After spending nearly two years at home—and attending minimal weddings—Émilie Fournier was thrilled to receive an invitation to her friend’s upcoming nuptials. The problem? She and her husband were already invited to two other weddings on the same day: one on the opposite coast and the other in Canada. “We are having to think creatively about how to allocate our time across all of the people we want to celebrate with,” she shares.
Believe it or not, Émilie’s party predicament isn’t as rare as it might’ve been a few years ago. Since many couples decided to postpone their 2020 or 2021 nuptials due to the ongoing pandemic, some guests are forced to pick and choose which celebrations to attend. From the inevitable FOMO that comes with missing a major milestone to the risk of hurting the newlywed’s feelings, this sticky situation can become awkward quickly.
So, how should you prioritize each wedding? Is it even possible to attend multiple events in one day? And, most importantly, how do you decline the other invitations with grace? To help, several etiquette experts shared their tips for navigating this tough decision. Though their responses vary—some experts are ready to embrace a new normal while others are sticking to the traditional etiquette rules—you’re bound to find the answer to your personal dilemma.
Meet the Expert
- Jodi RR Smith is the president and owner of a Massachusetts-based etiquette consulting firm Mannersmith.
- Stephanie Teague is a wedding planner in Northern California.
- Nick Leighton is a co-host of the etiquette podcast “Were You Raised by Wolves?”
- Lisa Lyons is the owner of an event and etiquette firm in Florida.
How Do You Pick a Wedding to Attend?
If you scored an invitation to a couple’s wedding, it means that they care about you and want you to be present on the most important day of their lives. However, if you received multiple invitations for the same day, you have to decide which couple you want to celebrate the most. (Awkward? Absolutely. Necessary? Yes.)
For Jodi RR Smith, president and owner of a Massachusetts-based etiquette consulting firm called Mannersmith, it’s important to consider your long-term connection with each couple. “You may currently be very invested in your co-workers—after all, you spend hours and hours with them each day. Therefore your emotions are telling you to attend a teammate’s wedding,” she explains. “But, your cousin’s wedding may be the better choice as 30 years from now, your cousin will still be a part of your life while these co-workers may fade quickly as you progress in your career.”
While choosing a family member over a colleague is an easy choice for some, the plot often thickens if you are invited to multiple friends’ weddings. When the decision feels more personal, it’s important to be honest with yourself and reflect on each relationship.
“If you have been asked to be a wedding party member and you choose to accept the honor, you should commit only to that wedding and respectfully decline the other,” says Stephanie Teague, a wedding planner in Northern California. “If the timing and logistics would make it impossible to attend both, then you should evaluate your relationship with each couple and decide which event would be more meaningful for you to attend.”
Still struggling to choose one wedding over another? It’s time to turn to the logistics. “In terms of how to choose which wedding to attend, the key factor is which couple you’re closest to,” says Nick Leighton, co-host of an etiquette podcast called “Were You Raised by Wolves?” “But, if the closeness level is neck-and-neck, then other factors can be weighed: which invitation arrived first, the travel costs, and time commitment involved.” Sometimes, this tricky decision is more practical than personal.
Is It Possible to Attend Multiple Weddings?
In a perfect world—one where the logistical stars align—you’d be able to attend small portions of each couple’s special day. But, is that actually doable? Honestly, the jury’s still out on this call. For Lisa Lyons, owner of her eponymous event and etiquette firm in Florida, it’s in your best interest to choose one event and stick with it. “Splitting the difference does not make either couple feel particularly special,” she says. “Unless the events are at wildly different times—unlikely—it is not fair to either couple to be a halfway attendee.”
However, other experts say it is possible to get the best of both worlds—provided you are upfront with each couple. “A good goal would be to attend the ceremony and cocktail hour of one wedding, and then dash off and make it in time for dinner and dancing of the other,” Teague recommends. “Be sure to let each couple know your plans so couple A is not reserving a place setting and dinner for you and couple B knows that you’ll be walking in a little late.”
Ultimately, it depends on your personal bandwidth. Will attending both weddings give you some peace of mind? Or, will running from one event to another become a complete headache? After all, weddings are all about having a good time, so you don’t want to bring any stressful energy to each event.
But, thanks to a new set of “modern manners,” it is possible to get a little creative about your RSVP. In addition to tuning into live-streamed ceremonies, Lyons said it’s okay for families and couples to divvy up the guest duties. “Particularly if each of you has a close relationship with one couple or another, splitting up and attending your respective weddings solo is your best option in this scenario,” she shares. “Yes, you may miss your significant other, but each couple will be so grateful for the effort made to be there on their special day.”
And, if you do feel guilty about missing out on a couple’s special day, see if it’s possible to attend their engagement party or wedding shower.
How Do I Decline an Invitation?
You made your decision, but now what? Though declining an invitation might be a tad awkward, it’s important to let the couple know as soon as you make the decision. But, instead of ticking off “no” on an invitation, Lyons says it’s important to give the couple a heads-up. “When it comes to the invitation you will be declining, requesting a personal meeting or a phone call at the very least is a sincere and thoughtful gesture,” she shares. “Opening a declined RSVP without any previous intel will likely be hurtful and confusing.”
As the saying goes, honesty is the best policy. While it’s hurtful to tell a couple you’ve prioritized a different wedding–let’s be honest, nobody wants to hear that—you can kindly let them know you have another obligation and unfortunately cannot attend. “It can be nice to make an effort to plan to do something with them to celebrate after-the-fact, such as taking them out to dinner,” Leighton adds.
Speaking of celebrating, our etiquette experts agree that you should send a gift to each couple—regardless of your RSVP status. “As a reminder, wedding gifts should be sent with the willingness to give, and within the parameters of your budget,” Lyons shares. “Sending an extravagant wedding gift ‘out of guilt’ when your budget cannot support it not only misses the point of giving, but can also appear transparent.”