It's always an awkward situation to be approached by someone — say, a childhood friend, work colleague, or extended family member — who asks outright if they're going to be invited to your wedding, especially if they're not. What's a bride to do?
"When we are caught off guard, we often say things we later regret," says Diane Gottsman, etiquette expert and owner of The Protocol School of Texas, "but having a few key responses makes it easier to convey the message with tact and authenticity."
Here are four perfect responses — so that you'll never be (regretfully) caught off guard.
1. "Unfortunately, we have space constraints."
You're going for an intimate fête and you reserved a small space to fit. So when someone wonders if they'll get a seat at a table, simply say, "The venue is quite small, so we had to make some difficult decisions on how to trim our list. I would love to get together sometime soon and introduce you to my fiancé," Gottsman suggests. This approach works because "it demonstrates that you care about their feelings, you have a relationship you want to maintain," says Gottsman, "but also explains real limitations and how they affect the guest list."
2. "Our family is paying."
When your family is footing the bill for your big day, you may not have a lot of say in certain decisions — including who makes it onto your wedding guest list. If that's the case, you can set a would-be guest straight with this response: "Our family is paying for the majority of the wedding, and they have given us strict parameters. Because of this, we'll be inviting more of their friends and less of ours. I wish we had more flexibility in the invitation department." Why is this the perfect response? "It shows that you have significantly less control over your wedding planning," Gottsman says. "People tend to understand that family and money dynamics can complicate your choices."
3. "We're hosting a destination wedding."
Having a destination wedding can be an escape — but not from would-be guests who want to dip their toes in the sand, too. If you're throwing a faraway fête, let someone down easy with this response: "We're having a destination wedding and the cost is exorbitant. We trimmed our list significantly. We'd love to have you over for dinner after the honeymoon." You shouldn't feel bad for turning them away, Gottsman says. "Most people understand the high-price tag associated with having a destination wedding. Many are even secretly grateful they are not on the guest list."
4. "We're on a budget."
You've got a budget and you're sticking to it all by yourselves. If you and your fiancé are paying for your own wedding and that's caused you to limit the wedding guest list, explain why a coworker isn't invited with this response: "We are paying for the wedding without help from our parents, and have so many cousins, aunts and uncles that our guest list is at capacity. We couldn't invite one coworker without another, so we made the decision to plan a separate event." And don't sweat it. "Your co-workers will understand if you've had to draw the line in limiting guests by categories," Gottsman says.