The Guest List: Who You MUST Invite

Roman Grinev Photography

Guest list negotiations often threaten to turn even the most loving of relationships into a battleground. Between well-meaning coworkers, your parents and their lifetime friends, your new in-laws and your own individual lists of friends and family, things can quickly get out of control. It’s tempting to trim the list at every possible turn when budget or space get tight, but there are some rules that shouldn’t be broken.

Spouses and Truly Significant Others

If you’re inviting someone who is married, you must invite his or her spouse. It doesn’t matter if you know or have ever met the significant other; it’s  an insult to invite half of a long-term, committed couple. This rule applies to fiancés, to other same-sex couples, whether or not they are legally married, and to any couple who has lived together in a romantic relationship for a considerable amount of time. You do not, technically, have to invite the current boyfriend, girlfriend or random date of your guests if the relationship is new or not considered “serious.” If you have space, it might be more comfortable, especially for your attendants, to have a plus one, but you’re not obligated. How do you let your guests know who is and who is not invited? Etiquette requires that you address the invitation to all of those who are included. This information may be included on the inner envelope, if you have one, or directly on the outer envelope if you do not. Ask your stationer for more input on exact invitation addressing.

Your Officiant and Spouse

Whether you have hired your officiant as a professional vendor, or have a personal connection, you must invite him or her to your reception festivities. Hired officiants will most often decline. It’s awkward to be the guest who doesn’t know anyone except the couple. Clergy may or may not attend depending on how well you know them. Personal friends or close clergy are very likely to attend, with a spouse when applicable. Decide in advance if you plan to ask your officiant to say a blessing at your dinner, as it’s more comfortable to be prepared for that role.

Anyone Invited to the Ceremony

Regardless of the space available at your reception or your financial constraints, anyone invited to the ceremony needs to be invited to the reception. It’s fairly uncool to say to someone, “you mean enough to me to celebrate in my union, but not enough to pay for your meal.” You might think you’re being kind “allowing” them to witness your marriage, but it does not outweigh the insult of being excluded from the party. Some couples will host a simple reception, then a private dinner later for immediate family. As long as it’s done with extreme discretion, it’s one possible work-around for this rule. There are many more people you don’t have to invite: children, casual acquaintances, coworkers who are not close friends, your parents’ neighbors from 25 years ago (unless your parents are paying!) and your distant relatives whom you have never met. You also should not feel obligated to invite anyone who doesn’t support your same-sex marriage, regardless of the relationship. Don’t mess with the “must invite” rules, however. The faux pas will be a tough one to live down.

Photo courtesy of Roman Grinev Photography

S. Walker is a freelance writer for GayWeddings.com.