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.

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

  1. I was just about the drama queen of my best friend’s wedding (forgive me, I was 18 at the time). She and her husband met because he was the driver for my car-less loser boyfriend from another town. I invited her when they’d come over and sparks flew. Then my boyfriend and I broke up, and it was REALLY not pretty. It took me many years to get over the way he treated me and about nine months into the aftermath came this wedding. I was a bridesmaid, and he, being an asshole, was not in the wedding party. I was told that he was invited to the reception, but not the wedding, and he showed up anyway, and I had a fit. She explained to me later that they felt like they had to invite him since he was part of the reason they got together, and even though I HATED IT, I saw her point. I don’t know how I could have been so selfish on my best friend’s wedding day, but um, bridesmaids, don’t do that.

  2. I definitely think honesty is the best policy. As brides, my wife and I definitely did not want to offend anyone, but also had a very tight budget and venue capacity. A long-time friend of hers (in the UK)was invited to our Wales wedding without a plus one,(as were all our friends – even some with partners we’d met) and when he initially received the invitation he texted to ask her if his girlfriend could come (we planned from Australia). No explanation was given and we didn’t even know her name at the time.Then, months later when someone else couldn’t make it we let him know that yes, his girlfriend was welcome to come – but he still hadn’t even confirmed his own attendance. Long story – in the end he saw it that we were rude in not inviting his girlfriend (who we didn’t know) because at the time she was pregnant (which he hadn’t told us)and apparently he couldn’t afford to come unless she drove him (again this wasn’t explained until about a week before the wedding.

    I was pretty stroppy on my wife’s behalf – this guy was meant to be one of her closest friends. Unfortunately he didn’t make the effort and neither of them came.

    I guess my point is that if you ask for someone to come for a genuine reason – tell the couple because they can’t read your mind!

    That is all 🙂

  3. This is an excellent topic and one I’m very interested in – I’m planning an intimate wedding with about 35 guests. We decided on something small to make it less complicated and so that we could really be with our guests for the weekend rather than just visiting tables for five minutes.

    I do have to disagree with one part of this post though. I feel like the last 3 statements provided under “point to intimacy” are a bit off… They all seem apologetic and contradictory.

    They state that it’s about wanting a small wedding, but then say that “I sooo wish I could have everyone there with us!”… or “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.”…

    If you SO wanted everyone there, then you could make that happen. Those last three, in my opinion, belong in the “White lie” category because they just aren’t true.
    I say this because I have had to be very careful about what I say around my fiancee’s extended family. While I haven’t even met all my first cousins, he sees his third cousins regularly. I’ve seen his aunt 3 times in the last year and I haven’t seen mine in 5 years. It’s safe to say that they feel left out, because they are, but if I tried to pull off one of those lines on them, they would certainly call my bluff. You can be truthful without being rude – own your decision and let them know you still love them and will celebrate with them later.

  4. This is exactly the subject I’ve been kind of annoyed with lately…Since my guy and I go to different colleges, the “friends” list mainly only consists of mutual friends–from high school, etc–besides a few in the bridal party. Unfortunately, I have a friend who is insistent that I invite him to my wedding. He is not a particularly close friend, and my fiance, at most, might have met him once. He’s already told me a couple times that he “better be invited.” When I respond honestly that we haven’t set the guest list but are really only inviting the friends we both know (seems to me like this should be a good hint?), he tells me that “If I don’t get an invite, I’ll cry!!” Joking about the crying–I think–but still serious enough to give me stress about my guest list. UGH.

    • Wow, this guy sounds like someone you don’t want around *anywhere*, let alone your wedding. If it were me, I’d exclude him just because of his being a brat/stalker-in-training.

  5. Its your wedding…you can choose to invite whomever you wish….however if you leave people excluded who may consider you a good friend…be prepared to lose them…this is a real slap in the face…it just is.

  6. Does anyone have any experience with massive, crazy Italian-American extended family drama? Let’s just say that my mom’s side of the family is absurdly large and super conservative (in just about every respect, whereas I am the exact opposite of that). In recent years (since I moved out and started living with the FH and, you know, got all independent and whatnot), I’ve come to realize that I have not one thing in common with any of my mother’s siblings or their children with the exception of her two brothers, and her one brother’s wife, to the point that I have noticed when I go to family functions I am deliberately ostracized and ignored (as are my brother and sister). This last Christmas, only my grandfather spoke to me – and he has recently passed.

    I don’t want to invite any of these people except for my uncles and the one aunt (and their children), but even though no one else speaks to me, I know it will be ENDLESS FAMILY DRAMA if I don’t invite EVERYONE.

