Tying the Knot in a Meaningful and Memorable Way (Without Losing Our Savings or Sanity)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Q & A: Uninvited Guests

Reader Question: I myself am planning for my wedding next July in the Colorado mountains (and am a little bummed I secured a place before finding your blog and reading about the Sunshine Mountain Inn – that’s exactly what we were looking for). Anyway, in part of our effort to “be green”, we decided to send out email save-the-date/invitations with a link to a website where you can RSVP online. We just sent out the emails to our 80 guests on Wednesday and I’ve been having fun reading people’s comments who have RSVP’d. It was very difficult to narrow down our invite list, especially since my dad has 10 siblings which includes several cousins, second cousins, etc. But since I haven’t spoken to most of them in years and my fiancé has only met a handful, we’ve decided against inviting any extended family – just our parents and siblings. I talked to my dad and my mom about this decision. But apparently my dad didn’t relay this information on to my step-mother who took it upon herself to forward the website to my uncle who is local and to her sister who lives in Maine! I just found this out because I saw that my uncle and his wife have already RSVP’d! We made a point to personally address each web-invite so that this wouldn’t happen, but obviously I should have gone one step further by putting some type of notice on the email saying “please don’t forward this on to anyone” – I just felt that seemed a little tacky. I just got off the phone with my dad and he will be talking with my step-mom and to ask her not to send it to anyone else. I’m just having a real hard time figuring out why she would think it’s ok to send it on without asking me first, but that’s another issue altogether.

Well, after having a bit of a nervous breakdown, I know I need to just take a deep breath and realize that a few extra people won’t make that big of a difference. But it’s the bigger picture I’m worried about - now I’m faced with more dilemmas – should I now invite my cousins who also live in Denver? Seems weird that my uncle will be there but not the rest of his family. And then what if other aunts/uncles hear about this particular uncle’s invite and are bitter or angry that they didn’t receive one. Most importantly, what about my soon-to-be in-laws who we literally had a conversation with LAST NIGHT about our decision not to invite extended family? They were practically insisting that we invite their siblings, etc. but my fiancé and I stood our ground saying that’s not the tone we wanted for our wedding – close friends and immediate family, people we have real sincere relationships with and people that have a significant part of our lives. We promised each other we wouldn’t invite people out of obligation or anyone our parents wanted that we didn’t know.

What do I do? I need some perspective on how to deal with this. And how do I break it to my fiancé (who already thinks my family is completely cooky). Sigh.

Oy vey. I'm so sorry for your technical difficulty! (Although, kudos to you for going the eco-friendly route!).

The good news is that none of this planning stress will matter on your wedding day. You will be basking in so many other (er, happier) feelings and emotions.

But in the meantime, here's what I would do:

  1. Let the invitation to the uncle go. Like you said, a few extra people won't make a difference. (Although, if you can muster the courage to uninvite him, you totally have the right to do it. I would say something like, "I'm so sorry that our decision to send an e-mail invitation has caused this kind of confusion. In an effort to limit the scale of our wedding, we decided to invite only immediate family members. The invitation was forwarded to you without our knowledge. At this point, I feel like my only options are to invite all the uncles/aunts/cousins or to retract your invitation out of fairness to the family. Given our decision to invite only immediate family members, it makes the most sense to retract your invitation." Or, ask your mom or dad to do it--whoever is closest to him.)
  2. Don't invite his children. Stick to your original decision to only invite parents and siblings. If this feels weird to your uncle, he can talk to your step-mom for clarification.
  3. Don't worry about the other aunts/uncles. Have your family members explain the situation to them (we all know families gossip about this kind of stuff, right?). They'll quickly realize it was an accident and that he shouldn't have been invited.
Honestly, it's becoming easier and easier for people to accept that some people choose to have smaller weddings. They'll think it's because of the economic downturn. For some reason, that's easier to understand that the fact that some of us just want to proclaim our love and commitment in front of our nearest and dearest.

Sometimes, expanding the guest list a little bit can actually help you forge deeper, stronger relationships with family members, and it's worth it to deviate a little from the original plan. Other times, you're merely deviating out of obligation or cowardliness. In your situation, it sounds like you really, really want to stick to your original intention. If that's the case, I say go for it!

May the force be with you...

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Anonymous said...
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megan said...

Oh WOW. how is it you always hit on the topic that is most recent for me?! i had this SAME thing happen yesterday!

