WeddingFilter: "You're not invited"
June 28, 2010 3:05 PM   Subscribe

How do I politely say "you aren't invited to my wedding" to (almost) all of our guests.

We're planning a wedding. Weddings are hard, I know. Our theory going in was to have a destination wedding without the destination. We'd just invite our close, immediate family; our friends and just-outside relatives would just have to deal. The catch is that we weren't really going anywhere, just somewhere nearby where we could have the intimate setting we wanted.

I'm not having _any_ second thoughts about keeping it a small family affair. But recently both of us have been honored to stand up with our close friends in a handful of weddings. We love our friends and were elated that they asked us. So while I feel good about our wedding plans, I feel uncomfortable about not returning the honor (not to mention favors, dinner, and drinks) our friends gave to us. So what can I do?

I've had 3 ideas:

-- Send the friends a letter explaining our wishes and that we hope they understand. This amounts to a "you aren't invited" letter, which I can imagine might not be received well. Also, would I send a gift with such a letter? After all, as attendants to the bride and groom, we both received gifts as is customary.

-- Throw a party. This sounds like fun, and I'd love to throw a party for our friends, but I really don't want them to feel obligated to come. For me, party invitations are much more easily ignored than "engagement party" invitations, though I do not know if others share this opinion. I do not want our friends to worry about offending us (the way I am worrying about offending them) by not coming.

-- Thought 3 is that I am being egocentric, even narcissistic. I know many of my friends will be relieved not to have to come to yet another wedding, and besides, who says they would even come if invited?

So Metafilter: what can I do to avoid hurting the feelings of our friends when we don't invite them to our wedding?
posted by anonymous to Society & Culture (54 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
It's not that unusual to invite just a few very close friends or immediate family to a small wedding. As long as you're not inviting a few friends in your circle and leaving the rest out, I don't think anyone will get offended. If anyone does seem hurt, just make sure they understand that it is indeed a small wedding and that it has nothing to do with your affection for them. Thought 2 is nice; I've known several couples who had tiny weddings and later had a big barbecue for all their friends to attend.
posted by tetralix at 3:11 PM on June 28, 2010

I know many of my friends will be relieved not to have to come to yet another wedding.

Hi, anonymous, I'm your close friend and confidante, griphus. I will come to your wedding without hesitation if invited. However, I will breathe a sigh of relief if I know I do not have to plan my life around attending your Big Formal Event. I hate Big Formal Events. Of course, that hate has nothing to do with the individuals attending or throwing it. They're just something I have never, and can't see myself ever genuinely enjoying even if there is free food and an open bar (which is usually enough to get me to join a cult or Amway.)
posted by griphus at 3:11 PM on June 28, 2010 [12 favorites]

No to #1. That's pretty horrible.

For #2, consider that traditionally, engagement parties imply wedding invites. I would nix a big pre-wedding party.

If it's feasible, I think you should have a post-wedding rager. Mailed invitations, possibly a rented space, hors d'oeuvre, bartenders, the works. If anyone asks, tell them it's the marriage celebration, and that you wanted to keep the wedding ceremony itself as small as possible. Sort of a reception-sans-ceremony; that's what everyone enjoys the most anyway. Don't use the phrase "hope you understand". Makes me cringe, and I would feel slighted.

Or have an as-big-as-possible party in your new wedded home. Sort of a housewarming; now it's your (pl) house instead of your (singular) house. Works better if you haven't been (officially) living together before the wedding, or at least not for long.
posted by supercres at 3:13 PM on June 28, 2010 [5 favorites]

eloping and then holding a couple of receptions in various parts of the country for the folks who missed the event has been our plan so far, and no toes appear to be stepped on.

this may be harder with people who are somehow actively insulted that they aren't invited to your ceremony, but these kinds of people are keeping score more than supporting their friends anyhow.
posted by radiosilents at 3:14 PM on June 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

I would not write a letter to everyone explaining it, that's totally unnecessary. I might go so far as to casually mention to a few close friends how you were planning a very, very, small family wedding and leave it at that. The word will spread to your group of friends and that will be the end of it. No need to point out that they are not invited, they'll understand. It's your wedding and you can do as you like.

