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How to Uninvite Wedding Guests (Without Ruining Your Relationship)

There are myriad circumstances which could prompt a couple to downsize their wedding. The most common cause in recent memory? COVID, of course.

When faced with the difficult decision to have a smaller wedding—especially after invitations have already gone out—it’s important to be strategic and considerate. Otherwise, that un-invite could seriously harm your relationships.

Uninvite Carefully and Logically

This is a tip for both your comfort and that of your guests. By establishing a set of rules for who you’ll be uninviting, it’s easier to explain and understand. If it’s simpler for guests to understand, it’s also easier to accept.

For example, consider uninviting:

  • Coworkers

  • Guests travelling to attend

  • Eliminate plus ones (including children)

  • Immunocompromised or vulnerable guests

You might consider a more vague attempt at “ranking” each guest, but it is easier to rationalize an un-invite with a good explanation.

After working through to prioritize these groups (and making any necessary exceptions) you can anticipate having a much shorter list and a very good reason for each un-invite.

Notify Guests As Soon As Possible

It’s also critical to make your list of uninvitees early. It’s going to be disappointing for the guests that didn’t make the cut, so you should respect their time by letting them know early. Before they buy their wedding outfits, before they buy gifts—really, as soon as possible.

If you leave it too late, those guests may have already incurred costs for things like travel or accommodation. Uninviting a guest can already be a strain on your relationship—forcing your guest to contend with an unrecoupable cost will only exacerbate the issue.

Send Personalized Un-Invitations

It’s important that you word your un-invitations carefully. It may sound like a lot of work, but it’s necessary to craft personalized messages for the guests you’ll be cutting from the guest list. It’s alright to choose a few somewhat canned messages with the appropriate explanation, but taking the time to handwrite a note will lessen the blow.

If you ask us, the proper medium for these notes is paper: a lovely card in an envelope sent in the mail. But reasonably speaking, you may use whatever medium you used to initially invite people. If you used digital invitations, you may use the same format; if you used a Facebook event—hey, we don’t judge!—you might just post the sad news.

Just take the time to write a carefully crafted message to avoid offending uninvited guests.

Be Kind and Empathetic

Weddings are very unique events. They are once in a lifetime celebrations. Generally speaking, most of us don’t encounter that kind of joyous, luxurious event very often. We go to weddings to support the couple being married; we also go so we can get a bit dressed up and let down our hair for an evening. It is a party, after all.

So being uninvited to a wedding is a bit like having a vacation cancelled. Except that it can feel worse—because typically, a friend or a family member is the one doing the cancelling, often for reasons you don’t understand.

So it’s important to write a message that carefully explains your logic and demonstrates your sadness and regret at having to cull the guest list.

Here’s an example.

Dear So-and-So

I’m very sorry to write under such circumstances today. My soon-to-be spouse and I have had to make the difficult decision to downsize our wedding. Unfortunately, because you are travelling from out of the province, we must politely ask that you not attend our wedding in person.

We are very sorry and deeply saddened to make this request of you, because we were very much looking forward to your attendance. But, instead, we look forward to celebrating with you on another day soon.

This is a very difficult decision for us to have made and we are so grateful for your understanding.

With love,

[You and your spouse]

It’s a brief message, but it explains your reasoning, expresses your regret, and lays out the ultimate consolation prize: another party on another day.

Pro tip: that message also assumes a gracious response from your uninvited guest. By thanking them for their understanding, it’s more likely that they will actually be understanding.

Set Another Date

Here’s the deal.

You can downsize your wedding, but you should offer an alternative. This makes a huge difference for uninvited guests—the difference between hearing “sorry, you’re not invited anymore” and “will you please attend this other gathering instead?” is pretty huge.

First, you should consider live streaming your event for guests that can’t attend in person. This means coworkers, cousins, and faraway friends can still take in your big day as it happens. This makes people feel included, even though they’re not there in person.

But it’s still important to offer a special get together for a little more damage control. This make-up party can be in person or virtual and should give you and your guests an occasion to catch up and have fun together.

You needn’t go all out and throw another huge bash; what matters is that each of your guests feels seen and appreciated.

There will be guests that are unhappy that they didn’t make the cut. But remember, this is your day. If you downsize your guest list respectfully and with compassion, you’ve done all you can do.

Because, while this is a challenging time (will the pandemic ever end?), we do still owe respect, friendship, and kindness to one another. You’ve got to be willing to put in the work, but you can successfully downsize your guest list without losing any sleep.

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