Should I invite friends to our wedding I'm not that close to?
June 22, 2012 1:18 PM   Subscribe

Should I invite friends to our wedding that I'm not that close to and/or haven't really stayed in touch with? Do people think of wedding invitations as obligations to give gifts? Would it be really awkward? Or am I over-thinking this and I should just invite whoever I want to invite?

We have a pretty short guest list so far for our wedding. With our core family and friends, we're only at 50-75 people likely to attend, probably closer to 50-- we have pretty small families, and most of our family and friends live far away and many probably won't come. Our wedding venue has a food and drink minimum, so the additional costs for each new guest are minimal. So we're thinking about broadening the list past the obvious friends we're closest to.

There are two groups of friends I'm not sure whether I should invite or not: old friends who live far away who I've barely talked to in years (and the married ones have not invited me to their weddings); and mostly local close acquaintances/casual friends, many of whom are co-workers (big workplace though, so no "if you invite x you must invite y" issues), who I like and would like to be closer to but I rarely or never socialize with outside of work and after-work happy hours, and it's frankly a stretch to call them friends rather than just "friendly."

Part of me just wants to draw a really big net and include all those folks and send the message "Hey, I like you, I want you there for this special day in my life." But there are two different concerns I have about this:

1) Gifts. I really don't want them to feel obligated to send me a gift! (And, honestly, I also don't want them to think that maybe I'm just inviting them because I want a gift from them because otherwise why would I when we're not that close/haven't talked in ages?) Especially for those folks who live far away and are highly unlikely to actually come, I don't want the gesture of "Hey, I still care about you and would love to have you at my wedding on the off-chance you can come" to turn into "I'm getting married, send me a gift!"-- do people usually feel obligated to send gifts to weddings they don't go to? Is there any way we could truly convey they're not necessary or even desired? We have a whole blurb on our wedding website about how we really, really don't need gifts and their presence/a lovely card is more than enough... and then a link to our registry, because we know our relatives are going to want to give gifts anyway. That doesn't feel like enough, but is it? Is there something else we could say/write along with the invitation?

2) For both groups but especially the second (in town casual friends/friendly acquaintances), I have this weird sense of shame about inviting these folks to my wedding when I'm pretty sure none (or almost none) of them would to invite me to theirs. Especially because of how small our wedding's going to be. It would be one thing if we had a huge wedding and they could be like "Oh, they wanted a big wedding and are inviting all their old friends and close acquaintances on top of all their close friends and family." But I'm kind of embarrassed at the thought of them coming into a room with 50 or 60 people in it, most of them family, and thinking, "Really? She only has a handful of friends here, and I'm in the top 15-20, and I barely know her/don't even like her that much? I wouldn't even necessarily invite her to a party and she invited me to her wedding? How awkward!"

This may be a relevant time to mention that I have an anxiety disorder and I've always had a hard time inviting people to do social things with me (which is a large part of why I have so many local folks who I like a lot but haven't socialized with all that much.) But I don't know how much of this is distorted thinking and how much of it is an appropriate questioning of where you draw the lines for
your wedding guest list, because it seems rational that it would be weird to invite someone to your wedding when you wouldn't even necessarily end up on the list for their house parties. (I don't know for sure that all of these folks are having parties or other social events and not inviting me, but it wouldn't surprise me.) On the other hand, I'd genuinely love to have them there, and it would be absolutely wonderful if inviting them to the wedding actually helped lead to us being closer. And maybe I'm just over-thinking things and most people are just pleased and touched that someone wants them at their wedding even if they're not that close?

So, how weird/awkward/inappropriate do you think it would be to invite these people? How would you feel/have you felt about getting a wedding invitation from someone you haven't talked to in ages or only consider a friendly acquaintance? About deciding to attend and then walking in to discover it's very small? How much difference does it make if they live far away vs right in town? How much difference if we used to be friends before we lived in different cities but haven't stayed close, versus locals who I just don't socialize with much? Is it extra-awkward if they either recently had a wedding and didn't invite us, or are currently engaged? Are they likely to feel obligated to give a gift, and are there ways I can avoid that? I know that generally inviting people in the last few weeks so they realize they're on your "B" list is super-rude, but in this case would it possible actually make things *less* awkward around inviting the local folks if we do it more casually at the last minute? Did you struggle with this kind of decision in inviting people to your own wedding, and how do you feel about what you chose to do?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (33 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
do people usually feel obligated to send gifts to weddings they don't go to?

This depends on your culture, but in general, no.

I didn't even have a registry and I still got gifts, because people give gifts as a sign of love, respect, regard, and a desire to be remembered.