If you'd like to have a party with your friends, I'd do it after the wedding. If you do it before the wedding it will just look like an engagement party for which you expect gifts. And since they wouldn't be invited to a subsequent wedding, it's just a little bit gift-grabby. A post-wedding casual cocktail or bar event might be fun though and you could explicitly say that it was just to celebrate your recent wedding and that no gifts were expected. I don't think anyone would feel obligated.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 3:14 PM on June 28, 2010

Your friends are, I assume, all adults, and can or should be able to deal with not being invited to your wedding, particularly for a reason such as keeping the whole thing very small. No formal explanation or parting gift required. And the ones who can't be adults? Fuck 'em, why would you want them there anyway? A party could be nice if you want to throw one, but it should be after the wedding, not before.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 3:15 PM on June 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

If you're assuming that they're going to be put out by not being invited to your wedding, it seems to follow that they would be happy to show up to your party. Otherwise you would not be at all concerned. Usually if you like someone well enough to ask them to be your bridesmaid/groomsman, you like them well enough to show up to celebrate their wedding.

People like weddings but most people are looking forward to the part where everybody drinks and dances and eats cake. Not having any of the formal commitments of a wedding (sitting/standing through a long boring mass, being obligated to buy the dress you pick out, being obligated to show up to a full weekend of festivities, being obligated to write a speech and who knows what else) should be a bonus. And then you'll be even as far as drinks/food/entertainment go.
posted by amethysts at 3:16 PM on June 28, 2010

No need for a major announcement at all. As the subject comes up, just say: "We having a tiny wedding, basically for immediate family and a few others." That's it. You don't need to have a party either unless you want to. It doesn't matter what kinds of weddings others are having. That's what they want, and you'll be having the wedding you and your fiancé want.

I can't resist adding that very often I hear people say: "I have to go to a wedding this weekend" in the same tone as: "I have to go to a funeral this weekend." Some young friends may be relieved that they don't have to buy plane tickets, hotel rooms, wedding presents, rent or buy wedding attire, etc. Many older people would rather be home with a book or enjoying the outdoors rather than having their eardrums blasted while making conversation with people they will never see again. Some of those oldsters would probably love a lunch or small dinner party to celebrate your marriage later on. Not everyone loves weddings as much as many brides and grooms do. It's okay to have something intimate and private. Cherish the experience without apology.
posted by Elsie at 3:18 PM on June 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

And as a data point, two lights (aka lizsterr) and I are planning an engagement party where we're inviting all of our local wedding invitees, plus a few others. My former roommate just moved out, so it's also a "Come See OUR House" semi-housewarming party. That said, I did recognize that engagement parties are traditionally gift-laden, so to keep attendance up, I put an explicit "(no gifts; bring beer)" parenthesis in the invite.

YM, and Y-friends, MV.
posted by supercres at 3:19 PM on June 28, 2010

Just so you know: if you have any sort of wedding celebration/party, regardless of when it is, and regardless of what you put on the invitation, at least people will assume it is a gift grab (yes, even if you put "no gifts" or whatever) and be annoyed.

If you WANT to have the party, have it. If you don't want to, don't. It's not like you're excluding people from your big event, you're not HAVING a big event. I can't imagine anyone worth ever talking to again being mad for this.
posted by brainmouse at 3:20 PM on June 28, 2010

Have a 'Celebrate the Love' of Mr and Mrs Anonymous party, the kind of party you want to have for you and your friends. At the party, there can be little calling cards about, or goofy favors with cards, or customized beer can cozies (or whatever) that thank your guests for coming and that you are happy to announce you are having an intimate immediate family ceremony at X date in the future and so will henceforth on that date officially be Mr and Mrs A. I've been to these kind of parties and it's lovely and perfectly tasteful to celebrate the lurve with your friends; and friends and even extended family are glad to know and easily understand (especially in a party setting) that some folks prefer to have family-only wedding ceremonies.

