How to Tell Someone They Aren't Invited to Your Wedding, Politely

Here’s how to make the situation less awkward.
Hand holding a pink rotary phone.
Illustration: Natalie Romine for The Knot
chapelle johnson the knot associate editor
Chapelle Johnson
chapelle johnson the knot associate editor
Chapelle Johnson
Associate Editor
  • Chapelle writes articles for The Knot Worldwide. She covers all things wedding-related and has a personal interest in covering celebrity engagements and fashion.
  • Before joining The Knot Worldwide, Chapelle was an editorial intern for Subvrt Magazine.
  • Chapelle has a degree in English writing from Loyola University New Orleans.
Updated Mar 28, 2024

Deciding who to invite to your wedding and trimming your guest list can be two of the toughest tasks on your to-do list. Because let's face it, it isn't always feasible to invite everyone. That's why you should learn how to tell someone they aren't invited to your wedding. Whether you're working with a strict budget or only want immediate family and friends at your nuptials, it's okay to have a limited guest list, but you'll need to know how to respond. While it might feel uncomfortable, there are ways to go about the situation politely.

Below, we've highlighted reasons someone might not have gotten an invite, examples of what to say if they ask why, how to say no to extra guests and what to do during the aftermath. Read our tips before sending off those invitations so you can handle awkward guest list conversations like a pro.

Everything you should know about not inviting someone: Reasons Why You Shouldn't | How to Tell Someone Nicely | How to Say No to Extra Guests | What to Do If Someone Asks to Attend | What to Do After

Reasons Not to Invite Someone to Your Wedding

Have someone in mind you feel iffy about inviting? Here are some reasons you should reconsider putting them on your guest list.

They're a distant friend.

It's not uncommon for distant friends and acquaintances to reach out after you get engaged. They might comment on Instagram pictures or send well-meaning messages about your upcoming wedding, expressing their interest in catching up. They most likely mean well, but the conversation might get awkward if it feels like they're getting in touch solely for an invite to your wedding. You'll often be able to tell if a person is sincere in their well-wishes or if they're trying to land a spot on your guest list.

When it's time to politely tell them they're not invited to the wedding, stick with the truth. Tell them you're happy they reached out to you and you're excited to get back in touch. Fill them in on your life since you last spoke, and ask them questions about theirs. If they ask you about the wedding, tell them about the budget and space constraints. If you want to see them, suggest catching up over coffee or dinner after the wedding.

They're a boss or coworker.

You're most likely going to see your boss and coworkers consistently leading up to your wedding. They might ask questions about your planning process because they're genuinely interested to know, and this doesn't necessarily mean they're looking for an invitation. But as your date gets closer, they may hint that they want to come. You don't have to invite anyone from work, but you can if you want to—especially if you're close friends with some of your colleagues. Plus, inviting one person from work doesn't mean you have to invite everyone.

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They're a relative you're not close to.

It can be difficult to navigate your guest list cuts when it comes to family members. While you may not be particularly close to a relative, inviting them might mean a lot to your parents or members of your extended family. While you shouldn't feel pressured to add someone to your list, you should talk about it with your soon-to-be spouse and immediate family before thinking about how to tell someone they are not invited.

Explain your reason for not wanting them at your wedding. Was there a falling out? Have you not spoken in a while? Are they a toxic family member? Keep the conversation honest and genuine, and be open to hearing what your parents have to say, especially if they're helping pay for the wedding.

They're your or your partner's ex.

You might already be thinking "no" is the answer, but the situation isn't as cut and dry as it seems. First, before you or your partner add an ex to the guest list you need to talk to one another about if you are both comfortable with the decision. Even if you two don't care, your family or friends would be uneasy about the choice, which means you shouldn't have the ex at the wedding. Other reasons you can skip sending the invitation: if the break up was recent or if either person from the old relationship is still upset about it ending.

You don't want them at your wedding.

It's okay if you don't want certain people at your wedding, like someone who seeks drama and wants to make everything about themselves. At the end of the day, if you and your partner wouldn't care if the person RSVPed no to your wedding, don't invite them. Try to get on the same page with your partner before speaking with others who might be paying for the wedding. Remember that if your parents or in-laws are contributing, you need to work together on managing the guest list.

