funny elopement announcement cards for newlyweds to send after their elopement — no one here is actually suggesting you send people cards to tell them they're not invited to your wedding.

These funny post-elopement reception-only invitations are available here.

But, if someone ASKS you if they're invited, there are ways you can tell them that you love them, you SO appreciate their interest, but no, they're not invited.

Below, I've wrassled up ten of my favorite copy ‘n' paste gentle guest list rejection responses.

How you want to approach your response can depend on which angle you want to take. Whatever you do, don't get into the specifics of how many people you're inviting or how you're choosing guests. Keep it vague and loving.

BLAME THE BUDGET

Due to tight limitations on our budget, we've had to be pretty brutal in chopping down our guestlist. I'm so sad that we can't have you there with us on the day, but we look forward to catching up afterwards!
Since we are paying for the wedding ourselves, our budget is very limited. It's SO hard not to go into debt over this, because of course we want to invite everyone… but we're really trying to kick off our marriage by being financially responsible about the wedding.
We would love for you to be there with us, but because of our tight budget, we weren't able to invite as many people as we would have liked. But I'd love to find time for a one-on-one visit afterwards!

POINT TO INTIMACY

We made the difficult choice to keep our wedding pretty intimate, and unfortunately that means there are a lot of friends and family who won't be there on our wedding day. I hope you can understand that it's nothing personal, and respect our wishes to keep our sacred event small.
There are so many people we would love to have been able to invite, but we're trying to keep our wedding small. It means so much to me that you're interested, and I so wish I could have everyone there with us!
Oh, man. We SO wish we could invite everyone… but we made the difficult decision to just keep the wedding very small — mostly just close family.
We're keeping our wedding pretty small, so we're only able to invite our very closest family and friends. This means we just can't invite everyone we'd like, as much as we'd love to. I'm so sorry that we can't extend an invitation.

BLAME THE VENUE/FAMILY

The venue we've chosen comes with some pretty stringent limitations on the number of guests we can invite. The process of making our guestlist has been really difficult for us, and I hope you can understand that it's nothing personal — let's make plans now to meet up after the wedding!
Our venue has a limited number of people they'll allow, and our guestlist is primarily taken up by very close family and the wedding party. I hope you can understand how difficult this process has been for us — there are so many people we wish could be there with us.
“They're all mad” funny elopement announcement cards.

DANCE AROUND THE ISSUE

I strongly discourage the use of white lies but do want to acknowledge that some folks like going this route with distant family or very casual acquaintances.

“While we don't have the guest list finalized yet, we're only planning for our families and closest friends, due to money and space issues.”

Ultimately, remember that no matter how loving or articulate you are, people are entitled to their feelings of disappointment. Try to remember that their disappointment comes from a place of LOVE: they want to be with you on your wedding day! You're not responsible for their disappointment, nor can you control it — all you can do is try your best to be respectful and kind, and make sure they know that you understand how much they care. But then you've got to release it, and get on with your planning.

Comments on 10 blunt-but-loving ways to tell people they’re not invited to your wedding

  1. Of course this is a lot easier if you don’t mind meeting rude with rude. I had some people I hadn’t spoken to in years ask where there invite was and I always was just like “We only sent invitations to those we have maintained contact with recently outside of asking for an invitation.”

    • This is pretty much what I’m doing. Our wedding isn’t tiny (approx 100) and it’s mostly friends, but even with those numbers, it fills up very quickly with people we speak with on a regular basis – and in most cases, have known for quite some time. When people ask me why I haven’t invited X, Y or Z random aquaintances or friends of friends, I just say I’ve only invited people I actually hang out with.

      There have been a few people we both really like but couldn’t invite because we needed to get numbers down, but most of the people I’ve been directly asked about are either a) people we haven’t seen or spoken to in years, or b) people we were never friends with in the first place.

  2. Great ideas! Except for the white lie deal. I really discourage this.
    I had a roommate/friend lie to my face and tell me I was invited to his wedding (after I asked him politely to tone down the wedding talk – as I would understand if I wasn’t invited, but I didn’t want to hear all the details of an event I wouldn’t be attending).
    He and his fiance then talked about their wedding with me for 9+ months and ended up not inviting me – completely disrespecting me and ignoring my wishes on the subject. They never once discussed their decision with me – though I would even have been fine with a “plans changed, sorry” conversation. It left me really raw and upset with them both – I would have completely understood if they had been honest with me from the start. It was just so unnecessary.