posted by rumposinc at 3:20 PM on June 28, 2010

We had 6 guests at our wedding, including or parents.
A month later we had a party in our backyard with bbq from the local bbq guy and sides and salads from me and my mom. We had about 70 people at the party. Our party invites said something like... "A big wedding isn't for us, please join us for a recepitionish backyard bash!" Everyone was excited for the party! It was awesome! Not a single person said a word about not being invited to the wedding. Not even my nosy Grandma. We didn't tell when
posted by Swisstine at 3:23 PM on June 28, 2010 [5 favorites]

The thing about weddings is that you get to do it the way you like. Previous invitations to the weddings of other friends have no bearing on yours, nor do they add any obligation. (Just think about the logical extension- if everyone had to invite everyone who had ever invited them to their wedding, network effects would quickly make the whole thing utterly unmanageable.)

Have the wedding that you want. Your true friends will be happy for you.

It kind of sounds like you'd like to throw a party for your friends. Do that, do it after the wedding, maybe after you are back from a honeymoon if you go on one. I can tell you I would almost always choose a friend's celebration party over a formal wedding any day.
posted by ambrosia at 3:25 PM on June 28, 2010

(Oops phone posting is hard). We did not say when we were getting married on the invite. Everyone was very accepting. You are more worried than anyone else will be! Congratulations! and have fun!
posted by Swisstine at 3:26 PM on June 28, 2010

coming in to echo my husband, radiosilents - elope and post wedding party. 4 months after the wedding and i wouldn't have done it any other way. we're mailing invites and i have an amazon wish list ready if anyone should ask, but we're focusing more on party with special cake than wedding party.
posted by nadawi at 3:30 PM on June 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

Traditionally one would send an announcement just after the wedding. (They should be sent literally, the same day).

This is what I did, since I had very few people at my wedding (Three, not including my husband and me, the priest, and witness [one of them showed up uninvited]. It was a lovely wedding in a beautiful tiny church. I didn't want to turn it into a three-ring circus.) I then had a party one month later and invited people who would have been invited to my wedding, had I invited anyone to my wedding.

My sister did #1 on your list. She had a larger wedding, about 50 attendees. She did not send announcements, but told people before hand they would not be invited and explained why (wedding was in small colonial inn so there was not a lot of room, she hadn't seen some of the folks in ages, so even though they were first cousins, they weren't invited so she could invite her current friends [who are no longer her friends now], she had a limited budget, etc.) My sister came off as a jerk (which she is not, she just tends to over think things and make weird decisions). It caused hard feelings.
posted by fifilaru at 3:30 PM on June 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

Honestly, I think most people respect the idea of a small wedding. When people ask about your wedding plans you can be totally candid and let them know that you're planning a very small intimate event for just your close family. I applaud you for going that route. I just wish I could have done the same.

If you want to throw a party, that's great! Do it after the wedding so that nobody thinks it's an engagement thing, and don't put 'No Gifts' on the invitation. It offends some people, and others who want to give you gifts will do it anyway.
posted by TooFewShoes at 3:35 PM on June 28, 2010

Definitely DO NOT do #1. Please. No.
It may be a good idea to have personal one-on-one conversations with those who have invited you to weddings or asked you to be in the wedding party. Don't apologize. Just tell them you've decided to have a very small family-only wedding and then a party. You can ask a couple of special friends to give toasts at the party or sing a song or something if you have people who are into that kind of thing. They will definitely understand and if not, it's their issue.

I like #2. You can send invitations (even via email) that say something like "We invite you to a casual party with BBQ and dancing (or whatever you do) to celebrate our recent marriage." Agree the AFTER is better than before. If people choose to ignore the invitation, then don't worry about them. I could be more likely to attend such an event than an "engagement party," which seems like an additional party to the wedding and just, like, less meaningful.

I would also add "Please, no gifts" or (more cheesy but kinda cute),"Your presence is the only present." I feel like people can some times get a little weird about the obligation to give a present when they feel like they're not invited to the "real wedding." Kinda petty, but I think alleviating people of that feeling smooths over any bit of awkwardness. I also think making it on the casual side is for the best so that people don't feel like they have to buy a new outfit. Also let your out of town guests know that you'd love to see them but try to make sure that they don't feel obligated to travel. The casualness should help with that.

