Dear ESB: How do I tell my best friends they’re not invited to the wedding?

Categories   Wedding Advice

This is a juicy one, folks. Juicy is always good. And East Side Bride always knows how to answer right.


My fiance asked me to marry him a month ago, and I’ve been just floating on air ever since.

As we think about how we’re shaping our life together, we want the wedding to really reflect that, and to be more about the experiences we’ve had together and the joining of families than about extravagance or picture perfect details. We’re both super creative, and have tons of experience throwing events together (we own a business together and have probably thrown 100 big parties over the last 1.5 years), so we will get to all that stuff at some point, but we feel so lucky to have what we have and hold it so precious, that we have no interest in exploiting it or cheapening it with cutesy stuff, or throwing things in there just because. We want everything to be there for a reason.

With that in mind, we want every one of our guests to be there for a reason, and here’s where it’s getting reallllllly tricky, and why I’m writing to you.

First, there’s the size of the wedding. We’ve been leaning toward a quite small wedding – we’ve divided the list up into A, B, and C. The “A” list is only about 30 or 40 people, where the “B” list suddenly shoots us up to 100 at least, because of huge numbers of aunts and uncles and cousins that we barely know. We were thinking of doing a small ceremony and reception for only our “nearest and dearest,” and then heading to a club somewhere for some wild dancing with “B” and “C” invited along. I had real reservations about doing this at first, but I’m warming up to the idea. Thoughts?

But!! But, but!!! My real quandary is the definition of “nearest and dearest,” and compromise and when to make it. My fiance strongly dislikes one of my best friends from high school. Honestly, he dislikes my entire small group of friends from then. I have remained very close to them in my mind – we all live in the same city again and act, well, basically the way we did in high school. But honestly, none of us have much in common anymore, and we only actually see each other every two months or so. They’ve all been less than supportive as I’ve built this business with my now fiance, rarely attending events we put on. I could write a whole novel about this, and how hard it is to find other enterprising people who will allow you successes and celebrate your successes without feeling threatened themselves. Also, I frequently have whole conversations with them where they fail to ask me a single thing about myself. It’s all about them.

My fiance sees this and hates the way they treat me. I have had these thoughts, but never verbalized it, and hearing it from him is a big dose of the truth that I wasn’t quite ready to take. The friend he dislikes the most came to my birthday party recently and nearly ruined the day – he and his friends he brought along can be just foul-mouthed and disrespectful. I don’t want to risk that for my wedding, which happens only once and involves more than just me, and my fiance is basically saying that he doesn’t want to allow my less-than-thoughtful friend to attend our wedding at all. The thing is, until actually contemplating our very real upcoming wedding, I had basically assumed this group of friends of mine would be my wedding party. I always thought I was so lucky to have a group of old friends who I’ve know for 14 years, half of my life! But now looking at it, they’re not the people who support my life and seem to have my best interests at heart these days.

We’re almost thinking no wedding party, or the above-mentioned small ceremony followed by larger reception, which would relieve me of all of this to contemplate. But I can’t help but contemplate it all anyway. My fiance’s concerns take us beyond just the wedding and into life together, marriage together. He doesn’t want to have these foul-mouthed selfish people around our future children, around his gentle grandmother, and I completely understand and agree. Do I say something to my friend and explain why I’m not inviting him? Do I allow these friends to slowly phase out of my life as I phase into a new leg of my journey? I don’t want them to blame my fiance. I don’t want them to hate us, I hate to be hated. They assume that they are going to be a major part of this big life step for me, but even there I think they are doing it in a selfish way. The particularly-disliked-friend, mentioned above, said, when I told him of my engagement story, that he wishes that he was loved romantically as much as I am, and that he’s excited about more engagements because it’s pressure on his own boyfriend to marry him. I don’t want my wedding to be something that he uses to reflect on himself so much.

Thank you so much, any words of advice are SO appreciated!

You always know how to cut to the chase,
Seeking Perspective


To address your second question first: It’s okay to stretch the truth and tell your friends you’ve decided to have an intimate ceremony for family only. There’s no point in telling Mr. A*Hole, “We’re not inviting you to the wedding because you’re foul-mouthed and disrespectful and FH thinks you’re going to embarrass everyone.” If your goal is to cut this friend out of your life completely, why stir up drama?

As for the club and the wild dancing with the B and C lists: Great idea if B and C are local friends who don’t have far to travel. Not a great idea when they are aunts and uncles and cousins you barely know. A loud club isn’t a great place to get to know them, and there’s a decent chance they’ll be offended that they weren’t invited to the main event.

Also, how would you explain not inviting your high school friends to the club?? And wouldn’t you actually miss them…? A little?

