You Are Cordially Obligated? Sussing Out Wedding Invitation Etiquette
By: Michael Kabel
Depending on the size of the wedding, most people typically wind up sending out dozens if not hundreds of invitations. In fact, it's not until planning their event that most brides realize how many people they've actually known or worked with over the course of their lives.
Many brides wonder who they're tactfully responsible for inviting. Cousins? Coworkers? Former boyfriends or girlfriends? In-laws or even spouses from a previous marriage?
The truth is that, in most cases, brides are obligated to invite only those they would like to attend the ceremony and reception. For whatever reason.
Coworkers and bosses
While you're not technically obligated to invite coworkers, it's also okay to discreetly invite the ones you've become good friends with. Certainly coworkers you socialize with outside the office rank an invite. If you're not planning to invite anyone from your office or work site to the wedding, however, don't invite them to the bridal shower or bachelor party, either.
As for your boss and other coworkers, you're not obligated to send an invitation, but don't "rub their noses" in your upcoming celebration. Keep the details about how the wedding preparations are going to yourself. Don't brag or boast about reception arrangements or honeymoon plans. Remember, nobody likes to get snubbed, and you'll probably still be working with them once you come back.
Distant cousins, in-laws, and other family members
Most everyone has an extended family that drifts on and on, including cousins and cousins-by-marriage, obscure aunts and uncles, and so on. A wedding is your celebration, so you shouldn't feel obligated to invite every leaf on your family tree.
Invite only the family members you feel you see on a regular basis anyway, or whom you've maintained a relatively frequent amount of contact. Don’t worry about the outlying relations. Distant or tangential cousins probably don't feel like setting aside time and money to attend anyway, so the invitation is usually just wasted.
As a rule, you should invite your parents, godparents, grandparents, and aunts and uncles. Even if they can't attend, it's a nice gesture of family respect.
Old and distant friends
This is a tough one, since friendships atrophy or even fall apart all the time. It's a case-by-case basis.
Maybe there's a college roommate you haven't seen or spoken to in years (for whatever reasons.) The wedding is a great time to reopen channels of communication. On the other hand, if there's an old friend with whom you're currently "on the outs," it's best to let those particular sleeping dogs lie. You've got enough on your plate without staging a reconciliation.
Relatives and friends from a previous marriage
We saved this particular subject for last because it's such a hot potato. Before mailing any invitations, you should discuss the matter completely with your fiancé and get their permission – as a courtesy to them. Of course any children from a previous marriage should be included as much as possible in the current festivities. But unless there's a friendly rapport already in place with an ex-spouse, inviting them is probably not the best idea for anyone involved.
As for an ex-spouse's relatives and friends, it's okay to invite them if you've sustained a warmth past the end of your first marriage. Those people are your friends in their own right, independent of the failed relationship. Again, make sure it's okay with your fiancé, though. On your invitation, you might also include a handwritten note stressing how much it would mean to you if they decided to attend.