And yay! Congrats!
posted by lalalana at 3:38 PM on June 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

We had an old family friend announce her marriage on facebook. A few weeks later, she and new husband held a reception. I wished them both well, and was relieved to not have to buy a gift. They're a sweet couple, and they've got the facebook fotos to prove it.
posted by pickypicky at 3:39 PM on June 28, 2010

I've had a couple of friends do the "small ceremony followed by a big party months later" and it seemed fine to absolutely everyone, as far as I know.
posted by Mavri at 3:41 PM on June 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

> Honestly, I think most people respect the idea of a small wedding.

Yes. My wife and I had an extremely small wedding, and we just let the non-invitees know we'd gotten married afterwards. Nobody got mad at us. Don't stress about it (and for god's sake don't send you're-not-invited letters).
posted by languagehat at 3:41 PM on June 28, 2010

ETA: I really don't think "Please, no gifts" is offensive, but because some people do feel awkward showing up to parties empty handed, you can do potluck or ask people to bring alcohol or you can always do a book/food/clothing drive, book exchange (which eliminates the need for favors, too), suggest charities to which to donate.
posted by lalalana at 3:45 PM on June 28, 2010

My wedding and reception was family-only but I invited friends to meet us later that night for bowling and cake.

Echoing everyone else, since your friends have recently gone through the wedding planning gauntlet, they will likely understand that you want your wedding a specific way - just as they wanted their wedding their way. An apology letter or reciprocal gift isn't necessary.
posted by zix at 3:51 PM on June 28, 2010

Re: "no gifts"-- it's an awkward situation. My best solution was to phrase it as jokingly-forcefully as possible. "You better not!" etc. We really don't want anything, but of course we don't want to offend anyone. Above all else, we don't want people worrying about whether or not bringing something was necessary, and therefore possibly not attending. Of course, everyone attending is in our general age/maturity/sense of humor group, which helped.

As far as that's concerned, it's really about what works best for your group of friends/family/etc.
posted by supercres at 3:53 PM on June 28, 2010

Don't do number 1 unless you want to burn some bridges (I assume you don't).

Anecdotally, my cousin did the same kind of thing you're doing. Afterwards she had a reception at my aunt's house with food, a band, and all kinds of fun shenanigans. I would definitely go this route and emphasize the party atmosphere, not the "bring us presents even though you didn't get to come to the wedding" atmosphere (like my cousin did and was not well-received).
posted by ThaBombShelterSmith at 3:58 PM on June 28, 2010

fifilaru has it right. Wedding announcements are the traditional, high-etiquette way of handling it. They go out after the wedding (ideally postmarked on your wedding date) to the folks who, well, weren't invited. And etiquette dictates they're not allowed to get all dumb about not being invited!! Here's a link. Here's another.

But mostly, here's the thing: You are allowed to celebrate your wedding in any way you and your spouse-to-be want to. You don't have to have a big cake, 15 bridesmaids, all of your co-workers or even your parents there. Everyone can be required to wear flip flops or eat vegan. Or everyone can be required to stay home and hear about it later. It's up to the two of you, the two of you only. Whatever way you do it will be the right way to do it.
posted by macadamiaranch at 4:08 PM on June 28, 2010

Don't do number 1. People totally understand the family-only wedding thing. It's not that uncommon. Have the party, specify no gifts. It's not appropriate to expect gifts from anyone not invited to the actual wedding, so this is the best way to go to clarify to the guests that you aren't just after gifts.