    • I’m totally with you. I offered the white lie as a compromise, for those who just don’t feel empowered to tell the whole truth.

      • I deinatley agree with Rachael, but at the same time understand why you’ve given white lies as examples.

        I’ve always been a fan of the didn’t ask, don’t tell, idea. Meaning, if someone doesn’t specifically ask why they aren’t invited, don’t bother insulting them with a lie(this even works in a work situation, meaning you don’t have to tell your boss why your asking for the day off if they don’t ask. And I’m not using insult in a negative way even though it sounds like it)

        I find people are too apologetic about things that they don’t need to be. My husband and I just ran away to get married last week and we are going to give out mini photo books to the people who weren’t invited, but would liked to have been a part of it. The first page of the book says “sorry you weren’t invited, but we didn’t even invite our own mothers, how could you expect us to invite you and not them?”

      • It “could” be useful with people you will not likely see again before hand and have not kept in contact with… as in you don’t even have their address

    • The white lie answer could be useful with very distant acquaintances angling for an invite who you won’t see again before the wedding, it’s not appropriate with someone you see and speak to about the wedding every day! It sounds like your room mate told you a big black lie!

      • Indeed. The moment an engagement is announced, people leap all over it with “Ooh, when can I expect my invitation?” Chances are, you haven’t locked down a budget and picked a venue, so you won’t have a guest list yet. But there are those acquaintances that you KNOW you won’t invite. This response is to them.

        • But if you haven’t thought up the wedding list yet then this actually won’t be a white lie at this stage it will be true.

    • Someone that I’d known for a long time and was a good friend to, didn’t invite me to her Wedding. Honestly I thought it was an oversight. I mentioned it to her. Then came one of the above explanations. After she was finished, I looked her square in the eye and said “you’ve just given me the translation for, “we’re not close friends.” It’s apparent you’ve been using me, and it ends now.

      • Just because someone didn’t invite you, doesn’t mean they are using you. I haven’t invited a bunch of my friends because we really do want a small wedding, not because we don’t care about them, or don’t want them there. Some friends made the list because they are mutual friends of both myself and my FH, while others, equally close friends, didn’t because we aren’t both friends with them and just can’t invite everyone.

      • I agree with Sandra. I have a lot of friends that I see in person about once or twice a month that I just can’t invite. Part of this is because its a 75 person wedding and my fiance’s family is coming from Brazil to meet my family for the first time. The other part is that my parents are paying for the majority of the wedding and want to bring so many of their friends. I just honestly told my friends this exact truth and most of them understood perfectly. It doesn’t mean that they are not my friends or that I’m using them.

        Now friends coming out of the woodwork who I haven’t seen in years are much easier to handle! I recommended to some of them who asked me about the wedding that I hadn’t seen them in awhile and that we should make plans to hang out and catch up. None of them followed up on my offer so no invite!

      • The above explanations shouldn’t be lies. I’m assuming you’ve never had a wedding, Lacey, because if you’ve been through the experience of having to pick and choose who you invite you would not think like that.

        There were a lot of people we didn’t invite because of limited funds that I WISH had been there. Some people don’t get invited because I never talk to them, some because if I invited them I would have to invite three other people that wouldn’t make the original list and some people were not invited that I later regretted because I didn’t realize how much I valued them until people I had chosen over them no-showed my wedding!

        You should apologize to your friend and do something nice for her. If you don’t, you’re going to want to after you go through the same thing.

      • Lacey Jo I understand you being hurt, but just because someone used one of the above listed ideas (even word for word) it does not mean they don’t mean the words. I am currently trying to figure out a way to tell A LOT of people my fiance and I both genuinely care about that we can not afford to invite them to our wedding. Plain and simple, the average wedding of 100 ppl on average will run between $10,000 – $20,000 and that is CHEAP I assure you. You could be right about your friend, and I agree she should have tried to use the examples above to formulate her own answer but more than likely she simply just doesn’t handle confrontation well and did not want to hurt your feelings. I am being forced to leave off many friends so that I am able to invite all the family – I am dreading having to tell them. More often then not these things have NOTHING to do with you. There is always pressure from family on both sides on who “must be there” it takes a very strong bride to say “nope I’m inviting who I want there” to her future mother in law – LOL.

