Advice: Double Trouble
Questions that have the same answer no matter who's asking
Q: My invitation to a friend’s wedding arrived, but it’s only for me. My boyfriend and I have been together for almost a year now. Can I just bring him with me? Should I call my friend and ask her if I can?
Q: I don’t really know my coworker’s girlfriend; they’ve only been together for about a year. Do I have to give her a plus one?
Though this might feel like a slight, it isn’t. The invitation list is usually the hardest thing a couple has to decide when planning their wedding — they most likely spend months and maybe even tears poring over the details of the issues of inviting his mother’s great aunt, because his mother promised, meaning they also need to invite her mother’s second cousin once removed.
So, unless the invite specifically says, “and guest,” the only people invited are the ones named on the envelope. And if your significant other’s name isn’t written there, and it also doesn’t say “your name + 1,” they shouldn’t attend.
An invitation should be extended to anyone who’s in a committed relationship — married, engaged or living together — even if neither of the couple getting married has met that person. That obligation doesn’t extend to giving everyone a plus one, but the decision must be a consistent one, for instance you shouldn’t give plus ones to your sorority sisters but not to your coworkers.
If someone shows up with an uninvited guest — which, to state even more specifically, you should never do — it’s best to avoid an uncomfortable situation if at all possible and find a place for them, then follow up with the invited guest via a polite phone call or in-person meeting. Do not have this conversation over text or email, it’s important to convey your feelings honestly without going overboard and without words being taken out of context.
But all of this said, here’s the bottom line: As an invited guest, if you don’t feel comfortable going to this wedding on your own — whether the friend who invited you is a coworker, your best friend from elementary school or your college study partner — don’t go.
Q: My mother told all her “friends,” i.e. the mothers of everyone I went to high school with, that I’m engaged and that they’re all invited to the wedding. My fiancé and I have split the guest list down the middle and I don’t want to have to give up the spots I’ve earmarked for my friends so that those people can come. What can I do?
Q: My daughter-in-law-to-be seems to promise everyone she meets that they’ll be invited to the wedding, but every time I ask her if there will be space for my friends, she brushes me off. What can I do?
As a general rule, talking about and being excited about your upcoming wedding is OK, in fact it’s great, but you shouldn’t extend an invitation, even just in passing, unless you know that you’ll extend a formal invitation.
If someone actually asks you if they’re invited, which is a very rude thing to do, skirt the topic by saying that the guest list isn’t finalized yet — no matter who’s asking.
One of the simplest ways to handle this issue is for the couple to decide between them how many guests to allot to their parents. (I know, this is a tricky subject that has a lot to do with who’s paying for the majority of the wedding, and money always makes emotions harder to parse, but it’s a conversation you as a partnership need to have.) Then you have to have an honest and private conversation with each set of parents to discuss this. They may not be comfortable with your decision, and that can be a valid reaction, but you should be clear and upfront about your decisions and your reasons.
Q: One of my mother’s best friend’s daughters has invited me to her wedding. I’ve never met her and I feel like the invitation was extended just because our mothers are friends, so I’m going to decline. Do I still have to send a present?
Q: I already know that some of my extended family cannot attend my wedding, and I don’t want them to feel like they have to send a gift. Should I still send an invitation?
The short answer to all of this is yes. Yes, even if you can’t attend a wedding, even if you’re not going because you can’t afford to, you should send a present. And yes, if you know someone can’t attend you should still send them an invitation.
An invitation comes with the expectation of a gift. If you’re concerned about cost and don’t see anything on their registry that fits your budget, get the couple something fun, like a movie gift certificate. (As an aside, I was once invited to a wedding I couldn’t attend because of cost but on their registry was a creamer in the shape of a cow. That I could afford and it was their favorite gift and we still talk about it all the time.)
If you know someone can’t attend and you don’t want them to be pressured to send a gift but know that they would appreciate keeping the invitation as a keepsake, handwrite a note to send with or on the invitation stating your wishes.