Manners and Marriage

My fiancé and I are planning an unconventional wedding – carnival-themed and under a big top. How can I express that in our invitations so that our guests know what to expect and include everything that needs to be there without it looking overloaded or sending the wrong message?

With so many choices that go into finalizing a wedding invitation, from the type of paper to the font, your invitation can be as creative as your imagination will make it. In terms of the appearance, in your particular instance I would suggest looking to tickets, antique circus posters and of course the tent, for inspiration. You can also include meaningful quotations, song lyrics or catch phrases – anything that expresses the style of your wedding.

There are, however, some basics that you should make certain are predominant and easily readable: Your and your fiancé’s full names (though you can leave out your middle name if you absolutely hate it); the date, location and time of your ceremony and reception; and how your guests can reply with their RSVP.

One thing to keep in mind as you jump down the creative rabbit hole is that this piece of paper – which, after all, is all it really is – will be representing your wedding for the rest of your life. You might receive an artist’s rendering of your invitation or a framed version as a wedding gift, so make certain that it reflects not only your wedding, but also you as a couple.

When my sibling got married, my mother invited my ex and his parents, and my ex wasn’t even friends with my sibling! This was a year after we ended our long relationship (badly), and even though I expressed my feelings about it to my mother, she didn’t seem to care. It was very awkward, especially for the man who’s now my fiancé – his family even asked me why my ex and his family were invited.

It’s my turn to be married now, and I’m pretty sure that my mother won’t invite my ex, but even now, more than six years after we broke up, my parents are still friends with my ex’s parents. I’m ok with them being friends, but I don’t want them to be invited to my wedding. What can I do to persuade my mom not to invite them?

There are a few different tracks you can take with this argument – because that’s what this will probably be – and I think you should have them all prepared before you talk to your mom.

An ex is an ex for a reason, but just because he’s an ex to you, that’s not the case for your mom. Try seeing it from her side; just because the relationship between you and your ex didn’t work out, why should she have to stop being friends with his parents? Make sure to tell her that you understand her position and that you’re not passing judgement on her choice of friends.

Consider having your fiancé or sibling with you when you chat with your mom, and suggest that your dad be present at well. It might help her to understand that having your ex’s parents at your wedding wouldn’t just be awkward for you, but for your fiancé and his parents as well, as it was awkward for your sibling. The downside to this is that your mom might feel like you all are ganging up on her – which is a good reason to ask your dad to be there as well, to alleviate some of that tension – so try to be aware of that and give your mom space and time to talk as well.

Never underestimate the power of a bride. Phrases such as “once-in-a-lifetime,” “my big day” and “when I walk down the aisle,” for instance, will pack a punch to a mother who remembers her own wedding day fondly, or conversely to one who didn’t get much say in her own wedding.

Tell your mom that you’re happy to send your ex’s parents an email explaining your feelings – and mean it – with an offer to set up a time after the wedding to share the photos of your special day with them, perhaps with a slice of cake.

If you’re still at an impasse, then it’s time to take a look at guest lists and payment plans – yup, the fun stuff. If your parents are paying for your wedding, this is probably not the path to take, but if you and your fiancé and/or your fiancé’s parents are paying a sizable amount (at least half) then you might consider putting more weight into the “it will be awkward for my future in-laws” argument. Also, if your parents have a limited number of guests they can invite (if the invitation list has been sectioned out between you and your fiancé, your parents and your future in-laws, for instance) then you might try suggesting that there may be other people who would be missed, such as some of your friends, if they weren’t invited.

If all else fails, try saying “no.” Tell her that it’s not acceptable that your ex’s parents attend. This could get tricky and could spur some angst and fights, but if it’s that important to you that they not attend, then this is your last option.

Whatever you do, don’t go behind her back and take your ex’s parents off the guest list or “lose” their invitation. Lying to your parents will just set you up for an argument later, one that could lead to feelings of betrayal, anger and pain. While having this conversation with your mom now might be difficult, think of it as ripping off a bandage in one go; it’s a lot easier to do than to pick it off a bit at a time. And remember above all that your parents are your parents for life, but your wedding is one night; keeping your relationship strong with them is more important than having to ignore your ex’s parents and perhaps throwing away a photo or two.

When is the right time to start contacting people who haven’t RSVP’d and what do I say? I don’t want to hound anyone who doesn’t want to come, but catering numbers are due soon. Maybe it got lost in the mail?

This is a touchy subject for both you and the person who hasn’t yet responded, so be polite. About one week after your RSVP deadline (which should have been printed on the RSVP card or somewhere on your invitation suite and/or your website) you should send out personalized emails to each person and/or couple from whom you haven’t heard. Say something to the effect of: “Hello Sam, I haven’t received your RSVP for Mike’s and my wedding on February 24 in New Orleans. I just wanted to make sure that I have your information correct. Will you be bringing Suzie? Sincerely, Rachel.”

Reaching out sooner rather than later is good, in case you have trouble reaching anyone. Also, don’t expect a reply right away; give them a few days to respond before trying again. For older guests who might not often check emails, making that call, while difficult, is the right thing to do, and you can say almost the same thing on a call, which gives you the added bonus of getting a reply immediately.                                               

My parents have passed and my fiancé’s parents are hosting our wedding. Is there a way to show that on our invitation?

In this case, you would list your fiancé’s parents’ names on the invitation as you would the bride’s parents on a traditional invitation, but with one big change:
Mr. and Mrs. Edward James Smith request the honor of your presence at the marriage of Miss Anna Casey Harold to their son James William Smith

This is the simplest way to phrase your invitation while giving honor to your fiancé’s parents as hosts. If you, your fiancé and his parents agree that you would rather not have your future in-laws’ names on the invitation, you can phrase it even more simply:
Anna Casey Harold and James William Smith request the honor of your presence at their marriage.


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