The Psychology of Sending (or Not Sending) Wedding Invitations

While I’m still quite happy with the fact that we made our own invitations, and got them sent out in the mail… I have to mention that the guest list itself has been, by far, one of the most troubling and stressful steps of the whole wedding planning process.

I’ve mentioned this before, but wanted to go in greater detail. Mostly for my benefit, just to get it of my chest.

We have large families, and limited space. And, of course, a budget to work within. Like any party or gathering, a guest list is essential in order to keep costs in check, and to ensure the event can actually happen.

The worst of the process is over, in some ways. Having created the list in December, that evening is pretty far behind us. I’m reminded of it now, as I’m thinking of our invitations going out to people… and of them not going out to others.

It was very difficult (and continues to be difficult) for me not to associate the invitation itself with a gesture of love. Having to rank the people I know and am close to, having to order them in a sequential list was… excruciating. It was incredibly frustrating and incredibly stressful.

It was as though I had to take all my friends and family, and to come up with some way to measure, to quantify my love for them. Not only did I have to question my relationship with each, but also had to rank each person, one against the other.

When was the last time I talked to this person? Do I still consider them in my life? To what degree are they in my life? These were not questions I cared to answer. These were not calculations I wanted to make. In some cases, the answers themselves made me uncomfortable. I want to believe I love everyone equally, but the process of creating a list suggests otherwise.

What of the friends from my childhood? Are they any less meaningful to me, despite the fact that they’re from a different time in my life? And what of the friends who are far away? Are the any less to me, simply due to proximity? My answers would be No – but in making a list, I’m forced to say Yes.

The very first group on the list, immediate family members, is a given. Numbers 1 through 20 feel like they a preceeded by the phrase “I love you very much.” Anything after Number 20 feels like it’s preceeded by the phrase “I don’t love you as much as…”

I don’t mean to make this a family versus friends issue. Liz and I both have large families, and I feel very lucky that we have so many people who are willing to travel a very great distance, at a very great expense, to be with us on our wedding day. We simply have a lot of people we want to join us, on our day.

Ultimately it’s a space and money issue. And I know every couple goes through this, when planning their event – there’s always more folks than there is space. This, I’m sure, has been true for more couples than just us.

In my head and my heart, it’s difficult for me to separate the invitation and the emotion associated with it. To me, the invitation is a gesture, an extension of my affection for the recipient. And on the other side of that… the absence of an invitation seems like an absence of that affection.

The wedding invitation distills back into a measurement of love to me, even though I know it really doesn’t. The guest list is a logistical concern, a tool to help manage real-world concerns like space and money. It’s not a gauge of who I love, and how much I love them… it just feels that way, a little bit.

This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. You are a preeminent people-pleaser, my friend! But I tend to be one too, and making that list was the one thing I dreaded most about the wedding process; it’s probably what took us so long to actually make it happen. But at some point it became clear that there was just no way I could possibly include all the people I loved and cared for, and after a while I realized I didn’t need to.

    The pressure to create The One Event to Rule Them All was a bear, and allowing myself the ability to step back and accept that there would be plenty of other opportunities to celebrate without all this climactic people-choosing made it easier to just think of the wedding party as just that – a party. It became much easier to focus on the intimacy of the moment between myself and my bride rather than worry about whether I’d invited enough people, the right people, etc.

    Because the reality is you won’t have the time to share any kind of intimacy with friends on the wedding day itself. You just won’t. Good friends understand this limitation and are more than happy to celebrate when it’s easier for them to tell you directly how happy they are for you!

    So savor the experience as it pertains to you and Liz and try to stop worrying about the experience of everyone else. It’s hard (lord, do I know), but this is one day when you’re expected to be selfishly caught up in the experience of just the two of you!

    chris Reply


  2. Amen, Chris.

    I feel your pain, Felix. The husband and I had a very small, intimate wedding (about 40 people total) and even though that was exactly what we wanted, it still pained me to not invite all of my aunts, uncles, cousins and friends. But at the end of the day, the people who love you and care about you will be supportive and be happy for you, whether or not they are there.

    And think about it this way…those people you aren’t inviting to your wedding – would you expect to be invited to their’s? Probably not. So it may be safe to assume that most of them aren’t expecting an invite anyway, and absolutely understand that you can only fit so many people in one space.

    margaret Reply


  3. :checks mailbox:

    :flounces away:

    Mellzah Reply


  4. I think this similar feeling is, at least partially, what lead us to have 16 people in our wedding party! SIX-FREAKING-TEEN! You’re not alone Felix.

    Have the reply cards been coming back unscathed?

    Dustin Reply


  5. The reply cards have been coming back intact, believe it or not. A little scuffed on the edges due to the sorting machines, but the small envelope that we attached stayed attached. So far so good!

    avoision Reply


  6. For the record, Chris has never once pleased me. (“You are a preeminent people-pleaser, my friend! But I tend to be one too”)

    But more to the point: your true friends will understand if they are not invited; those who don’t understand have no business being invited. In other words, all good, Felix.

    Macaroni Bob Reply


  7. My tips are too late for you, but on the chance it may help someone else out… We did a “destination wedding” in Acapulco Mexico (around the time I was working with you).

    On the plus side:

    - Easy invite list: If you’d hop on a plane, we’d be happy to have you.
    - Limited control over most things. My wife and I are both control freaks, so not having the ability for total control was kind of nice. We flew in 3 days early, talked to the vendors our hotel had lined up, and made our final decisions.
    - Ultimately we had 20 guests, we got to spend a lot of time with each of them, not just the typical stop by the table to talk for 5 minutes.
    - Cost, we spent a total of $5k on the wedding. Not that $5k isn’t a decent chunk of change, but from everyone I’ve talked with that’s a cheap wedding. Divide that amount among 20 guests, and people were well taken care of.

    On the minus side:

    - Couldn’t ever get a straight answer on requirements to get legally married in Mexico. At one point the Mexican consulate said we needed to bring X-rays… suggesting I assume, that we couldn’t get married if I had a broken femur? Also we never got a straight answer on legal fees, many quotes were in the $750 range. In the end, we used a local minister for the ceremony, and did the courthouse thing back home. Was very easy, and there is no questions about legality.
    - Admittedly, this one sounds odd: Guests turned our wedding into a vacation (which is fine), but we had guests at our hotel for the duration of the honeymoon (one couple even stayed longer than we did). Hindsight, some overlap was great, but it would have been a good idea to politely suggest vacationing guests arrive the week prior to the wedding, and depart a few days after the wedding. Not sure how you could tactfully pull that off, but it’s something to consider.
    - I wanted a tux, and my wife wanted a wedding dress…. Mexico was roasting hot in April. We both still talk about how hot we were during the ceremony.

    My final bit of advice is that no matter how much you plan, and how much you prepare… things WILL go wrong at your wedding. Don’t sweat it, most of the time you will be the only one that knows something is not how you wanted it, and your guests will have no idea. Don’t let it ruin the day for you.

    Scott Reply


  8. I hear ya on this one! A.P. and I have been keeping a list and every once in a while we wil update it based on if we still talk to people or not. But I know what you mean, there are some people who I want to invite but I don’t feel justified in spending that much money on them. I agree with Margaret…probably you wouldn’t get invited to their wedding anyway.

    Did you guys consider having an A list and a B list (which is a terrible, terrible name for it), so that if some people from your A list RSVP no, you can invite ppl from the B list? Just a thought. Either way, it works out for the best. It’s a wedding, and it’s all about you and Liz and your love for each other.

    Marty J. Reply


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