Unexpected Additions: How do I deal with a wedding guest who invited their own guests?

Q: We’re having an evening wedding with a dinner that starts at 8 p.m. and decided not to include children on invitations.  Now, a couple we invited have responded that they are coming and bringing their four children plus one boyfriend. This has caused tension in the 11th hour and we are wondering if we erred.  Is it appropriate to put a line on the formal invitation such as “No children”?

A: You did not err—the breach of etiquette is on the invited guests’ part, not yours. “No children” or “Adults only” should never be used on an invitation. The way an invitation is addressed should indicate exactly who is—and by omission who is not—invited to the wedding.  Whoever is hosting the wedding should immediately call the invited guests and explain in kind terms that the children, boyfriend, and guest were indeed not invited due to limited capacity, financial restrictions, or whatever you may feel most comfortable with.


  1. D

    We ran into this problem with our own wedding even though we had “spread the word” that children were not invited. We had a family member call and explain the situation to them. They did not attend, but there were no hard feelings. The bigger issue is think how other people would feel knowing their kids weren’t invited, and then show up to see a whole family in attendance? Not very fair for the rest of your guests.

  2. J

    I recently received a wedding invitation that was addressed to my husband & I, but not my son. I just want to clarify: does that mean he is not invited to both the ceremony & the reception, or can I bring him to the ceremony & leave him with a sitter for the reception?

    • Elizabeth

      It means that he is not invited. It may be the case that the wedding is being held in a public place like a church, and they cannot bar you from bringing your son. However, it typically means that he is not invited to the ceremony and the reception.

      • Elizabeth

        Yes, I agree – you should not bring him to either. (I can see how my response may be construable as a suggestion to bring him because they can’t bar him from a church, but that was not my intention!)

    • Winifred Rosenburg

      Actually I agree with Elizabeth’s first response. While it is true that he is not invited, invitations aren’t always necessary when the ceremony is in a public place like a church. When my sister got married, my mother-in-law (who was not yet my mother-in-law at the time) asked if she could come to the ceremony. (She really likes weddings.) I asked my sister who said “Of course!” There were also a few people at my wedding ceremony whom I didn’t invite, but I didn’t mind at all that they were there. I think if it’s in a public place and you think it wouldn’t disrupt anything, you can ask if it’s okay to bring him. (You should ask first because there may be space issues.)

  3. C

    Be firm but vague in your response. If you cite financial hardship, for example, you are merely giving the rude guest a tool for negotiation, such as an offer to pay for the extra plate. Simply say the invitation applies only to those to whom it was addressed, and you cannot accommodate anyone else. Express your hope that the invitee will be able to attend anyway.

  4. Amanda

    I have a question about guests inviting guests. I recently invited someone I’ve been meaning to get to know better over to my home (I will call her Linda). Beforehand, she was out at a happy hour with someone else we both know (let’s call this other person Amy). It was not a work function, it was just the two of them meeting up for fun. A half hour before she was about to arrive, Linda texted asking if Amy could come to my home as well. I found this offensive on several fronts. First, I don’t think it’s right to invite someone else to a person’s home (especially when Linda and I aren’t close). Secondly, they clearly made plans without me before coming to my home. I don’t have a problem with that but it seems rude to enjoy someone’s hospitality when you do something separate together beforehand. Am I being uptight or is this a violation of good manners?

    • Elizabeth

      It was very rude for Linda to put you on the spot and ask if she could bring Amy. It would be difficult if not impossible to think of a “nice” reason why Amy couldn’t come. For example, one could say “oh, well I’ve already made dinner for us and I unfortunately only have enough for two.” or “oh, well I was hoping it would just be the two of us since I don’t know Linda that well.” However, most people would acquiesce, even if they didn’t want to, because of how awkward the question is. The other option might have been, “oh, it sounds like you and Amy are already making a night of it. Why don’t we get together next week when you’re free?”

      However, I don’t agree that it was rude of Linda to make plans prior to her plans with you. It would have been perfectly fine for her to meet Linda for happy hour, and then come over to your house as planned.