But I'm kind of embarrassed at the thought of them coming into a room with 50 or 60 people in it, most of them family, and thinking, "Really? She only has a handful of friends here, and I'm in the top 15-20, and I barely know her/don't even like her that much? I wouldn't even necessarily invite her to a party and she invited me to her wedding? How awkward!"

You are really, really over-analyzing this (and I totally understand, and I think you recognize that, too). Literally no one is going to judge you based on the size of your wedding. Do you want to share the day with these people? If yes, invite them. If no, then don't.

Anecdote: I invited a couple of new-ish friends to my destination wedding, they came, and we became really good friends. I'm glad I invited them.
posted by muddgirl at 1:23 PM on June 22, 2012

I think it's nice to include and invite whoever you want. If anyone wants to be offended at being invited to attend a wedding, they can do so; nothing you can do to control that. I would suggest not inviting people "casually" at the last minute; how are they supposed to plan to attend without fair warning?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 1:25 PM on June 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

You'd be surprised at how big 50-100 people can seem. Besides, the people with whom you are close will want to hang with you on your day.

I've been the person from out of town, who got invited, and spent the money to travel and be at the wedding, and got to see my friend for maybe 5 minutes tops.

Instead of inviting people to the wedding, why not have a little party when you and your husband get back from your Honeymoon? You can still mix and mingle with folks, without it being official wedding stuff, and without people feeling like they have to bring a gift.

You can have a barbecue, or drinks, something low key. You can have wedding and honeymoon pictures to share with your guests.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:26 PM on June 22, 2012 [4 favorites]

Add more to the event, extended bar, late-night snack, passed hors d'oeuvres at the reception prior to meal service. If they are providing the cake, you can usually step that up, too.

Make it an amazing party for the people closest to you, rather than a good party for everyone you know.
posted by builderofscience at 1:26 PM on June 22, 2012 [6 favorites]

On the other hand, I'd genuinely love to have them there, and it would be absolutely wonderful if inviting them to the wedding actually helped lead to us being closer.

This is all that really matters. As is said in another comment, you can't control how other people react. If you like them this well, though, they probably like you back and would be flattered. Work friends who have other work friends there to talk to can have an even better time, really.

If you haven't talked to someone in, say, more than 10 years, I'd leave them off the list. But hey - anyone you'd genuinely Love to see there? Invite them!
posted by ldthomps at 1:29 PM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you want to invite them, then you should invite them! No question.

But yes, an invitation does create an obligation to send a gift (at least in the US). If you're really concerned about that, either have some cheap options on your registry (if they don't go they're unlikely to feel obligated to spend big), or indicate on the side that you don't want them to feel obligated to give a gift but would enjoy seeing them (say, in an email -- not in the invitation, natch).
posted by J. Wilson at 1:30 PM on June 22, 2012

Strictly ettiquette-wise, there is never an obligation to give a gift. Otherwise, it's not a gift - it's an in-kind transaction. But again, this is cultural.
posted by muddgirl at 1:30 PM on June 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

What's the problem with having 50 people at your wedding? It sounds perfect! Invite whoever you want, and don't stress about numbers. Some people have small families and few close friends, and that is perfectly ok (it's probably better that way!)
posted by katypickle at 1:31 PM on June 22, 2012 [4 favorites]

But an invitation to a wedding does create an obligation to send a gift, even if you can't come, so do be aware of that.

Not according to etiquette books. I'm sure that Miss Manners has more class than I do, and even she would agree with me on this point: an invitation to a wedding does not mean one is obligated to send a gift.

Speaking of etiquette, I don't know much about this next point, so someone who is better-versed in Miss Manners or any of the more recent etiquette guides on weddings can refute this, but it might be possible to say "We don't want gifts, your presence is more than enough" or something on the invitation - or on an enclosed card with the invitation.

I know that mentioning gifts on the invitation is generally a faux pas, but if you're saying that you don't want any at all that might be OK. So, I would recommend that you do this if you're not uncomfortable with it, or if someone who knows better than I do comes along in this thread and says not to do it because it's rude.
posted by k8lin at 1:31 PM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Only invite people if you want them to come. Don't overthink it beyond that!
posted by freezer cake at 1:31 PM on June 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

I just got a wedding invitation from an old friend I haven't seen in person in years and only talk to very occasionally on Facebook.

I was thrilled! I thought it was super nice that my friend wanted to invite me to such a special event even though we haven't spoken much lately. Especially since this friend was not invited to my wedding years ago (this was not meant as any slight toward my friend -- my wedding was actually super super small, pretty much family-only small, but I'm not sure the friend in question knows / remembers this).

