You’re making your wedding guest list and checking it twice. Family: check. Best Friends: check. College roommate: check. That couple you aren’t super close with anymore that invited you to their wedding: ...uh?
There’s the time-honored etiquette question of whether to invite someone to your wedding because they invited you to theirs. It’s a touchy subject, to say the least, as some people do truly expect an automatic invite if they invited you to their nuptials. You may have been close once before or you never really were—either way, they felt close enough to have invited you so you may feel pressure to return the favor.
Unfortunately, the answer’s not black or white. There is a myriad of things to consider when deciding whether to invite a friend, or anyone for that matter, to your wedding, especially when it’s someone who invited you to their big day.
Most people are familiar with the fact that weddings are expensive. One of the biggest factors that determines just how expensive a wedding will be is the number of people invited. Even at a relatively affordable venue, you’re still paying per person—and the dollar signs add up fast. If your budget is tight—and you’re keeping a similarly tight guest list as a result—don’t feel obligated to invite anyone simply because they invited you.
On the other hand, if you’re inviting friends and family by the masses and money really isn’t an object, you should probably extend the invite. At the end of the day, you’ll hardly know they’re even there.
Even if you’re not keeping your guest list small because of budget reasons, you may simply prefer a more intimate celebration. That’s certainly reason enough to not invite certain people, including a couple that invited you. It’s also possible that you made their guest list because they threw a massive bash and invited, well, just about everyone. Most people will understand that, if you’re having a smaller, more intimate affair, they might not be considered close enough to make the cut.
The most important detail to factor in is your relationship with this person. Ask yourself a few questions to help gain some clarity.
It’s important to look at the big picture here. What you’re really trying to determine is: Will there be larger social consequences if you don’t invite them? If you don’t invite them to your wedding how does that impact the friendship—do you care? If it won’t (or you really don’t), cut them from your list. If you don’t want to lose the friendship or are nervous about how it may impact other friendships of yours, you may want to reconsider and re-establish their spot on your guest list.
As we’ve mentioned, weddings come in all different shapes and sizes (mainly sizes). So, wedding guest list etiquette doesn’t support a tit-for-tat strategy. If your friend’s wedding was a huge affair with 300+ guests, including childhood friends, camp friends, colleagues, but yours isn’t, then it’s a truly different situation.
Consider how long ago their wedding was, too. If it was within the last calendar year, it makes more sense to invite them to your wedding than if their wedding was 3-5 years ago and you no longer keep in close contact.
Another interesting component to consider: Was their wedding a destination wedding? Oftentimes couples invite more guests to a destination wedding than they normally would if they were having their wedding in their hometown. This is to make up for the fact that more guests will likely decline than usual due to the financial and time implications of travel.
All of these factors play a role in why they may have invited you and why you may or may not invite them. See what we mean? It’s never so black and white.
The most important thing to do here is to keep the conversation simple and straightforward. At the end of the day, it all comes down to what you want and what works with your special day. Be sure to let them know it’s not personal—and also be sure to cite any reasons you didn’t invite them as back up. Whether it was budget, a venue size issue, or you prefer a smaller ceremony, let them know.
What you can’t do, though, is lie. If you’re not having a small wedding, they’ll find out—and that could really sting. If you’re not inviting them because of personal concerns or you just don’t feel close to them, you need to say that. Be sensitive to their feelings, which very well might be hurt. Remind them that you enjoyed attending their wedding and are sorry that you’re facing limitations that allow you from extending the same invitation their way.
If you’re still stuck on what to say, here’s more on how to talk to friends who weren’t invited to your wedding.