One of my dad's sisters received a save-the-date. I haven't spoken to the other 6 or their children in roughly 12 years. Upon bringing it up to my sister, she took it upon herself to tell them I ran out and am sending out more. She told me this like she was gracious enough to cover my mistake, and was giving me the opportunity to fix it, even though she knows I don't make mistakes such as those. this brings me to my response to her and what i told my dad (it might work for our letter-writer). and i quote:

Dad, i'm sorry we couldn't invite all of your brothers and sisters. J brought it up, and like I told her, we have a very limited capacity and we chose to fill it with people we're a little closer with. I'm not doing it to be mean but we simply can't fit- or afford- everyone, although we wish we could.

although that wasn't the case, i really just don't want strangers at my wedding...but i figured that was the most tactful way to tell him his siblings weren't invited. I'm probably about to get another earful when people realize this isn't a child-friendly reception, either.

Here's to standing up for your guest list rights!

Kate said...

This was an issue for us too. We thought that it was an all or nothing situation - either all extended family were invited or none - in order to avoid hurt feelings and confusion. We made one exception for two grandmother's - in their cases we allowed them a "plus guest" and each used one of their children (an aunt and uncle) as their guest. This was mostly because they needed somebody to assist them in getting to the wedding. We actually asked our parents to convey the decision to their own siblings. As far as we know, nobody was nasty about it - disappointed, but understanding.

That said, you can figure that not everyone you invite will show up so the addition of one couple will probably not affect the overall guest count too badly. You can also figure that people you didn't invite will show up and then you're faced with that annoyance of deciding if you confront them or not. You're so early on in the invitation stage that I probably would, but at a certain point you just give up.

Sara's right though - the day of you'll be so occupied you won't care too much.

rosalicious said...

OK, so I read this and wondered if I wrote it in my sleep last night!

I, too, am...

getting married in July...
in the CO mountains...
live in Denver...
sent out an email to friends & family...
had it forwarded to unintended people...


(Whoever wrote that question should email me so we can commiserate/share :)

Jenn said...

Thanks, Sarah, for putting up my question. As much as I try to have my wedding planning stay drama-free, I realize there are so many factors I can't control...good lesson in focusing on the things I can control. Your advice and the comments have been very helpful.

Rosalicious, let's definitely connect somehow! It's good to know I'm not alone and I think it would be fun to swap horror stories (and success stories) - over a couple of adult beverages at a local establishment perhaps?


The Sapphic Housewife said...

Thanks for the post--I'll be facing these same sorts of guest list questions within the next year, and I have an enormous family!

Brite Lines said...

We had a similar issue, and also did email invites/RSVPs, but everything worked out in the end! My side of the famliy is 4 times larger than my husband's, so his entire family (up to cousins but not including second cousins) was invited. My aunts and uncles were invited but only a very select few cousins of mine were invited in lieu of their parents who told me in advance they could not make the trip. We had to make an exception for the teenage kids of my local aunts and uncles because my grandparents on that side of the family would have been upset had the kids not been invited. We also had friends who tried to ask us if they could PAY to have an extra guest come, but we refused that realy quickly. Its a difficult issue but there was absolutly no push-back from anyone about it, everyone understood.

Another thought - our RSVP online (the Knot) was limited to our guest list, so if you weren't on the list you could not RSVP. See if you can hook that up.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to do online RSVP but have a few who are not that computer literate. Anyone else have this issue? We sent out postcard Save the Dates, and intend on sending a handful of actual invitations to very close family, and email the rest.

missd said...

It's SO hard making the decision who to invite, and who not to invite, isn't it?

But you made that decision based on a few different things, so that's what your family must respect.

I would suggest asking your step-mother to sort it out - after all she forwarded it on without asking you, so it's her mistake to sort out.

You have enough on your plate with a wedding to plan, and have already pained yourself making the tough decision on who to invite.

My 2c. Good luck :)

Unknown said...

This is just so unfair to you, but so typical of the drama involved with the wedding guest list. Your stepmom should be responsible for breaking the news to the extended family that she misunderstood and that you all had to limit your list to immediate family because of your budget. They will understand. Like you said, it's not fair to your in-laws that you had an agreement and now it looks like you're breaking it. I would just ask your stepmom to clear things up . You did everything right. It's completely tacky to put on your wedding invitation "please don't forward this," so there's really nothing else you could have done. It's common sense that if you're not the bride or the groom, you don't have the right to invite anyone. It's not a barbeque, it's a wedding! Good luck :)

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