Buutt, unless you've been IN tons of people's weddings, how much would it hurt to invite that small number of people (I'm guessing this is like 5 couples max whose weddings you've been in)?
posted by ishotjr at 4:12 PM on June 28, 2010

Oh yeah, and as a data point, my friend once decided to sit me down to explain why she had invited a friend she'd known less time (but was closer to) to be in the wedding, but not me. She thought she was letting me down easy. I was RELIEVED not to be in this bridezilla's wedding, but annoyed that she presumed that I really wanted to be in it and was going to be hurt that I wasn't.
posted by ishotjr at 4:16 PM on June 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

I had a friend that did #2. They ran off and got married with her parents, her best friend and his best friend (his parents deceased). Add an officiator and photographer and that was it. Then, they came back to reality, let about 100 friends know, and we had a party with Indian food and beer, and all had a wonderful time. That's what I'd do when I got married.
posted by deezil at 4:18 PM on June 28, 2010

I had a friend who did #2 also - and it worked great.

They threw a great party. They rented a small local restaurant for the night - had them do a buffet type thing. They made it clear to everyone, this is a party not the wedding. They invited lots of people, but made it clear that you didnt have to come, nor bring a gift. Then they has a small intimate wedding with a handful of people present.

I think what made it work was that they took the time to reach out to everyone. Explained that they were not into the whole big wedding deal. Said they still wanted to celebrate with me and with everyone. They are having a party. They made it low pressure, they didnt even do invitations for the party. Called people, did it word of mouth. Everyone was invited.

They planned such a good party, and talked to everyone - no one cared that they were doing a small wedding after that.
posted by Flood at 4:40 PM on June 28, 2010

I have several times seen the equivalent of, "We're going off to get married. When we come back, we're having a reception and we'd love to have you." I've never felt even the least bit offended by this. There's the ceremony, which can be quite private, and then there's the joyful gathering of friends. I see no reason not to do it this way.
posted by komara at 4:47 PM on June 28, 2010

Realize, too, that some people, even some people who love you and value your friendship, are frankly going to be relieved that they're off the hook for attending yet another wedding.

Your wedding's a far bigger deal to you and to your partner than it is to almost anyone outside of your immediate families.
posted by applemeat at 5:04 PM on June 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

We also eloped with just our best friends and their spouses as witnesses. Our wedding plans got completely out of control, with parents insisting that people we'd never even met be invited "because we went to their daughter's wedding", and then my beloved's parents were being all "I know we divorced 30 years ago, but I'm still just as bitter as I was then" about things...and we realized that if we did everything our parents wanted, but were not paying for because we were in our 30s, we were going to spend 50k to entertain a bunch of people that we didn't know, or didn't care about, and weren't going to see because there were going to be too many damn people.

We really did grab our best friends, the dress formally known as "The Beast", and hop a plane to Vegas. When we got back, we rented a place and threw a massive party for all of our friends...many of whom would have been tres uncomfortable with the massive Princess Bride of Evil Weddings that the mothers were cooking up.

Our invitations were light-hearted and 50's Vegas theme, and at the party we had an Elvis, so we could recreate that 30 seconds of "I do" in a way that everyone imagines Vegas weddings to be. (We actually got married at the Bellagio, but I took pictures in The Beast with an Elvis and sent them to my mother and then made her wait 3 weeks before I sent her copies of the official wedding photographer pics. )

We didn't register anywhere, and we said something on the reception/party invites along the line of "Oh dear god, we have so much stuff, if you bring something, you have to leave with whatever item we assign to you. (I did it too. I sent all kinds of weird stuff home with people that brought gifts. Stuffed aliens, weird knickknacks I found at estate sales, random boxes of who the hell knows what.)

The party was a blast. None of the 200+ people that rotated in and out cared that they didn't get to see the bit where I wore The Beast.

TLDR: Number 1 is a bad, bad, bad idea. Don't do that. Number 2 is fabu, but I would do it *after* the wedding, so it doesn't seem gift-grabby. Number 3...weddings bring out the weird in everyone. It's become such a huge deal in American culture, and I fail to understand it. I think just about everyone is relieved if they don't have to take part in some giant stagecraft production of Lurve.