  3. I am not quite sure why I would send “uninvitations”, does not getting an invite not say enough? I would be disappointed to find a letter in the mail or a card that then turns out not to be an invite but the opposite, even if I was not angling for an invitation. Telling people in person would be the best. I apologize if the replies you propose in the post are indeed the ones to be conveyed in person or by e-mail, I just did not quite get it at first. Is this in case invitations are sent out, and people know about it already? Otherwise, getting the “yes, you are a friend, but *just* not close enough” right without offending is difficult. To be simply left of the list would be almost better for me, personally.

    How does one deal with a cost-defined maximum guest list of 100 and leaving of friends from the guest list, if very few from the original list can actually make it, even after us asking in advance? I had to tell good acquaintances in person that we could not afford to invite them, but promised to include them if others would cancel, we knew a lot of US guests would likely not make it to the wedding in Europe. Sadly by the time we knew the others could not get time off to attend.

    • OMG, I am absolutely NOT suggesting anyone seek people out to tell them they’re not invited. This post is offered for those dealing with the quite common experience of having coworkers, friends-of-friends, or other acquaintances ask point blank if they’re invited.

      • Thank you for the clarification, I was sure you did not recommend sending actual rejection letters, and speculated on the possible effect of doing so, I hope my comment did not offend. Your advice on how to tell people nicely that they won’t be on the list is really good.

      • If I got a HEY YOU’RE NOT INVITED SORRY card in the mail I think I would die laughing.

        • i WISH someone would DARE send that kind of an invite to someone to see their reaction!!!!!!! lol!

        • Okay- so I actually came on this site to find the best way to tell my father’s mother I’d rather she not look for an invitation.
          We’ve never been close and I don’t want to start now. I was seriously considering a “hey I’m getting married, but, um, please don’t come. You’re not invited” letter!

          • Same here. I want to invite my step-uncle because he and my mom are close, but that means his sister (moms step-sis) and all her kids (who I havent seen in about 14 years) plus their kids and SOs will expect invites. Its gone from 3 to 15 REAL quick. Sigh.

        • We’ve had numerous “you’re not invited to the wedding” invitations from my husband’s side of the family, who are from a VERY different religious tradition than we are. We cannot even be admitted to the building for the wedding ceremonies of his cousins (etc.) but the family does want us to know we are welcome to come share the celebratory time with the families, come to the reception, etc. if we would like to do so. We usually decline because of the strangeness of “I didn’t see you at the temple… so, who exactly are you?” questions. The un-invitation, though, is alive and well (and WEIRD, imho).

  4. We are having a very small wedding (38, including us), and basically were straightforward with people. Since we had originally planned for a larger wedding, but ran into budget issues, we simply let people know that we were only going to invite parents, siblings and spouses, and those friends who would have been the wedding party (and their spouses/significant others) in a larger wedding. People have been pretty understanding so far and nobody has pitched a fit yet (fingers crossed)

    • This is pretty much our exact situation. We had a whole big wedding being planned with 175 guests and then came to a sudden realization that it was way too much money. We ended up moving the entire thing from NJ to MA and saving us like 30K in the process. I have to now figure out how to tell people that thought they were invited at first (cause they were) that we are budget constrained and can’t invite them. We are only inviting parents (unfortunately because of divorces and remarriages there are a lot of those), siblings (and only the close ones. I have some I hardly ever hear from), grandparents, 2 aunts and 2 uncles each, the bridal party, and 4 friends. We’re pretty limited to 40 guests and at the rate it’s going there isn’t going to be a lot of elbow room.

    • This is what we did (same amount of people too) except it is my family and his family & friends – though we just call them family.

    • Same here. Our wedding is going to be about 40, and we are mostly only inviting family. The few close friends that we invited meet the following criteria: we both know the friend relatively well, and at least one of us has been friends with the person for years. I am inviting my best friend of 15 years and another close friend I’ve known for 10. He’s inviting a few friends he’s known since high school. Everyone else is a relative.

      Everyone who has asked if they’re invited has been polite and understanding when I mention that we just want a small, intimate ceremony with mostly family.

    • I’d be concerned about some you don’t see pitching a fit about not being included. Some people have “a long memory.” Sometimes an invitation is a small sacrifice made, to avoid “a long memory.” It’s known as “keeping the peace.” It is a grace that people with good manners live by.