Photo: Mariano Vivanco via Rackk and Ruin

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Kelsi on Jun 1, 2011

I saw a slightly different version of this same question over at last week...pretty sure it's the same bride:

rachel thomas on Jun 1, 2011

to address the bridal party quandary, i'm a big believer that it's totally okay not to have one at all. do it!

east side bride on Jun 1, 2011

wow. she didn't even bother to reword it.

nikki on Jun 1, 2011

I KNEW I'd seen this before! What a lucky bride, getting all sorts of advice.

Sarah :: Jackson Riley on Jun 1, 2011

i read this on APW and here, and I still can't help but think this bride really needs to grow a pair. She keeps talking about what her fiance wants, what her friends want, but what does she want? Does she want her friends at the wedding or no? Yes, I get it - she hates to be hated. Listen, as an adult, lots of people are going to hate your decisions. Guess what? You still have to make them. Then own them. Life will go on, and you'll be okay.

Meaghan on Jun 1, 2011

Well, since she's still writing in asking for advice, I guess she didn't like the APW take on things, so just do the exact opposite of what everyone there wrote - tell your friends to get the fugg out of your life because your BF doesn't like their potty mouths.

Erin on Jun 1, 2011

I knew I'd seen this before, but I was busting my brain the whole time trying to think where! As bratty as the bride may sound, she might have written the same letter to several columnists and sent it at the same time to increase the likelihood of an answer. I've seen cross-postings before, and the time difference is usually related to the column schedule. In other news, I read way too many advice columns. Nosiness, it is my nature. My fiance and I started making different lists of who was definite and who could be cut, but ended up deciding, eff it, everyone can come.

Sarisa on Jun 1, 2011

Ah. That's why this question sounded so familiar. I don't know, I thought the advice on APW was pretty good. I do agree that she needs to decide what SHE wants. Is she looking for an excuse to ditch these friendships or is she acquiescing to her fiance's bullying? Sounds like the former to me. Look, sometimes we outgrow friendships and move on with our lives. And sometimes our partner doesn't love all of our friends. But either way, it should really be her decision. Don't hide behind "my fiance doesn't like / approve of you guys, so you're not invited to the wedding." Besides, if you have come to feel that your "friends" are really this selfish and rude, why do you even care what they think?

lou on Jun 1, 2011

When I got engaged last year I was totally in the same boat! At the end of the day the girls I was so close to in high school were the girls I wanted with me on my wedding day. We decided to have a 100 person wedding (thanks to all those aunts and uncles) and I decided to have my close group of high school friends be the majority of my wedding party. For some of them the inclusion hasn't really changed things, but all the planning has actually brought me closer to some of them again. For me people who made the cut were either those I really wanted there or those who I knew really wanted to be come.

Rachel on Jun 1, 2011

I knew I'd seen this somewhere before. Kind of takes away from the problem when the OP is posting on every wedding blog asking for the same advice. If there's nothing there but nostalgia on your part perhaps just inviting friends that you are both friends with is the answer?

Sarah on Jun 1, 2011

While I do agree that it is somewhat annoying to see this posted a second time and implies that she didn't like the advice she was given by APW, I think we should take a step back and not jump to conclusions about the OP. She probably submitted this to a few blogs in the hopes that one would answer, and ended up with two answers. However, if that is not the case, and simply didn't like her APW advice (which I thought was great) that is rather obnoxious.

Sonishka on Jun 1, 2011

It's your wedding, you invite whom you want to be there to make it a really special occasion. Inviting friends from high school even tho u dont hang out together so often would be PROBABLY ok if you were having 100 ppl wedding. Otherwise no. How about small wedding with the dearest and if you really feel bad about ditching other friends, why don't you do big bridal shower and go to club and have great night out or smth?

Darren of Well-Groomed on Jun 1, 2011

My wife and I had the same issue. In fact, some of our tackier relatives started inviting guests of their own. We did two things. We told co-workers and other "bonus" people that we were only inviting close family. We ended up with 50 guests, which included us, the wedding party, and the pastor. To keep from offending friends and other undesirable family members, we scheduled the wedding for a Thursday morning. That way, we could send invites to everyone, and people who were just looking for free booze or a great party opted out. People who were really coming for us, opted-in. Needless to say, we ended up with an intimate group and all of the annoying, mooching, partiers declined on their own. No harm, no foul.

Ellen on Jun 2, 2011

A few things: #1. We had no wedding party, but were married by a dear friend. It was great. People helped us a ton along the way, but only in the ways they wanted to and we able to. I highly recommend it. #2. We invited some unreliable, foul-mouthed pals to our wedding of approximately 100 guests. They were great. They had fun, we had a blast, everyone was happy. #3 I stressed about all these people from different corners of our lives interacting without me supervising their conversations. That was a waste of time. #4 Don't plan too many damn events around your wedding. Its exhausting and you will forget who you invited or didn't invite or don't want to tell about each one. Have a wedding and reception and invite the same people to both.

kristen on Jun 2, 2011

i loved the APW advice she was given.