Congrats! Enjoy your new life together. :)
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 5:20 PM on June 28, 2010 [5 favorites]

Can you invite your friends to a party, say, a month from today Saturday night, then keep very quiet, get married Saturday morning/afternoon, show up at the party, announce that you're married, and thank them all for sharing the day with you?
posted by Salamandrous at 5:23 PM on June 28, 2010

If you're in your mid-30s you can count on most people being relieved. Seriously, I and most people I know just wish it would end already with fuuuuuuu weddings. If I was expected to attend yours and you unexpectedly cut me loose I would do a victory dance and then make up some bullshit about how I'm bummed just to be polite.
posted by The Straightener at 5:24 PM on June 28, 2010

My wife and I announced that we were getting married on the other side of the planet (true) and that anyone who wanted to come was more than welcome. My parents were there, and that was it. A few weeks later we threw a party with a tent and musicians and catered food. Any of my friends who mentioned anything about it to me all said they were happy I got married far away.
posted by nevercalm at 5:26 PM on June 28, 2010

I offer a cautionary tale.

1) Secretly invite a couple friends to the wedding.
2) Secretly tell a couple more friends they're not invited, because the wedding is going to be very tiny, but that you're planning a separate reception-ish party that everyone will be invited to.
3) Secretly invite old friends who live local to wedding location where/whom you haven't seen for 10 years, because it would be rude not to invite them.
4) Tell other friends nothing at all.
5) Let spouse-to-be's family push you into expanding size of wedding more and more, up to ~50 people including a bunch of friends of spouse-to-be.
6) After wedding, let friends find out themselves which group of 1-4 they fall into.
7) Wind up never actually holding reception-ish party.
posted by fleacircus at 5:26 PM on June 28, 2010 [6 favorites]

Extend your awesome feeling of honeymooniness by setting a date for your giant YAY WE'RE MARRIED party one week after you return from your honeymoon, on a weekend. If not having a honeymoon, do it the weekend immediately following the ceremony.
posted by Night_owl at 5:47 PM on June 28, 2010

Anecdata time: about a year ago, my husband and I decided to have an actual wedding without eloping. I wanted things small. At first, we were going to have it in my friend's tiny backyard with thirty people. We decided on the following criteria for guests: we had to like them, we both had to have met them, and we had to have seen them within the last five years. However, when we sat down to put together our guest list, we realized that we actually needed to invite about fifty people, according to this criteria. So we asked my mom if we could have it in her slightly bigger backyard, and invited our fifty guests.

Despite the fact that we were pretty explicit in the invitations that it was a small wedding with a limited guest list (which included no automatic plus ones--if we were inviting a couple, we invited both parties), we had to deal with a ton of people attempting to invite people. Our mothers were the worst offenders (in the end, we allowed them each an extra guest. Hell, they gave birth to us. But that was the only place where we budged). This, despite the fact that there was no one at the wedding who didn't also know someone else. It was annoying. And frustrating. I would anticipate this, well, no matter what. Get used to saying "I'm very sorry, but we have to limit the guest list.

That being said, it was terrific. The wedding, I mean. And I've heard of some gossipy kvetching through the grape vine from acquaintances we haven't seen in years about their not being invited, but no one's been rude enough to say anything to me directly. So just pick a criteria, and stick with it. Send out some announcements after--it's the Emily Post way around the situation. No need to be apologetic; your reasons for making your wedding the day you want are totally fine.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:02 PM on June 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

-- Throw a party. This sounds like fun, and I'd love to throw a party for our friends, but I really don't want them to feel obligated to come. For me, party invitations are much more easily ignored than "engagement party" invitations, though I do not know if others share this opinion. I do not want our friends to worry about offending us (the way I am worrying about offending them) by not coming.

Oh, and just a note. This was our wedding, pretty much, with a half-hour long (very unrehearsed) ceremony slapped on the front of a goofy outdoor party. If you haven't considering having a "not-a-wedding-so-much-as-a-glorified-BBQ" wedding (seriously, a few hours after our ceremony, people were drunkenly playing Kings), it might be worth a thought. Kill two birds with one stone that way, and there's less of a risk of hurt feelings.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:08 PM on June 28, 2010 [3 favorites]

I'd say Option 2, which is sort of what we're doing.