Of course I plan on bringing a gift; bringing gifts to weddings is what wedding guests DO. But if you don't want people to feel obligated to bring a gift, you can always NOT include a registry in the invitation, and add a line that says "Wedding gifts will be appreciated but are not expected" or something.

Generally an invitation to a party is taken as a compliment, not something to feel awkward over. Unless you're inviting your jealous ex or inviting a bunch of people to a really expensive destination wedding or something, I would hope that an invitation alone really wouldn't cause drama. If your friends get all freaked out that you were nice enough to invite them to your wedding then your FRIENDS have a problem, not you.
posted by BlueJae at 1:31 PM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

My college roommate invited me to her wedding clear across the country, even though we've been out of contact for years and I hadn't invited her to my wedding (well, we eloped and didn't invite anyone). I was delighted and touched, and I would totally have flown out for her wedding if I'd been able to afford it. I did send her a present, because I wanted to, not because I felt obligated.

On the other hand, I wouldn't be thrilled to receive an invite from a friendly co-worker. It's not like I enjoy attending weddings just for the heck of it (hence my own elopement). I probably would tend to wonder if she were just looking for another gift. I think that it would be better to make friends with your co-workers through other venues. Invite them over for a barbecue, or arrange to meet them for happy hour after work one night.
posted by Kriesa at 1:31 PM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

This may be a relevant time to mention that I have an anxiety disorder and I've always had a hard time inviting people to do social things with me (which is a large part of why I have so many local folks who I like a lot but haven't socialized with all that much.) On the other hand, I'd genuinely love to have them there, and it would be absolutely wonderful if inviting them to the wedding actually helped lead to us being closer.

This. And you can invite these people with a clean conscience, because as Miss Manners says:
Of course etiquette does not consider a wedding invitation to be equivalent to an invoice. If a present were required from those invited to weddings in which they have little or no interest -- or, as in your case, actually find offensive -- greedy people would be inviting everyone whose address they could find.
I don't care what mistaken people tell you; an invitation to a wedding does not create an obligation to send a gift. It simply does not.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:35 PM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Should have done some more digging on the requesting no gifts issue. Apparently that is, indeed, rude. Mentioning gifts at all is just not supposed to be done. If you say you don't want gifts, it could be construed as bragging that you don't need gifts, which... well, is rude when you think of it that way.

Basically, the gift situation is not something that you can talk to about guests directly. If people ask, the mother of the bride is allowed to spread the right information - where you're registered, or what charity people should donate to, or that you don't want any gifts at all - but that's it.

So invite who you want, and if they feel weird about gifts, they should ask your mother about what to do.

If I received an invitation from an old friend that I wasn't in close contact with, I'd be honored and would not for one minute think they were inviting me because they wanted a gift, for what it's worth.
posted by k8lin at 1:39 PM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

This is why there are wedding announcements as well as invitations. You can always write the old, faraway friends and tell them about your wedding. And you can always have a party later, for your office pals.
posted by Ideefixe at 1:43 PM on June 22, 2012

I really do appreciate the advice that gifts shouldn't be spoken of, but for couples with anxiety issues, it's really not very helpful (IME as a bride with anxiety issues).

Almost everyone mentions gifts on their wedding websites now. It's OK. It's just a wedding, not a state dinner. Do what you have to do to get through the day.
posted by muddgirl at 1:43 PM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

For what it's worth, I've gone to weddings of friends I'm not super close with/don't spend a ton of time with but like a lot -- and it's always just made my day to receive the invitation.
posted by J. Wilson at 1:45 PM on June 22, 2012

Mr. Adams and I got married at a fairly private ceremony at our favorite bar by an officiant we found in the Yellow Pages. We did have a small reception afterward in the banquet room at a nearby restaurant. In our preliminary discussions on the matter, we'd planned on about 30 to 35 people attending, counting family members and close friends who lived nearby. Oddly enough and completely out of the blue, once we'd sent out invitations to those who we thought might attend, we were actually inundated with phone calls from extremely casual friends (both present and past) and obscure relatives we hadn't heard from in years expressing disappointment that they hadn't been invited. Likewise co-workers mentioned to me "your wedding must be soon, maybe my invitation got lost in the mail...?" How some of these people even found out about our wedding we don't know, but we ended up printing more invitations (our reception was [originally] so small and DIY that Mr. Adams had designed and printed the invitations individually on our home computer/printer) and sent them to a second set of friends/co-workers/relatives. We ended up with just under 80 attendees, much to our astonishment. We were like you, thinking that, unless you're a very close friend or relative, a wedding invitation is merely a gift solicitation because nobody really likes going to one of those boring types of events unless they're obligated to. Who knew?!

