Exactly How to Tell Someone They Aren't Invited to Your Wedding

Don't stress—we break down what to say when things get awkward.
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sarah hanlon associate editor the knot
by Sarah Hanlon
sarah hanlon associate editor the knot
Sarah Hanlon
Associate Editor
  • Sarah is an Associate Digital Editor for The Knot, with special focuses in fashion, pop culture and wedding trends.
  • Before joining The Knot Worldwide, Sarah was a contributing writer for Bravo at NBC Universal.
  • Sarah has a degree in journalism and resides in New York City.
Updated Mar 24, 2021

Trimming your guest list can be one of the toughest tasks on your to-do list. A variety of factors influence the size of your wedding, from your budget to your venue and your overall vision. Since it isn't always feasible to invite everyone you know, here's how to politely tell someone they aren't invited to your wedding especially if they assume as much. Distant friends or acquaintances might put you in an uncomfortable position if they ask for an invite when you weren't planning on extending one, which is why we recommend preparing a few responses. 

Whether you're working with a strict budget or you only want immediate family and friends at your nuptials, it's OK that you've limited your guest list. When it comes to invitations, you should include people you genuinely want to celebrate with. One caveat to consider, though, is that anyone who's contributing to your wedding typically has a say in the guest list, according to traditional wedding etiquette rules. If your parents or in-laws are helping foot the bill, it's necessary to collaborate on the guest list. 

In the months leading up to your nuptials, people who aren't included on your list might insinuate that they expect to attend. While it might feel awkward, there are ways to politely tell someone they aren't invited. Below, we've highlighted a variety of reasons someone might not have gotten an invite, along with examples of exactly what to say if they ask why. Read our tips to seamlessly handle awkward guest list conversations like a pro. 

The Reason: COVID complications

If your wedding has been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, you're not alone. You might plan to have a microwedding or minimony until it's safe for a larger celebration, limiting the amount of people you're able to invite. A new venue may also present guest list parameters you didn't have before. As the details change, it's important to keep guests informed about your decisions. 

Be honest when it comes to COVID complications. Most guests will understand your need to downsize, and they won't take it personally. But if someone keeps pestering you about your modified guest list, keep your response simple and to the point. Find examples of what to say below. And if you need more help navigating coronavirus wedding guest list etiquette, use our guide here

"We'd love to have you attend our wedding, but we've decided to host a small gathering just for immediate family to keep everyone safe. We hope to celebrate with you soon!" 

"We've modified our original wedding plan because of the pandemic. Unfortunately, this means we've limited our guest list to immediate family. We appreciate your understanding as we navigate this time!" 

"While we can't host everyone we originally planned to, we do plan on hosting an anniversary reception when it's safe to do so and would love to have you celebrate with us then. We'll share more information as we're able to confirm details." 

The Reason: 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 simple 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 do want to see them, suggest catching up over coffee or dinner after the wedding. Here are some ideas of how to navigate this tricky conversation. 

"It's great to hear from you! We hope you're doing well since we last caught up. We're keeping our guest list limited to immediate family members and close friends, but we'd love to catch up with you after the wedding."

"Thank you so much for your well-wishes, it means the world to us. We're sticking to a small guest list due to budget constraints, so we hope you'll understand. We'd love to grab dinner with you soon to catch up."

"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." 

The Reason: They're a boss or coworker

You're likely going to see  your boss and coworkers on a fairly consistent basis 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 start to 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.

Despite this, it's best to be prepared with an answer in case anyone asks for an invite. As with most situations, you can easily blame your guest list constraints on your budget. 

"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 and I are funding the wedding ourselves, so we have to keep a small guest list. But I'd love to get drinks after work one day to celebrate with you!" 

"Our venue has a strict capacity limit, so we're keeping the guest list limited to our family and close friends. I'd love to celebrate with you over happy hour!"

The Reason: They're a  relative you aren't close to

It can be difficult to navigate 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 invite someone you're not close with, it's important to talk about it with your S.O. and your parents.  

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. Speak up if your budget is a real concern—or, if you just don't want them at your wedding, tell the truth. Listen to your parents' input, especially if they're helping pay for the wedding. If you decide to not invite the family member, have a response prepared in case they ask for a reason. 

"We're paying for the wedding on our own, so we just don't have the ability to invite everyone. We appreciate your understanding." 

"Our venue has limited space for guests, so we're keeping the wedding very intimate. We hope you understand." 

"As much as we'd love to invite everyone, we're following a strict budget. Thank you so much for understanding." 

The Reason: You simply don't want them at your wedding

Sometimes, you just don't want certain people at your wedding. You might not have a clear reason other than the fact that you're not close or you don't want them there. This conversation can be tricky if you and your S.O. aren't the only ones paying for the wedding. Remember that if your parents or in-laws are contributing, it's important to work together on crafting the guest list. If you find yourself in this situation where someone is pestering you about their invite, keep your response polite but firm.

"Due to our tight budget, we're keeping our wedding small—but we'd love to catch up with you afterwards." 

"Our venue has a strict capacity limit, so we aren't able to invite everyone. We appreciate your understanding!" 

"We're paying for the wedding ourselves, so we're unable to invite as many people as we originally expected. Thank you for understanding!"

"We've made the decision to keep our guest list limited to immediate family members and close friends. We hope you understand!"

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