So how do you handle it when your wedding budget won’t allow you to invite the college roommate you haven’t seen in ages or your (favorite) third cousin from Topeka? Be gracious. And be organized.
Be judicious with save-the-date notices. Everyone who gets a save-the-date card gets an invite. So skip the cards altogether or send them only to the people you absolutely must invite. That way, if the guest list shrinks or plans change, you don’t have an etiquette emergency on your hands.
Have an “A” list and a “B” list. The “A” list includes must-invite family and closest friends. They get invitations first. The “B” listers, organized by priority, are the people you’d love to invite, but might not be able to. If a member of your “A” list, say, Auntie Esther, can’t make the wedding, you immediately send an invitation to the first guest on your “B” list, and so on.
Keep expectations low. As you’re talking to people about the wedding, mention up front that it’s going to be a very small gathering. Also, make sure those who will be invited don’t blab about it incessantly. Mention to people on the guest list to scale back the chit-chat so others don’t feel snubbed.
Consider excluding by category. Often, if you invite one person from a particular group, you have to invite them all. In that case, difficult as it may be, you may decide you can’t invite any of your co-workers or, say, members of your book club. If you’re particularly close to a couple of them, it’s best to explain your decision directly. You say, ‘If I invite you then I have to invite the whole department. I hope you understand.’
When figuring out the guest list, remember you must invite spouses and partners. It’s a huge faux pas not to invite significant others to a wedding. It’s not a business conference, it’s a social function, and you’re invited to social functions with your spouse.
Oh, and one more thing. . . If you don’t get an invitation, be kind to the bride and groom. Don’t make it harder on them. Guest lists are difficult to compile in the best of circumstances, and these days, even harder. Put aside petty grievances and wholeheartedly wish the couple well.