So my ultimate take on the situation is to just go ahead and invite whomever you want to invite. Like I said, to my mind I thought of such an invitation as a "send us money!" solicitation, but apparently there are a lot of people who are hurt when they're left out of the festivities.
posted by Oriole Adams at 1:50 PM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

We had just under 50 people at our wedding and it was the perfect number of people, IMHO--it was just all the people who were special to us, who we could cut loose and be ourselves around. I think it made the difference between it being what it was (a swanky but relaxed party where the band had so much fun that they played past their scheduled quit time) and being something more formal and stiff than what we were looking for. As an added bonus, we got to hug/thank/talk to most everyone there, which definitely would have not been possible with a larger party. I think it's worth asking yourselves whether you really want a big wedding before you awkwardly pad out the list with people you aren't close to just to make it a bigger party. If this is just to hit a venue the venue more important than spending your special day surrounded by loved ones with no unnecessary social anxiety/weirdness?
posted by anonnymoose at 1:57 PM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Go with who you've already got. Freeze the extra food.
posted by hermitosis at 1:57 PM on June 22, 2012

What's wrong with inviting anyone you want and adding a note: We simply want to share your special day with everyone we know." and "We don't want gifts, your presence is more than enough." ?

Frankly, I'd opt for a small wedding with tons of good food, decorations, good music, and a super photographer, but if you feel you'd be happy with loads of people around, go for it. It's YOUR wedding!
posted by BlueHorse at 1:59 PM on June 22, 2012

P.S. I'm sorry if that sounded judgey--I think it's great if you want to invite more people, but I don't think you should force yourselves to if it makes you feel anxious. That's what I was trying to say.
posted by anonnymoose at 2:04 PM on June 22, 2012

I don't care what mistaken people tell you; an invitation to a wedding does not create an obligation to send a gift. It simply does not.

The question isn't whether the potential invitees are obligated to send a gift. The question, stated quite clearly, is whether the potential invitees would feel obligated to send a gift. And in the U.S., in general, the answer is yes, they would. (Whether it is wrong for them to feel that way is another matter, but not under the OP's control.)

Here is what I think, based on my own experience having received wedding invitations of both types.

Old friends who you're out of touch with: definitely. They will be touched you thought of them and happy to hear the good news, whether or not they can make it. If they do come, they'll make a great toast and serve as a visible reminder of the life story that's led you to this happy day.

People in the office who you like but aren't close to: I would say no. Some people like to go to acquaintances' weddings, some people don't, and you don't know which kind of people these co-workers are. But whichever kind they are, they'll kind of feel obligated to go. And your own wedding is not a venue in which you're going to get to know them better, I promise you. They might get to know your cousin who sat at their table, but what good does that do you?

As for the gifts: yes, I do think people will feel obligated, but unless they are more cynical than most people I don't think they'll be offended or think you're just inviting them to hit them up for a present.
posted by escabeche at 2:29 PM on June 22, 2012 [4 favorites]

do people usually feel obligated to send gifts to weddings they don't go to?

No one who would invite me to their wedding would be so gauche as to expect a present from me.

But I would never be so gauche as to not send a gift to someone who invited me to their wedding.

If you want to invite people who you think are unlikely to attend but are likely to desire to send you present, a handwritten, personalized note slipped into the invite, saying you miss them, hoping to see them, and telling them not to send a gift, or to feel obligated to do so, would be a gracious touch, I think. Even then, the recipient still might want to send you a present. Because giving presents makes people happy.
posted by hhc5 at 3:00 PM on June 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

Old long-distance friends you haven't really kept in touch with: maybe, but I would either lean towards no, or not expect them to come if you invite them. I wouldn't realistically expect anyone who has to make a long drive/flight to come see you to actually attend, though you may get a few flukes here and there. When I get a wedding invitation from the East Coast, I think they know darned well I won't be coming (since I didn't get a driver's license for a really long time, I literally could not get myself to many an obscure wedding location alone) and it's just a sign that they like me more than anything else. To be honest, it weirds me out a little to get invites from people I haven't talked to in years that I used to be close to, but I think mostly I should be regarding it as a compliment.

Local folks you really aren't very close to/co-workers: Don't feel like you have to invite them. Especially if they didn't invite you to their wedding. You won't really be getting to know them any time soon at this point if you invite them. If the closeness has never been are expensive per person, why invite people that you feel so-so-ish about?

