Learn how to navigate these potentially touchy conversations.

By Lauren Wellbank
November 11, 2020
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Credit: Matoli Keely

Many couples will find themselves in the unpleasant situation of having to make cuts to their guest lists, particularly right now, in the age of COVID-19, when smaller weddings are the safest way to celebrate. While most people will be completely accepting and supportive of the fact that you had to scale down your guest list in order to safely tie the knot, there are some who may ask why their invite never arrived. The same is true in more typical circumstances, too: Whether you always wanted a smaller wedding or needed to invite fewer guests in order to make your budget work, there are almost always a feel people who will feel stung that they didn't get an invitation.

Coming up with a way to tactfully (and comfortably) answer their questions—either in the context of the pandemic or your personal wishes—may feel impossible, but licensed clinical psychologist, Rebekah Montgomery, Ph.D., who specializes in couples and relationships, assures us that it can be done.

Preemptively communicate the smaller guest list to anyone you think might be hurt by not receiving an invitation.

Montgomery says that if there's someone in particular that you know will be offended or upset by being left off the guest list, give them a call ahead of time. "Share how hard of a decision it was. Be open about the reason; we have to keep the wedding small, we have to accommodate family, and so forth," she says. "Assure the person it not a reflection of the value you place on the relationship. Even reaching out to have this conversation, shows your care for the relationship." Montgomery adds that it's helpful to make some extra efforts around this time to reinforce your connection. "If appropriate, ask if there is another way to celebrate the milestone together. Maybe a special dinner or another small way to acknowledge the relationship and emphasize you want them to be part of this next stage in your life," she suggests.

Share your reasons.

In the event that you scaled back your guest list because of the coronavirus pandemic, guests will likely be extremely understanding—this was a difficult decision and obviously not how you intended to celebrate. But if a smaller celebration is what you've always wanted, and your smaller guest list isn't a reaction to the current health crisis, don't be afraid to say that. "People can really understand finances, family obligations, venue limitations, and so on," says Montgomery. "Sometimes this can be easier for friends who have had a wedding as they may have been there. But it could be harder if you were invited to theirs. Honesty and showing your value for their friendship is key."

Should you reconsider extending an invitation if the lack of an invite has caused someone extreme upset??

"The fundamental guide in choosing who to invite is how you will feel on that momentous day looking around and seeing them there. If it is someone that will bring joy and meaning, by all means, see if there is a way to invite them. Level of 'upsetness' or threats to end the relationship are not sufficient reasons to invite someone," says Montgomery. 

You can also consider alternative ways for family and friends to be involved. If a smaller guest list is a reaction to the pandemic, consider a livestream of the ceremony or hosting another get-together when things are safe. If you simply want a smaller wedding due to preferences or budget, ask friends to join you for an informal celebration at your home. At the end of the day, people just want to share in this special moment.

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