Dear Dee,
I’m hoping you can help me with a problem I’m having. Since the very day I got engaged, my parents’ neighbor of more than 15 years has been pressuring both my mother and me to “make sure to invite us to the wedding!” Rude as that is I didn’t really have a problem with it, until she mentioned to my mother that she’s expecting us to also invite her four children (one of whom is married and two of whom are engaged and have moved away), their significant others and her grandchild – a total of 11 people including her and her husband!

I would institute a “no neighbors” rule, but we’ve already invited other neighbors and their children (kids aren’t a problem), but none of their group’s number more than four people each. Also, when her daughter got married, I wasn’t invited.

How do I handle this? What do I say? Is there any way to be polite about this or do I just have to resign myself to inviting all 11 of them?

Judy Aislinn
Metairie

Take your neighbor’s discourteous, though well-meaning, comments as a huge compliment – she likes you and your family, and wants to be included in one of the biggest days of your life. Try not to see your guest list as a way to exact revenge or right wrongs. Even though you were not included as one of her daughter’s guests, look at how difficult this situation is for you, and try to see it the situation through her eyes.

Then, repeat after me: “We hope you will understand.” This phrase is going to be what you come back to no matter how pushy someone gets. These five words have an amazing effect: they effectively stop the impolite behavior while at the same time making the person feel rude if they keep pushing.

If you were going to invite your neighbor and her husband anyway, then try, “We are only including our closest neighbors, and we hope you and your husband can attend but, unfortunately, we cannot include your children.” If you hadn’t planned on inviting them, then you’re entering a sticky situation. As politely as you can, say that while you truly value their friendship, there just isn’t room at your wedding, but – perhaps – that you would love to have them over for dinner once you’re settled. Also, make sure to tell the neighbors that you did invite to avoid dwelling on the fact that they have been invited.

Dear Ms. Lane,
My mother and I are fighting about how to let people know about my upcoming wedding. Please trust me when I say that I’m not a huge fan of what she terms “social media” – but I do love my Facebook page. It is the easiest way to reach all of my friends since we graduated college, though it can sometimes get a little dramatic. One of my sorority sisters announced her engagement on Facebook and used it to invite her friends and it seemed to work for her; I don’t understand why my mother is so against it.

What do you think?

Ann Grace
Covington

Though Facebook – and sites like it such as Twitter, MySpace and LinkedIn – is great for finding people you would have never met otherwise and for reconnecting with people from your past, it’s not a good idea to use it as a way to announce or invite people to your wedding. If you’ve ever forgotten to return a “poke” or help someone’s crops in Farmville, you know that the minutest slight (or imagined slight) can blow up in epic proportions when one can just type one’s feelings rather than talk on the phone or in person.

Now, imagine all of the perceived slights you’ll have to deal with when you announce your engagement and every one of your “friends” assumes an invitation? Or when you message a few people that they’re invited, but not all?
Etiquette isn’t just a set of arbitrary rules made to annoy you; it’s a series of tried and true guidelines that have worked and (mostly) continue to be relevant. For instance, though mailing invitations seems antiquated, there will definitely be people on your guest list who do not regularly check their e-mail or maybe even have an e-mail address – much less a Facebook page.

If you want to be able to be able to receive RSVPs via email, and include links to maps and directions, consider creating a “Wedsite” – a website dedicated to your wedding where you can include anything you want – and including the website on your mailed invitation.

Hi Dee,
Wedding Crashers…Though I think Owen Wilson is really cute, those two words are giving me nightmares. My fiancé and I have planned a sit-down dinner for our reception. I keep worrying that a some of our friends will show up with uninvited dates or, though I made it clear (through word-of-mouth) that we would like ours to be an adult-only wedding, one or two friends might show up with kids in tow.

Is there anything I can do?

Cheryl Kansas
New Orleans

If you like Wedding Crashers, then I bet you also like Clueless; take a page from Cher and embrace her “the more, the merrier” outlook. If you’ve listened to your wedding planner, caterer and/or bartenders, you’ve already assumed that someone will have thought they replied when they didn’t or that their reply got lost in the mail.

If you’re still in the planning stage and renting, always order three to five percent more of everything than the number of your RSVPs. Also, tell the venue that you would like two to four extra place settings, just in case – that way, you’ll be prepared for an extra couple of guests as well as the inevitable chair break or plate break. As long as you don’t over-seat each table, you’ll be able to squeeze them in, no problem.

As for children, if you’ve made sure not to mention children’s names on the invitation and had conversations (in person or over the phone, please) with parents whom you think might have a problem complying with your adults-only request, then you’ve been as proactive as you can be and done everything you can. If, or when, they show up regardless, ask the person in charge of your venue to plate a child-friendly meal, sit back, take a deep breath and enjoy your party.

Hello Dee,
I want my reception to be a big party. To that end, and because I’m almost at my wit’s end with all of the other planning and coordination that goes into planning a wedding, I thought it would be nice to let my guests choose their own seats at the reception. 

I know, from previous experience, that having to sit and make nice with people I don’t know can be frustrating and leave awkward silences – and that’s if you’re lucky enough to be seated with a date. I really don’t want that at my wedding.

And what if some people don’t show up? How can I keep the people at that table from feeling “less than?” Any ideas?

Sandra Connor
New Orleans

Allowing your guests the latitude to choose their own table is a nice idea, but unfortunately not one that tends to work in practice. Humans are creatures of habit, and a seating free-for-all can both cause stress and prevent a scramble for seats that might delay the start of your reception. Creating a seating chart also allows you to subtly separate guests who might have friction.

Though conversation can feel forced when you’re sitting at a table with people you don’t know, at least at a wedding all of the guests have the bride and groom in common. It also helps those guests who might feel out of place – think grandparents, aunts and uncles and friend groups who don’t normally interact – feel included and more a part of the whole party.

If you feel strongly about allowing your guests freedom of choice as to where they sit, assign tables but not actual seats. As you’ve probably seen at other weddings, as the party gets going, chairs tend to be moved around and friends will congregate where they feel comfortable.

As for guests who are no-shows, ask the staff to be alert to such matters and quietly remove the empty place setting and chair. As long as your guests don’t have to talk across an empty setting, they won’t notice anything out of the ordinary.