  5. If you’re going to blame the budget, venue, etc., make sure that your friends don’t later find out something to the contrary. If you told them that the venue was small but then they see Facebook photos of a huge ballroom, they might be hurt if they were already a little stung by not being invited. Or if you say you’re aiming for a small, simple affair and then they see photos or hear stories of this big lavish event, you might damage their trust. It’s good to set limits about who you invite, but be careful not to get yourself caught in a white lie. Stories and photos from weddings circulate for so long (and your friends may share them even if you yourself keep mum) that the “evidence” will betray you.

    • YES! THIS!
      Gah. I made the mistake of asking how my Little in my sorority’s wedding was going and saying it would be lovely if there was room for me (totally understanding if she didn’t have a place since it was late in the game, and we were catching up at a mutual friend’s wedding) She bowed out citing space issues, then come to find its a HUGE wedding.
      Now, shame on me for fishing for an invite (I have since learned my lesson thanks to OBB 🙂 ) but regardless, it really stung that she would lie. Since the ‘net makes what you would want to have intimate, public, be careful of what you weave in order to back out of awkwardness….

      • Sometimes even a huge wedding may have “space” issues. I attended the wedding of my friend and coworker withh 300+ guests, but most people were friends of the parents, and the respective families were huge. The number of friends and acquaintances of the couple attending was comparatively small. Another friend wanted to invite me, but in the end had to stick to her parents’ guest list since they were paying, and was very honest in telling me about it.

        • This is exactly the fear that I am having. I have a huge family, we have a ton of friends and we struggled to get the guest list down to 300 (we’re aiming for 250 people actually attending). Plenty of people I genuinely like and see on a regular basis got bumped to the C list and probably won’t get an invite. I feel like no matter how honest I am about money and space limitations, people will still be hurt because “We could only invite 300 people” sounds absolutely ridiculous.

          • I think you can explain that “we have a huge family” and most people understand. If there are parental or cultural factors (such as your fourth cousin is invited and they aren’t) explain that it’s what your family/community does.

          • I’m having the same issue. Our venue can hold 160 people comfortably, but we currently have 200 people on our guest list (that’s with some people cut from it)! We both have huge families and it’s really hard to pare down the list even more.
            And of course, we have more people that pop up. GAH!

          • That’s exactly how I feel about my about my 80 person wedding. We have some really good friends that we didn’t invite because they are part of larger circles and we couldn’t invite everyone in the circle, a decision I am really regretting now. Also, we started with a very small guest list that we added to bit by bit and in the process some people got forgotten, until we really couldn’t push cap any higher and it was too late to include them. I am afraid that a lot of people will be offended when it leaks out, as it inevitably will, that the wedding is bigger than it was originally meant to be and how we’re presenting it when we explain about invites. I would tell people, invite who in the hell you really want to be there within the numbers you can accommodate. No matter what you do somebody is going to be hurt and you’re going to be doing some explaining, so why should the people most important to you get burnt to satisfy some arbitrary number-cutting rules. Some people will be pissed off, some people will love you anyway, some people will be pissed off and love you anyway, send the invites and let it go.

        • I am NOT looking forward to figuring out who to invite, since I have at least 50 people on my father’s side of the family alone, then there’s my mother’s side (which I’m not as close to but still), HIS family, our friends, etc. Eloping starts to look better and better, I swear.

        • This is what we’re doing. When people ask why they aren’t invited, I say that it’s because my partner doesn’t work full time.

          If they press it, I tell them that we can’t afford the wedding we want ourselves and so my parents are quite generously pitching in, which means that they get control over the guest list.

          And my mom is one of ten siblings.

  6. One of our relatives is no longer speaking to us because of our invitation decisions – because we didn’t invite his (adult) daughters. We tried the “closest family and friends” line suggested and his response was that family comes before friends. Never mind the fact I have never met the two daughters in question, and wasn’t even aware of the exitence of one of them. Apparently, my dear friend of almost 25 years isn’t as important as they are, because they happen to share some genetic material with my husband.

    I think some people just WANT to get upset about stuff. Le sigh.

    • I’d be hard pressed not to go ape on him if I were in your shoes. That whole “family before friends” mindset just boils me. You shouldn’t have to invite people you’ve never met and didn’t even know about until recently just to appease realitives. I’d rather invite ten friends than ten realitives I’ve only met once or twice.

      The guest list is definitely the main thing I’m not looking forward to about wedding planning. The thought litterally makes me want to crawl under a rock.

