Should We Send a Wedding Invitation to Someone We Know Can’t Come?

If you know a guest can't come to your wedding, you probably think you don't have to send an invite. Think again. Here's when to send an invite to someone who can't attend the wedding—and when not to.

By Alanna Nuñez

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Photo by Zola

Narrowing down the guest list is one of the trickiest parts of wedding planning. It’s unexpectedly fraught with personal feelings. You can’t invite everyone and making those cuts can be hard. However, things can also be complicated when it comes to people you can invite.

After you send out save the date postcards, you may hear back from loved ones who know they can’t attend. So, should you still send them an invite or simply cross them off any move on? Here’s everything you need to know about inviting someone to your wedding if you know they can’t come.

Should I send a wedding invitation to someone I know can’t come?

In short: yes!

The longer answer: Mostly, yes. You should (most likely) still invite someone you know can’t attend. However, there is one exception (more on that below).

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Really? I should send an invite to everyone that can’t attend?

Generally speaking, if this person is a close friend or family member, and someone that you know you would want to invite regardless of whether they actually come, you should still send an invite. It’s a nice gesture.

Remember that while a wedding is a great opportunity for a party, it’s ultimately about affirming your love for your partner in front of all your closest friends and family. When you’re in the throes of number-crunching (an open bar for 150 people costs how much!?) and wedding planning, it’s easy to forget why you wanted a wedding in the first place.

They’re inherently intimate affairs, no matter the actual size. So chances are, it’ll be meaningful to your friend or family member to receive an invite in the mail even if it’s impossible to attend.

What if they think I’m trying to get an extra gift?

If you’re worried that sending an invite will look like a gift grab, rest assured that your friend or family member probably planned to gift you something anyway. That’s another reason to send the invite–your friend probably won’t want to ask you directly about your registry, but she would be able to check your wedding website info on the invitation and send something along more discreetly. The etiquette here goes both ways. It’s not uncommon to send a gift for a wedding you can’t attend. So, if you’re close to this person, you can pretty safely assume they want to get you a gift anyway.

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Does sending an invite mean I should logistically still plan for them to come?

Not necessarily—this is a case-by-case situation. You never know: plans change. If the person’s schedule opens up (surgery gets rescheduled, vacation plans get pushed back, or a baby even makes an early arrival), you’ll want him or her there with you to celebrate. Sending the invite makes that clear.

Plus, some people like to keep their invitation as a memento or keepsake. And though this will vary from person to person, it’s possible your friends or family members will be offended if they don’t get an invite (this is a little bit of a “know your audience” thing). Ultimately, in most cases, there are no downsides to sending an invite.

That said, don’t include this guest in your seating chart or final catering count without knowing fully if they can or can’t attend. An invite keeps them in the loop, but be sure to touch base about their plans as you finalize logistical details.

Is there anyone I shouldn’t send an invite to?

Now for the exception: If this guest was someone you’re not particularly close to (for example, your mom’s boss, your distant cousin), you can skip the invite. Chances are, they won’t be offended. It’s the one case where they might see the invite as a bit of a gift grab.

But for the most part, don’t worry about it–your close friends and family will appreciate the gesture for what it is: a reminder that you love and are thinking of them on your big day.

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