Laura Whitney on Jun 2, 2011

I don't know. Sometimes you have to just cut people out of your life because you realize that you've grown into a different person (who you like better than who you were before) and your old friends haven't grown at all or they've grown in an uglier direction. A couple that my husband and I were great friends with, who were both in our wedding party, over there past few years just became worse and worse it seemed & in many ways didn't grow out of their college kid immaturities. Eventually we just realized that we didn't want them as friends anymore. They'd become negative people who brought nothing but drama & gossip to the group. We've stopped talking to them and cut them out of our lives and you know what? We don't miss them one bit! On such a big day you want to surround yourselves with people who truly love and support you, and you really want to do that on every other day too!

Kim on Jun 2, 2011

sounds like SP has a controlling fiance (speaking as someone who used to be in a similar relationship, I can't easily spot the signs) and she is talking herself into believing his opinions on her friends are true. you see your friends once every two months, live in the same town, and had planned on them being your wedding party, but in the next breath think they shouldn't be invited at all because of what your fiance thinks? sounds like it might be pretty lonely on that private island of love with your fiance if you allow him to talk you into burning bridges with all of your old friends. i think you have more issues to consider than just who to invite to what!

Lisa on Jun 3, 2011

Forgive me if I've read this wrong but I don't think the problem isn't what your fiance thinks or about burning bridges with your old friends, from your post it sounds like you've outgrown your highschool crowd and really need to move on, why on earth are you even considering inviting them to your wedding if a.) you see them once every two months, at which time they have no interest in your life, aren't supportive and who you have admitted you have nothing in common with; and b.) they are the sort of people who almost 'ruined' your birthday being who they are. Having people at one of the most special days in your life just because you've known them 14 years is not a good enough reason in my opinion. I had a group of friends from highschool who sound pretty similar you yours and you know what? After school finished I learned to surround myself with people who do respect and care about me, and that's what will make your wedding day so memorable. Don't risk it by inviting them, you'll spend the whole day freaking out about what will go wrong and by the time you stop fretting the day will be over. It's ok to burn bridges sometimes, grow up and realise that you can't (and shouldn't) try to make everyone happy.

Wiggs on Jun 3, 2011

So here's some advice from someone who has been married for two years: I would just invite them. When I look back at my own wedding, I don't regret anyone I invited - but I do regret the people I didn't invite. Same for my bridal party. If you really are concerned about your friend's behavior, you need to talk to him. Not inviting him is just a passive aggressive way of telling him the same thing, except he might get more hurt and offended and confused. Put yourself in his shoes: if you were pissing off one of your best friends, would you rather not get invited to her/his wedding, or would you rather he/she sit you down and give you a chance to apologize? I recently didn't get invited to someone's wedding due to a falling out we had about six years ago. I thought he had moved on; clearly that was not the case. I like to think I'm a grown-up, so I'm going to write him a letter of apology and see if I can salvage the friendship, but I can tell you that I was deeply hurt by being left out. I wish he had told me that he still wasn't good with me before he decided to exclude me. I am an AMAZING wedding guest if I do say so myself (seriously - you should invite me to your wedding if you want someone who will talk to your grandma and buy you a nice gift) and if my friend and I patch things up in the future, we will both regret that I wasn't there to celebrate his big day. SO! In conclusion: talk to your friend. You're going to have to talk to him either way. Give him a chance to make things good with you and your fiance, assign one of your mutual friends to keep an eye on him on the big day, and sleep peacefully at night knowing that you're not using your wedding as a tool for cutting someone out of your life.

The bride in question on Jun 5, 2011

Hey guys, this is the bride who wrote in with the question. Sorry about the double post - I was in crisis mode at the time (considering setting the wedding date for September) and had emailed the question to APW quite a while ago, heard nothing, and tried again on another favorite, ESB, that's it. Indeed, I feel pretty freakin' lucky to get so many takes on the whole situation, and am not in the least dissatisfied with APW, but I promise I was not spamming the internets for help with this. I really still can't quite see having this one friend at the wedding, and it's the selfishness that's doing it the most for me. I do hate having the wedding serve as a 'tool' for cutting someone out of my life, but at the same time, if this isn't a time for self-reflection and evaluation of these things, I don't know what is. It's altering the relationship I have with my parents, future in-laws, etc, so why wouldn't a toxic friendship come to a head at this point? It's really nice to know that there are other people who have had to phase out past friendships and come to think of it as a healthy thing afterward. I agree with ESB, no point in stirring up drama here, but I suppose he does deserve an explanation - perhaps keeping the wedding invite and fiance and all of that out of it entirely. Thanks again, all.

Sharon on Nov 2, 2011

I agree with Kim, I can see the signs your fiancee is controlling, and trying to cut your friends out of your life. Please wake up and smell the coffee to save yourself some heartache.

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