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Who is invited to the wedding?--- 20-40-60 Etiquette team answers


By Callie Gordon, Lillie-Beth Brinkman, Helen Ford Wallace

QUESTION: I am facing an issue currently with my daughter’s wedding.

We sent out formal invitations with the specific names of people invited on the inside envelope. We also included a response card and a place for the number attending. However, several of the groom’s guests are responding with MORE than were actually invited. Do people not understand if the invitation says John and Jane Doe that is exactly who is invited and not the three other people in their family? We are tight on our venue for seating as well as the cost per person to host these other people. When told of this trend, the groom’s mother indicated she might not have done a good job on her list!

If this continues, I have thought I might send those guests a note just saying, "We are sorry for any confusion, but the guest list given to us only included _#_ of guests for their family and since we are very tight on seating at our venue, we will need to ask that they stay with the exact number of guests that were listed on the invitation."

I was hoping we might get back several no responses to accommodate the extra guests, but so far that has not happened. I don’t want to be rude, but people should know etiquette on wedding invitations!

CALLIE'S ANSWER: People should understand that the individual or individuals on the invitation is who is invited to the event. I would chalk this up to the fact that people don't know the etiquette. Ask the groom's mother to call those individuals who were on her list to let them know. "I am so sorry for any confusion, but the venue has a limit as to how many can attend and only BLANK and BLANK were invited." People should understand; if they don't - yuk.

LILLIE-BETH'S ANSWER: Not everyone knows this etiquette, and it's a common problem for wedding hosts, so this is a good topic for this column. So chalk up the rudeness to ignorance (because it's much nicer and takes less mental energy to think the best of people instead of believing initially that they are imposing extra people out of selfishness, even if it's true). And then don't feel bad about calling them or having the groom's mother call them to tell them gently and apologetically that you are sorry, but that you only have room for the number of guests who were included on the invitation. (Note: Spouses should always be included on wedding invitations, and generally fiances and longtime partners, too.) Then enjoy your wedding and try not to let others' imposition dampen your enthusiasm for the happy event or your graciousness as a host.

HELEN'S ANSWER: The names on the envelope are the guests who are invited to the wedding. If you have children and their names are not on the envelope, they are not invited.

I don't know what you should do about the extra people, because it would probably embarrass the people involved and create some bad feelings if you were to confront them personally. A note might be simpler and the note should be very gracious in explaining the seating situation and in asking them to submit only the exact number of invited guests that were on the invitation. If everyone added two people to their number, you might get hundreds of extra people.

GUEST'S ANSWER: Jane Jayroe, former Miss America and television news anchor: I've been close to a similar situation and it's so uncomfortable. The most important point to remember is that this occasion signifies the joining of families that will hopefully be together for the rest of your life. No detail of the wedding is worth creating bad feelings.

Few people have practiced wedding planning and realize the importance of specific details. I understand that the cost and the space of the wedding dictate a very specific number with little flexibility. Your idea of writing a note explaining the situation or even a phone call is a good one. Be very appreciative but also clear that the invitation must be limited to the names on the envelope because of space restrictions.

Focus on your gratitude that these people desire to share the joy of the event. It's a shame that the number of negative responses doesn't allow you to expand and include everyone; that would be the easiest thing to do. Finally, just do what you need to do with as much grace and gratitude as possible. Try not to let the details steal one ounce of your joy for this special occasion.

Callie Gordon is 20-something, Lillie-Beth Brinkman is in her 40s, and social columnist Helen Ford Wallace is 60-plus. To ask an etiquette question, email

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Helen Ford Wallace

Helen Ford Wallace is a columnist covering society-related events/news for The Oklahoman. She puts local parties online with daily updates. She creates, maintains and runs a Parties blog which includes web casts. She is an online web editor for... Read more ›