      • Amanda

        Thank you, great advice! And I just want to clarify that I am not objecting to their making plans beforehand. Just that they started the night out together and made that known when they came to my home. They kept referring back to conversations they had earlier in the evening, which was awkward for me. If Linda intended to invite Amy to my home, she should have at least invited me to the establishment they went to beforehand. This whole situation is so weird and I found the behavior very ungracious! Definitely not extending an invite to either woman any time soon.

  5. Jean

    My daughter and I are experiencing a similar problem. We are on a limited budget with a capacity limit at reception venue due to fire codes. She and her fiancé decided to limit the plus ones only to people with whom they have been introduced to or have double dated with, etc., which keeps it intimate and the numbers within range. (This includes her own siblings.) We now have family member who is a single mom and wants to bring a boyfriend in lieu of her children. I asked her to wait until after the RSVP deadline and then we’d let her know, but the siblings immediately said that was unfair to them and others. This is so true. What’s the best way to handle this?

    • Elizabeth

      Your daughter presumably invited the family member and her children because she knows them and wants to celebrate with them. The children and the boyfriend are not interchangeable. It was a mistake to consider the request, and you can tell her that (as well as the siblings). “Sally, I know we said we’d get back with you on your boyfriend, but we’ve since realized it isn’t fair to everyone else’s partner that we weren’t able to accommodate. We’d love to have you and little Johnny with us, but if you aren’t able to make it we understand.”

    • Lori C

      The relative’s boyfriend was not invited. Her children were invited. It is incorrect for the relative to ask to bring her boyfriend instead of her children. Because he was not invited. Elizabeth came up with an excellent script to explain this to the relative. Her choice is to attend, to attend and bring her children, or to decline the invitation.

  6. Jennifer

    I’m running into a similar problem. I’m receiving RSVPs back, and someone has included their bratty 2-year old who was NOT on the invitation. This person is an old co-worker, so it’s not like my mom can just call her up for a chat and then gently hint at her wrongdoing. I won’t be providing a high chair, extra seat, babysitter, or anything. I’m not really sure what to do. Help!

    • Elizabeth

      Jennifer, the solution is simple. You do not have to “hint”, but rather you need to be direct. Since this is a coworker, you most likely have an email address for her and have communicated that way in the past? You can easily send her a quick email that reads something like this:

      “Dear Coworker,
      Fiance and I were delighted to receive your response card to hear that you and Spouse will be attending our wedding. Unfortunately, our wedding is adults-only, and the venue cannot accommodate children. (or whatever is closest to your situation) Hopefully we can see little Charlie another day. Looking forward to seeing you at the wedding!”

    • Lori C

      Jennifer, Since you are receiving the RSVP’s back, it is up to you to directly deal with the person who added an extra person. I suggest you call them. If someone is close enough to be invited to your wedding, you have a phone number, correct? “Hello Betty, this is Janet Weiss. We received your RSVP card for you and Barney. We noticed you added Bam Bam to your RSVP. I am so sorry but we are unable to accommodate Bam Bam. Thank you for understanding.” You are under no obligation to explain why you are unable to accommodate Bam Bam. Be prepared for Betty to sputter, “Well, we never go anywhere without Bam Bam, we would never leave him with a stranger!” You repeat, “I am so sorry we are unable to accommodate Bam Bam. We understand if you are unable to attend our wedding.” Don’t let Betty say Bam Bam will be no trouble, he does not eat much and more excuses to get her way. Keep repeating “We are so sorry we are unable to accommodate Bam Bam.” Close by telling them you will miss them at the wedding.
      Or if you are fortunate, Betty will say she understands and will find a sitter. Your response, “Excellent, we will put you down for two! Looking forward to seeing you and Barney!” Good luck!

  7. Vickie

    We actually had 20 or so people who did not rsvp show up at our wedding. We did not plan on extra seats as it was a sit down dinner. Those people were told that there were not enough seating for them as they were not on the list of responding guests but were invited to wait for the meal to finish in the lounge and were invited to join in for the cake cutting and dancing afterwards. There has to be a limit on hospitality.

    • Lori C

      Vickie, Whoever was receiving the RSVP cards for your wedding should have contacted everyone who did not RSVP after the date passed. Yes, I know, no one should have to chase RSVP’s for for a sit down reception dinner. But in my opinion it was incorrect to embarrass these 20 or so extra people. It was incorrect for them not to RSVP. It was incorrect for you to use this situation to teach them a lesson.

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