Guess Who's Coming To (Your Wedding) Dinner?


You've done it: you and your dearly beloved (and your families, probably) have edited and re-edited the guest list for your wedding reception so you've included the maximum number of people close to you you can afford to feed after the wedding.  The beautiful invitations went out on time, with their stamped, self-addressed response cards tucked neatly inside.  

(And you remembered to remove the tissue, right?  Because that custom is a throwback to  the days when wedding invitations were hand-engraved and the ink might not have dried totally before they were placed in envelopes.  These days, unless you are extremely well-off or extremely devoted to the idea of engraved invitations—they're done in ways that imitate engraving without the whopping outlay, which means the tissue is no longer necessary.  But I digress….)


The acceptances come rolling in.  And you're starting to worry, because in addition to the acceptance line on which your guests have written "Mr. and Mrs. Bliss will attend"  to indicate who is accepting, they've scribbled in additional people "….and Mr. and Mrs. Bliss, Sr."  or "and Francie, Charlie and Jamal Bliss".  So instead of the two people you'd planned for at however much a plate, you have four—or five.  Or worse! You see all your careful financial planning collapsing.

So what are your options?

Basically it boils down to two: You can dig deep and see if you have the extra funds to cover the 25% more guests you're apparently going to have—if your venue has space.  And if you want to.

Or you can make those hard phone calls:  "I'm sorry, Scott, but the fire marshall is pretty strict about the numbers of people the room can hold, and we're at the maximum already.  You know how weddings get.  So we'd love to see you and Tanya, but we can't have her folks this time around…"

Maybe a friend will help with the calls  (your maid of honor or best man would be a good choice), which is sometimes easier: "Hey, Ivey, I'm working on the responses to Cara's wedding and I noticed you included the children in your responses.  I'm sorry, but they made the decision to invite adults only, because so many of their friends have children, they felt they couldn't have all of them, and they didn't want to invite just a few.  I'm sure you understand."

Sometimes they do, since many people figure all weddings are come-one, come-all occasions, and once corrected, just say "oh wow—sorry!  We didn't know.  Of course it will be just us, then."

Sometimes they don't. Many anguished brides-to-be have heard "I can't leave my children at home!  They want to see you get married!"  (Yeah.  Every three year old is just dying to put on a scratchy dress and tight shoes and sit still—and quiet—for two hours.)  But the choice has been made clear: please come, we'd love to see YOU and whoever else is listed on the invitation.  


So if the invitatiion says "Mr. and Mrs. Barely Speaking" the invite is for two people only.  If it's addressed to "Mr. and Mrs. Barely Speaking and Family,the inside envelope will confirm what the outside has said: Not only are Mr. and Mrs. Barely Speaking invited, but Master Loudly Speaking, Miss Hardly Speaking and Miss Always Speaking are welcome to come, too.

Karen Grigsby Bates is a Los Angeles-based correspondent for NPR News and co-author, with Karen Elyse Hudson, of The New Basic Black: Home Training For Modern Times (Doubleday).


is a Los Angeles-based correspondent for NPR News and co-author, with Karen Elyse Hudson, of The New Basic Black: Home Training For Modern Times (Doubleday).