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

by epi on January 29, 2014

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.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

D January 29, 2014 at 11:20 am

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.


J March 18, 2014 at 8:23 am

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 March 18, 2014 at 9:31 am

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.


Alicia March 18, 2014 at 10:13 am

He is not invited and you should not bring him to either.


Elizabeth March 18, 2014 at 10:39 am

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 March 18, 2014 at 11:06 am

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.)


C April 9, 2014 at 5:23 pm

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.


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