We're having a small but not tiny (~30 very close friends + immediate family) wedding brunch-party where we live. Two weeks later we're having a giant everyone-and-their-mother's invited BBQ at his parent's house that all of the family and coworkers etc are invited to.

FOR the BBQ, we're sending out invitations asking people to "celebrate our marriage" and also relying on parents to relatives who are confused or upset for any reason. So far, we've just been very up front with everyone, and it seems like both occasions are going to super fun and awesome.

I can let you know in October if we actually succeeded in not offending anyone.
posted by (Over) Thinking at 6:11 PM on June 28, 2010

All you have to say is "We really wanted a tiny wedding. Thank you for understanding" You should respond emphatically to anyone who offers a gift that you expect no such thing.

IF you want people to have a shebang with you, than have a shebang that is not a reception. If you are a friend of mine, I will be sorry to miss your wedding; I love weddings, but will send you a thoughtful card, and will wish you well, with no bad feelings. IF invited to a shebang that is not a reception, I will bring several bottles of nice champagne, and a hot dish, if it's a potluck. One of the few regrets I have about a swell wedding I once had is that I didn't make it a potluck. Mazel tov, you crazy kids.
posted by theora55 at 6:25 PM on June 28, 2010

I've had two family members have very small, nearly-private ceremonies, followed by parties. In one case we just had fancier dessert than usual at the family Thanksgiving to celebrate the wedding. I don't think anyone was hurt or insulted because it wasn't a situation where some people were invited and some were left out - sure, we didn't get to go to the wedding, but neither did anyone else, so it was okay. They weren't defensive or apologetic about it. They just said, "Hey, we don't want this to be a big shebang, we're going to get married quietly with only our parents there, it's just our style, but we'd love for you to come to our pool party in a few weeks!" It was all very nice and everyone was happy.

So - I agree with a previous comment that the easiest way to not offend is to keep it quite strictly family-only and not invite just a few friends, because that can easily be seen as a slight to the non-invited friends. I think a post-wedding party to celebrate your marriage is great. It can be as casual and low-key as you want. (When my aunts got married, their post-wedding-by-a-week party was, as mentioned above, a pool party with some chips and salsa, a cake, and margaritas. So fun! We got to celebrate their marriage and we didn't have to dress up or travel - wins all around.)
posted by mandanza at 6:44 PM on June 28, 2010

I'm going to take some heat for this, and no offense to anyone, but having a small-ish to nearly-private wedding and then a big party is... just so, so weak.

My former best friend had a wedding like that, preacher, parents, bride, groom, and one (relation only) witness each, then a big party after. The reason given was because the bride was too embarrassed to stand up in front of everyone. My mother, ever the instigator, says to the bride, "How do I even know you're married?" Not exactly polite, but she had a point. The reason for friends and relations top be commonly invited to the ceremony is so that they have some emotional investment in helping support you in your new life together.

I'm not suggesting it has to be a giant affair. I was adamant that I didn't want to give a dime to the Wedding-Industrial Complex. My wife and I invited everybody we really wanted to and still managed to keep the list down below 50. Afterward, a great many of the guests came to the house and we drank beer and played Rock Band and everybody had a fantastic time and to this day I hear it was the best wedding some of our guests have ever been to. We spent less than $5K for the whole thing. We didn't have a band or dancing, but we did pay for all the tuxes.

If you just don't want to deal with it, and I was the same way with my wedding though obviously I got overruled, have you considered eloping?
posted by ob1quixote at 7:27 PM on June 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

While we all mostly agree #1 is a terrible idea, there is definitely a need here to be CLEAR with everyone.

I was recently invited to a dinner to celebrate a wedding and it was the most confusing experience ever. None of us present knew that the grooms had legally gotten married that day! They didn't tell us! But also they were planning a separate wedding celebration thing... later? In a few months? Or something? We spent most of the dinner asking each other "WTF," basically.