When I didn't go to a wedding, I have sometimes sent gifts and sometimes not bothered, especially if the people lived really far away and knew their invite was more of a token thing rather than "we actually expect you to come across the country for this." Mostly I've just sent gifts to the people I was closest to/they live on this end of the country. If I was an obligation invite, barely know the bride or haven't spoken to her since high school, that sort of thing where I have little or no connection to the people now, then I didn't send one.
I agree with escabeche that yes, there's an obligation if you ask, but to some degree it does depend on a closeness factor too. Some people will feel that obligation (if I were your coworker and saw you daily, I would), people who are distant from you may not.
posted by jenfullmoon at 3:06 PM on June 22, 2012

Because giving presents makes people happy.

Not all people.

Anyway, if you want to invite more people for the heck of it, go ahead. Write 'no gifts' on the invitation and then it's a non-issue. Maybe even bring up at work that it's a flat-rate so you wanted to open it up to more people, that way they will totally understand why you invited them (although that might be awkward to word/work in casually).

Small is nice but if you want to expand it go ahead. It is totally up to you. Just don't feel 'obligated' either way. It's whatever you and your future husband prefer to do.
posted by bquarters at 3:40 PM on June 22, 2012

I'm in the US and:

Sending an invitation does not create an obligation of providing a gift in any way, shape, or form, unless you're extremely close (I would expect my sister to send me a present if I got married out of state and she couldn't attend, but I wouldn't expect the same from, say, a former coworker that I invited but didn't attend).

Accepting an invitation incurs an obligation of etiquette to provide a gift, typically equivalent to the scale of the wedding (personally I look at the venues - the pricier the venue the higher the amount I feel obligated to spend on the gift). Someone says this amounts to a transaction, and actually it is. You provide them with food and a good time, and they provide you with a gift. In some cultures the gift is dispensed with entirely and simple money is provided.

However - many people don't follow the same rules of etiquette. Some people will get gifts far beyond the comparative cost of the wedding and other people will get gifts below this cost - as another poster said, love enters into it as well as personal finance - I would not turn down an invitation to a super-ritzy wedding of a close fiend because I couldn't afford an equally pricey gift, nor would I show up empty-handed to a simple backyard wedding.

So yeah - I really think you're overthinking this from every angle. Invite who you want.

I would be touched to receive a wedding invitation from an old friend.
posted by Lt. Bunny Wigglesworth at 5:32 PM on June 22, 2012

I get the feeling you want to invite these people to even out the guest list or something, is that correct?

Either way, yes, only invite the people you want invited!

Don't worry about how many people are there. Quality, not quantity!
posted by jbenben at 5:54 PM on June 22, 2012

Invite all of them! You are describing the freakout I had while planning my wedding almost exactly. I regret not inviting more people.

MeMail me if you want discreet commiseration.
posted by purpleclover at 8:18 PM on June 22, 2012

I think this varies too much by person for there to be useful answer we can give. Invite who you want, don't worry about what it means. I invited almost nobody and it was just what I wanted. But I hate ceremonies.
posted by ead at 8:23 PM on June 22, 2012

I think that this situation--like most--is contextual.

If you're inviting someone with whom you're not close, it may well be perceived as a request for a gift. I'd just avoid the invitation in that case.

To avoid the post-nuptials disappointment for everyone who didn't get an invitation (and really, sometimes it's hard not to feel a little slighted by not being invited), just tell people that you had a tiny wedding for just your extended families. That usually makes not being invited a lot easier to palate.
posted by yellowcandy at 10:07 PM on June 22, 2012

I think this varies too much by person for there to be useful answer we can give
+1 on this. Some people will feel obligated to gift you, others won't. Some will feel slighted, some will feel gratified. Some will feel awkward... you get the point.

I've only been to one wedding. It was the best friend of a guy I had recently started dating, and there were probably about 30 people there, most of whom were family to the couple. It was fine, not awkward at all. I did not give the couple a gift but I did send them a card.

Personally, I would not invite any work friends I have not spend time with in a social setting outside of work, nor would I attend if I were invited. In my case I did give her a card, but she was really pissed off that I didn't want to come so and held a grudge against me thereafter so... mileage.
posted by sm1tten at 9:59 AM on June 23, 2012

You should invite whoever you want, and on that note, don't use the motto 'inviting x means i must invite y' simply invite x and leave it at that.

You can always leave a note in the invites that 'the greatest gift would be your attendance' etc etc.

I regret having invited so many people, especially old friends I hardly ever saw for many years (and have hardly seen since), but my main reason for regretting this was having so little time on the day to spend with so many people. At the end of the day all that matters is you do exactly what you want.
posted by Under the Sea at 4:32 AM on June 24, 2012

« Older Do I have heat rash in my lady bits? What do I do?   |   What is the best way find another full time (IT... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.