Common Awkward Wedding Guest List Dilemmas & How to Solve Them

Sending out your wedding invitations isn’t just a matter of having the correct addresses, the perfect designs, and trendy wax seals. There are various unspoken rules involved in the process, and you may run into some dilemmas along the way.

At Becky J. Invitations, we get all sorts of etiquette questions from clients. Below we’ll share some of the most common and how to handle them in a way that will keep everyone happy on your big day.

1. How do I tell guests that their children are NOT invited?

Six children blowing bubbles.

It may seem as simple as writing “Adult reception to follow,” on the invitations, but you may not want to be so blunt. You could address the invitation directly to the couple and leave out the children’s names, but sometimes that can create confusion. Lindsay Goldenberg Jones of the Woman Getting Married blog suggests that you phrase it as “We have reserved 2 seats in your honor” on the RSVP card or include a FAQ section on your wedding website that answers the question about kids. That way, it is clearly stated, and anyone who is still confused can visit your website to save you the awkward task of addressing their question directly.

2. Do I give my friend a +1 if she's been dating a guy for a month?

A couple sitting on a rooftop ledge with tall buildings behind them. The woman is resting her head on the man's shoulder as they snuggle under a shared blanket.

If venue space is limited and your budget is tight, you may not be able to afford to give everyone a plus one, and you should address the invitation only to your friend. You can also use the same strategy that is used for the kids issue and write that you have reserved one seat in her honor.

Marissa Miller and Jamie Lincoln of Vogue, suggest that if most of your guests are married or in serious relationships, it is polite to allow everyone a plus one if possible so that no one feels left out. However, if you have a good mix of singles and couples, it is acceptable to limit plus ones to married couples and those who have been dating at least six months.

3. What do I do when my fiancé’s parents start inviting a ton of people I don't know?

Guests standing at their seats at a wedding

Photo by Gades Photography

Before you begin inviting guests, you and your fiancé should review your budget and determine the maximum number of guests you can accommodate. Then, go through your lists of friends and family and determine the “must-invites”, the people who most likely will not be able to attend anyway, and the people who are not very close to you. Present these lists to your parents and in-laws and clearly communicate the number of people you can accommodate. Stress that you would prefer to invite close friends and family. If a compromise is in order, you may decide to invite the extra guests to attend the ceremony but not the reception. For more tips on how to decide who to invite, check out our guide.

4. What if I don’t want to invite certain family members?

You are never obligated to like your family just because they are related to you, and there may be some relatives you really do not want at your wedding (we all know a few toxic, racist, or just plain bad eggs, and no, you aren’t a bad person for leaving them off of your guest list).

That said, it can be easy for the family you are inviting to let the cat out of the bag and gush about your upcoming wedding to the uninvited folks in question. So, instead of trying to hide the fact that certain people are not invited, own your decision and stand by it. And if someone asks why, explain it. At the end of the day, your wedding is about you, the couple, even though all of the trouble you go through can make it seem like it’s really all about other people. It is okay to put your comfort and happiness first, because after all, you only get one wedding day (ideally).

If you still want to be courteous and notify everyone about your marriage, you can copy the style of elopement announcements and announce that you got married to everyone who was not invited. This is also a good compromise option if you are having a destination wedding and do not want to invite certain people simply because you know they cannot afford to attend, but still want to personally let them know, rather than letting them find out via Facebook. We can help create custom announcements no matter what the circumstances.

An elopement announcement that says "We eloped" and contains pictures of a smiling man wrapping his arms around a smiling woman and a man's hands around a woman's waist, making heart shapes with their hands.

5. How to handle an A guest list and B guest list (i.e. when B-listers only get invited after some A-listers RSVP no).

Having an A and B guest list requires extra planning and proper timing. Normally, you should send invitations out 6 to 8 weeks before the wedding, and the deadline for RSVP’s should be 2 to 3 weeks before the wedding date. If you have a B guest list, you should send the A list wedding invitations out 8-10 weeks before and push the RSVP deadline forward to 5-6 weeks before, so that once you receive some no’s, you still have time to send out the B guest list invitations at least 6 weeks before the wedding.

Note: If you are ordering custom stationery, it is best to send out your invitations at least 3 months before the wedding and have guests RSVP at least 1 month before the wedding date to allow adequate time for the printed materials to be made.

We hope this guide helps you overcome any sticky situations you may encounter so that you can have a stress-free wedding day (or, one with as little stress as possible).