So throw a party, if you can! Not on the same day as your wedding, perhaps! (Too much to plan, for another thing, and too weird.) Better yet, have someone host a party for you. And have the party be a celebration of your marriage. Clue people in to that. :)

No one is ever offended by being invited to a party, and I don't understand why that's your impression.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 8:16 PM on June 28, 2010

On your #1, are you asking if YOU should give gifts to people who had given you gifts after you were in their wedding party? If so:

Nooooooooo. You are way too nice!! People give gifts to their bridal party (etc) because bridesmaids often buy a special dress, attend rehearsals, throw bridal showers, help everything go smoothly, and do other work. Nobody buys gifts for their bridal party thinking "and one day you'd better get married and return the favor!" I hope everyone in your life knows how crazy-nice you are. :)
posted by salvia at 8:25 PM on June 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

My best friend had a really small wedding (me, the best man, her & his family, that's it) and then threw a raging party afterwards. Totally fine, no one seemed to feel left out.
posted by saveyoursanity at 8:56 PM on June 28, 2010

I had some friends who had a very very small wedding, basically just family, then some short time later a party to celebrate said wedding. Totally was not bent out of shape at not being invited. In fact, after the circus that was our wedding, I kind of appreciated it. Then again, I'm a dude.

So yeah. It's ok to not invite your friends/various kin. I would say. Throw a party if you feel like it.
posted by geekhorde at 10:01 PM on June 28, 2010

It's fine just to have a close family wedding and as long as you don't selectively invite only some of your friends, the ones left behind will understand. All you have to do is let it be known through the grapevine that you're having a family-only wedding.

To return your friends' hospitality, you could throw a party after the wedding, not associating it with the wedding in any way. If your friends ignore the invitation because they don't realize its significance, well, let this be one of those deliciously rare occasions when rudeness doesn't pay :-D
posted by tel3path at 4:37 AM on June 29, 2010

We had a relatively small wedding for close friends and the family that the parents wanted to invite, then had a big party afterwards for the rest of our friends and my rugby team. No one ever expressed any hurt feelings about not being invited to the wedding.
posted by electroboy at 6:22 AM on June 29, 2010

If any of your acquaintances/friends gives you crap about not being on the invitation list, a classic mitigating statement is to point out the closest uninvited relative you have: "yeah, my mom's throwing fits because (my cousin, my aunt, her aunt, etc) isn't invited" (without mentioning that you have 27 first cousins and haven't seen most of them in over 12 years). It's easy for friends to be hurt by their "ranking" when you invite only a few people, but most people are comfortable with the idea that family ranks higher than friends - so if you can imply that even if they came before relatives, still none of them are invited, that soothes feelings somewhat.
posted by aimedwander at 8:04 AM on June 29, 2010

Definitely n'thing the don't try to keep invitees to the ceremony secret. When we threw a surprise 50th birthday party for my mother, she was embarassed that we showed slides from her very small wedding that evidenced the fact that one friend was invited and another (who was at the birthday party) wasn't. It was a secret she'd carefully kept for 24 years.
posted by Sukey Says at 10:04 AM on June 29, 2010

I had a friend who just sent me a nice email after the fact saying they'd had a super small, family and bffs only wedding, and he hoped I wasn't offended. I'll admit I was a teeny bit hurt for a moment that I wasn't considered a bff, but then I got on with the congratulating, and would've Happily attended a later party if they'd had one. So yes, announcements/party invites afterward to those who might be expecting to be invited, and most everyone will just be happy for you.
posted by ldthomps at 10:11 AM on June 29, 2010

eloping and then holding a couple of receptions in various parts of the country for the folks who missed the event has been our plan so far, and no toes appear to be stepped on.

We got married in New England in a pretty small wedding reception: about fifty (!! in retrospect) college friends and the same number of my wife's family plus local friends -- 106 all told, I think. But I am from the Midwest, so later that summer we went back and my parents put a tent in their back yard and all my relatives and friends got to come by and eat and drink beer and clap me on the back. And I wore bermuda shorts instead of a rental tux. It ruled.

(Mind you, this only seemed like a small wedding because none of our college friends had gotten married yet. We went to a couple of New Jersey weddings in later years that were huge by comparison.)
posted by wenestvedt at 11:47 AM on June 29, 2010

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