It seems to me that every bride and groom at every wedding has certain pain points they must push through, and one of them is the wedding list. Yes, it’s your wedding; this is the one day you’d think you could do pretty much as you please without fear of condemnation, but unfortunately, that is as far from the truth as Z is from A.
You’d hope and imagine that the wedding list is yours to fill any way you like. Ha! I pity you. Here’s your first marital test: how much control over your guest list will you wrest from all the dark forces of selfishness that surround you? How many faces you’d rather not see at your wedding will you eventually face? Yep, it’s time to grow up. After all, you’re very nearly a married adult.
How to tell someone they’re not invited to your wedding?
Be as honest as possible, but always remain diplomatic. Although you should bend over backward to not burn your bridges, make sure you stand firm. Deny an invitation by being exceedingly excited about your wedding without allowing the topic of an invitation to arise. Tell bosses and other social superiors that they can’t come because that would make you uncomfortable. Tell business acquaintances you don’t mix business and personal affairs “on this level“, a meaningless phrase that you can make mean anything. Use venue officials to deny entry to uninvited guests. Pretend you have no say in the matter. Weaponize guilt by claiming you know the other person will be upset, but it is your wedding day, and they must put your feelings first.
Types of potential guests at your wedding
There are those you’d like to invite, and there are those you have to ask–and you’re happy to. Then there are those you have to invite but would rather not, and you mentally keep your fingers crossed in the forlorn hope they’ll decline. Finally, there are those you’d absolutely detest inviting but who somehow seem to have made it their mission to wrangle an invitation for themselves.
If this latter category is filled with people for whom you have nothing but contempt and for whom you’d rather die in bitter penury than seek their help, and you’re a thick-skinned sort of chap who isn’t easily embarrassed, you’ve got it made. Just look these importunate so-and-sos in the face and tell them bluntly, “You’re not invited. Sorry.”
Sadly, life’s not like that.
Like me, you probably shrink from causing offense to someone’s face (although you’re perfectly happy to do it on the Internet when you’re hidden behind a veil of anonymity). You burn bright red at even the thought of having to be frank and direct with a passively aggressive person who knows how to push your buttons, because nasty people are generally clever like that.
Declining to invite someone to your wedding–the art of saying “No.”
Saying “No” to a business contact, even your boss
You need to understand that I always counsel against lying. Lies have a horrible way of resurfacing months or years later when you’ve completely forgotten them, biting you in the behind, ruining friendships and even business opportunities. Don’t do it.
Technique #1. The blabbering idiot.
So, here’s a scenario. Some blabbermouth found out you were getting married and shot her mouth off to your boss. He comes in with an oily, fake smile, asking about the date of the wedding and other details he’d only need if he was expecting an invitation. My advice is to give him all the details enthusiastically, but that’s all.
As long as he doesn’t ask flat out, “Where’s my invitation?” just play the part of excited dummy. Be effusive, passionate, and garrulous. Tell him everything, right down to the color of the bride’s shoes. With any bit of luck, he may decide that actually, he’d rather not get an invitation.
Technique #2. You’re too important to invite.
In this scenario, you’re trying to pull off the blabbering idiot method when your boss comes out with a surly, “So where’s my invitation?” Look him straight in the eye and deliver something like this:
“Oh, my goodness! We’re not inviting you, Tony/Sir/Mr. Brown [insert usual form of address here]. No, no, no! Oh, good Lord, no. No.
“No. I want to be the top dog at my wedding, but I wouldn’t be with you there. Even if you were a shrinking violet, I’d know you were there and, gosh darn it, nope! Sorry!”
And now, give him the killer line: “I know you’ll understand.“
Technique #3. It wouldn’t be appropriate
For an important business contact, how important is this business contact? Are you absolutely sure you want to risk giving offense? Have you maybe done something with this business contact you shouldn’t have, and now you labor under the constant fear that news of your indiscretion will “get out” and result in ruin, possibly even a canceled wedding?
The solution here is delicate diplomacy (but still, no lies!) The tack here is, “I am only comfortable when I keep my business and personal lives separate.” Here I’m assuming you haven’t banged uglies with her already. If you have, you dirty dog, try this: “I’m sure you’d agree that that would be inappropriate? I think we’d better not.”
Saying “No” to plus ones, including children and significant others
Those pesky kids! Unless you’re uber-rich and you’ve bagged yourself a venue with oodles of space, you might not want a brood of badly behaved rapscallions running amok and upsetting everybody.
On the other hand, your sister’s kids and your bride’s brother’s brood are devil-infested scamps you’ll probably have to put up with, as one day you’ll spawn your own little demonic terrorists and likewise inconvenience friends and family. For everyone else, try this. The technique is based on acknowledging that you’re about to do them wrong, but you demand that as it’s your wedding, they must put your feelings first and ahead of theirs. Basically, you’re going to guilt-trip them.
Technique #4. Use guilt as a weapon
Scenario: a long-time friend used to go out with Jane. You invited Jane, but now your friend and Jane have broken up, and he’s bringing his new flame with him. What do you say to Jane?
Call up Jane and say, “Hi Jane. I’m afraid I must disinvite you from my wedding, much as that pains me. I’m sure you’d like to be furious with me, but I demand that you do not! This is my wedding day, and I want you to consider my comfort first, as it’s the only wedding day I plan on ever having. I’ll call you when the dust has settled, and we’ll go out for a coffee. I hope you’ll honor my wedding and our friendship. Thank you for your understanding.“
Afterword: How to tell someone they’re not invited to your wedding?
For many of us, it isn’t easy to say no to folks to their faces, which is why we end up in bitter resentment, feeling we’ve let ourselves down. On the other hand, when we step up to the plate and insist on putting ourselves first, we often suffer pangs of guilt and wonder if it was all worth the fuss after all. In the end, it is probably best to take the long view and be as accommodating as possible while respecting absolute boundaries.