    Do I just suck it up and own that I don’t want these people there? I guess I’m afraid that this will torch whatever bridges I have left with them. :-

    • Sounds like in your case, not to invite everyone would be like a declaration of war. Is there a chance you can invite everyone to just the ceremony (and a cake and punch receiving line afterwards) and then handpick your after-party guests? (Maybe do the ceremony midday – after lunch/before dinner.) That way you can minimize your contact with people you don’t really want to see while meeting your expected social obligations. (And who knows, you might even save money by not feeding them all!)

      • Hmm. In the interests of keeping the peace, I do like that idea (though I think I would have it the other way around – I want the ceremony to mostly just be close friends as many of them are participating as readers, etc.). But there is still a selfish part of me that kind of just… wants to declare war. 🙁 Maybe if I make the reception a potluck (haha) it will scare most of them off since only the parents really enjoy cooking… *sigh* Thank you for the idea. I will run it by FH and see what his thoughts are…

        • This is just my thoughts, and of course I don’t know if they apply to your situation or not, but just be aware of what your own part may be in this. There’s nothing wrong with being conservative. It’s possible that you just feel outnumbered and so have given off vibes that you don’t like them and have no interest in their lives and don’t really approve of their life choices. (Those are the vibes I got from your comment.) It’s really unlikely you have nothing in common with them, so if they don’t actually literally ignore you when you actually speak to them, perhaps you could show an interest in their lives (“conservative” parts and all) and see if they respond. It’s possible you’re not speaking to them because you assume they won’t speak to you, and they’re not speaking to you because they assume you won’t speak to them. I know this doesn’t solve your guest list issue, but it might help you look at things from a different angle to possibly have more pleasant family visits in the future.

  7. Hi All!
    I have a situation…just got a voicemail today from mom’s cousin asking if her 2 sons & their families were also invited as they haven’t received their invites yet. She wants to know if it was just an oversight or if maybe the invites were lost in the mail possibly…she wants me to call back & explain! Holy cow lady! Sidebar: I only added her & her 2 daughters to the guest list after my mom found out I wasn’t inviting them & when I asked about inviting the 2 brothers+ mom said it wasn’t necessary. So my mom pretty much created this entire fiasco & now I have to call & explain to a woman that I speak 5 words to roughly once every 10 yrs why her entire tribe wasn’t invited? I don’t know what to do. I feel like she deserves the same amount of “rude” dished back, but it’s not really my nature…I’m more inclined to just not call back…I don’t do confrontation very well. Suggestions? 🙁

    • if i were you, i’d tell her that unfortunately, due to space/finances (whichever is more appropriate for your situation) you & hubby-to-be were unable to invite everyone in the family but hope to see them soon after the wedding. i will be be saying this a lot to people we know/are related to (that we didn’t want to invite to begin with but it’s also due to budget)it will prolly be met with snotty attitudes by some, but most people understand. Good luck! & at the end of the day, remember that no matter what happens you get to go home with your husband!

      • Lilypadbride,
        Thanks for the words of wisdom & for talking me down. It was so deflatting & shocking to get that voicemail! You’re so right, at the end of the day it’s about the marriage! I wish you all the best in your up coming marriage! 😉

        • Thanks! 🙂 me & my Mr. are getting married in October & my best friend & her Mr. are getting married in the spring so we’re both going through the drama & irritation of people inviting themselves to our weddings- i’m mailing our invites in about a month so i’ll be saying that A LOT lol 🙂 but it can be so frustrating for people to assume things. happy wedding! 🙂

  8. Our reception venue, while beautiful, can only hold a guest list of 30 and that includes the wedding party. I have a small family, my FH isn’t close to any of his extended family. I have decided to invite aunts and uncles but not cousins. My FH is only inviting his parents and sister (an of course friends). My cousins are assuming they are invited and keep asking my parents when they should book their hotel. I know I will have to explain to them that they are not invited but when should I do this?

    I will not see them in person before the wedding but my parents probably will. I feel cowardly letting my parents tell them they aren’t invited. Should I call the cousins after the invites are sent out or wait to see if the cousins call me looking for their invite? It doesn’t feel right to call them right now to let them know they aren’t invited. It’s been very awkward for my parents and while I don’t feel guilty about not inviting the cousins, I do feel guilty about my parents being put in this situation. Any advice?

  9. I’m really glad that I found this as I was just about to email a friend who I unfortunately couldn’t include. Our venue holds 120 and I have a really big family, so I just couldn’t include a lot of friends on my side. Friend is part of a small “group” who I’ve known for several years and get together occasionally with, but I couldn’t invite them all so I ended up inviting none. Even when it became apparent that the majority fiance’s family and friends weren’t attending and we’d have extra room, my fiancé was hurt by the prospect of me inviting more on my side, so I just let it go. I have no idea how I could even begin to explain that wrinkle, but the suggestions above are really helpful, because the large family/venue are true.

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