    • I agree – blood is not always thicker than water. Friends who have seen me through bad and good times are going to be invited over “relatives” who didn’t even come to
      See their own brother (my dad) in hospital with a heart attack .

    • So identify. You made the right decision. I wanted to invite a particular group of cousins I was close with growing up, but I wouldn’t have had room for some really close current friends. I eventually decided that the family-first rule was arbitrary and that I would invite who I talked to and spent time with regularly and saw as an active part of the community that would support my marriage; it didn’t mean I loved my family any less to make that decision. No one has the right to tell you who comes first, and its not about ranking, its about what makes sense for the moment you are in.

  7. My childhood next-door neighbor saw me at an event last weekend when I was visiting my family, and asked me straight out, “So, can I invite myself to your wedding?” Thankfully, I’d considered that she and her family (including the children I babysat for) might be interested, and had time to think of a response (a variation on the one I’ve been using, although no one else has been quite so blunt). I treated it with the same sense of lightness and said, “Oh, we’re keeping it down to about 20 people” — funny how that concrete number seems to reframe people’s expectations! — “but let’s get together sometime so we can catch up.” And I found out that she and her son are often in the city where my fiancee and I live, and would be happy to meet up one evening. There we go! (Although she did insist on saying, “Well, I’m buying you a present anyway!”)

  8. Whatever happens don’t ignore it. My husband and I weren’t invited to his best man’s wedding (and he was marrying one of my bridesmaids) and J is really hurt by it. I hate seeing my husband bummed out like that. Makes me want to go Tinazilla on them, but I know that wouldn’t be productive.

    • Oh Tina, that is awful. I hope I am not rubbing salt in a wound by saying this, but how could you be left off that guestlist?

    • In that type of situation, you always wonder what happened that you (or in this case, your husband) weren’t invited. A formerly very close friend didn’t invite me to her wedding years ago. It put a definite chill in the relationship, and I hardly see her anymore. We were both part of a large community, and “everyone” was invited. There was a roommate disagreement right around that time, and I think she lumped me in with the other roommates. But she didn’t even talk to me about it, which I think was cowardly.

  9. From someone who expanded her list from 15 to 22 guests: when talking to the not-invited, DO express the desire to connect in your first year of marriage, and DON’T be too apologetic. (and if you are prone to guilt, avoid talking to the not-invited too much before the wedding.)

    If you apologize too much, or give too many different reasons (stage fright! budget! venue! timeline!) it just reminds people that they aren’t invited. People are way more insulted by NOT being invited, than by having to turn down an invite because it’s far away/expensive/whatever. Also, apologizing too much gives the less scrupulous a signal that you feel guilty. They will then work on you (or your mom, or your spouse) to make you feel bad until you invite them or whomever they’re angling for (their kids, aunts, new boyfriends, etc).

    My wedding was 2 weeks ago and it was tiny – 22 people. My hundreds of friends and family who WEREN’T invited were very accepting and supportive the first time I told them that we were having just nuclear family and local friends who were “like family” to BOTH me and my husband. I think I over-explained, giving too many different reasons, in stead of Shutting The F Up about it until after the wedding was over. Thus, a family friend who’s a pain the arse worked on my mom’s guilt triggers HARD. We still didn’t invite her, and I’m glad, but it was uncomfortable because my mom is a compulsive apologizer.

    Having a 4-month engagement helped me out – less time to waffle on the list. It also helped that my parents are planning a big, laid back anniversary party next year in their town (where I grew up – across the country).

    Leaning on the budget or venue excuse is tricky. Miss Manners, whose philosophy is very “people first, money/pomp second,” advises to figure out the guest list FIRST, and then figure out where to host them and how to feed them. She says that if you have a large list, it’s better to serve punch and cake than to cut people based on dollars. So if you try to lean on the budget or venue, expect that people might say (or think), “well, if you can’t host all your guests there, you should find another venue.”

    • Agreed! Keep it simple!! I too am having a microscopic wedding (16 guests). There are have several close friends and any family beyond immediate who are not invited. I just explained that it was for immediate family a couple of old friends, and that while I loved them, they were not invited. This includes couples from 3 weddings we’ve been to in the last year. While if felt awkward, they all have been wonderful, many saying they wish they’d done the same for their weddings, regretting they’d let the wedding mania get away from them. Honesty with love is the way to go, even if it gives you a squirmy tummy at the time.

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