How to Nicely Tell Someone They Are Not Invited to Your Wedding

Once you get engaged and have had time to celebrate the occasion, you've probably already thought a little about how many people you want to invite to your wedding and who will and won't be on the list. Start talking with your partner and family about what you're thinking as soon as possible so it doesn't prolong the awkward convo you need to have with someone later.

The "not invited" conversation is best done in person or over the phone. Text, email or word of mouth can come off as rude or uncaring for such a sensitive situation. Below are some ways to respond to someone asking for a wedding invite while being polite and firm.

Say you're only allowed a limited guest list.

Here are four ways to go about the "due to limited seating" wording.

  • It's great to hear from you! We hope you're doing well since we last caught up. We're limiting our guest list to immediate family members and close friends, but we'd love to catch up with you after the wedding.
  • It's great to be in touch again! Due to our venue capacity, we have a small guest list, but we really appreciate your well wishes.
  • Our venue has a strict capacity limit, so our wedding guest list will only be immediate family and close friends. But I would love to celebrate over happy hour sometime!
  • We've made the tough decision to have our guest list be a small group of family members and close friends. We hope you understand!

Tell them that you have a strict budget.

Steal these not invited to the wedding quotes if you're guest list cuts are a result of your wedding budget.

  • Thank you so much for your well-wishes––they mean the world to us. We're sticking to a small guest list due to budget constraints, so we hope you'll understand. But we'd love to grab dinner with you soon to catch up!
  • As much as we'd love to invite everyone to our wedding, we're keeping it intimate due to our budget. Thanks for understanding!
  • My fiancé(e) and I are funding the wedding ourselves, so we have to keep our guest list small. Regardless, I'd love to get drinks after work with you one day to celebrate!
  • We're paying for the wedding on our own, so unfortunately we can't invite everyone. We appreciate your understanding.
  • Due to our tight budget, we're keeping our wedding small—but we'd love to catch up with you afterward.

How to Politely Say No Extra Guests

To ensure you give an accurate final headcount to all your wedding vendors, you need to let your guests know if they can have a plus-one. This information you can include on your wedding website's FAQ section, but are you wondering how to say "invited guests only" in other ways? Properly addressing the wedding invitations, including the guests' names on the RSVP cards (so guests can't write more people than you'd like on the name line) and (if possible) adding the plus-one's name to the save-the-date and invitation are some options to help keep your guest list under control. Now, here's how to say nicely say no extra guests when pressed about the issue.

  • Because we're having an intimate celebration, we aren't able to accommodate plus-ones. We hope you understand and respect our decision.
  • We're happy to announce that we're allowing each guest to have one plus-one at our wedding weekend festivities. If you're inviting someone, please let us know their name by [RSVP deadline] so we can cater to them appropriately.
  • Our dream wedding venue has limited space, which means, unfortunately, our guest list must be limited as well. As a result, no plus-ones are allowed. We appreciate your understanding in advance.
  • We're so excited you're considering coming to our special day! Please note that each RSVP card has a line for a single plus-one. We would greatly appreciate it if everyone could stick to this limitation.

What to Do if You Didn't Invite Someone and They Ask To Attend

If the person you don't want to invite confronts you about the issue, the best thing you can do is to be honest about why you made your decision. Remember, to be as truthful as possible without being rude. (You can always fall back on your budget or venue capacity being the reason if the situation feels too overwhelming for you.)

Also, be prepared to answer questions from the person and hear them out. If you're firm on your answer, let them know. Depending on your connection with this person, you might decide not inviting them isn't worth negatively impacting the relationship.

What to Do After Telling Someone They Aren't Invited

Even though the person isn't invited to your wedding, it doesn't mean you have to ignore them until after your honeymoon. Depending on who the person is, suggest other ways you can hang out with one another during the wedding process if you have the time. You'll get a much-needed break from planning all day, and both of you will get to spend quality time together.

Sarah Hanlon contributed to the reporting of this piece.

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