THE BLOG
08/02/2013 12:26 pm ET | Updated Oct 02, 2013

Can You Disinvite a Wedding Guest?

You never want it to happen. Emily Post and all rules of etiquette assure us that it should never happen. However, every so often a bride and groom must disinvite a wedding guest. Most people believe you cannot disinvite a guest once invitations have been sent. But it happens. Life happens. Unforeseen events happen. Friendships tank. Situations that the bride and groom cannot predict occur from the time an invitation was sent up to the wedding day. I've seen it happen. In fact, I've seen it happen more than once. Each time it caused a lot of anguish (on both sides) and had serious repercussions on the relationship. So if you ever find yourself in this delicate situation, here is some advice.

Why Would (Should) You Ever Disinvite Someone to Your Wedding?
Technically, it is your wedding and you can invite or not invite whomever you choose. That being said, inviting someone and then rescinding that invitation requires tact and serious consideration. If you've told people they are invited but later decide you want to downsize your wedding, a polite phone call can handle this situation. It's not a fun phone call, but people appreciate being told the truth and realistically, they understand. Otherwise having heard you are invited (or receiving a save the date card) and then never receiving an invitation is a slight. However, if someone has done something severe and you are afraid that having him or her at your wedding could jeopardize the event or cause a scene, then disinviting that guest is understandable. Or if the person has done something so crappy that the bride and groom can't stand the thought of the guest being at their wedding, disinviting them makes sense too.

I knew a bride who caught one of her bridesmaid's hitting on her fiancé about a month before the wedding. When the bride questioned her friend, the bridesmaid confessed she always had feelings for the groom. Awkward. She was removed from her bridesmaid duties and disinvited to the wedding. Another bride I know discovered a guest was involved in a crime and due to the seriousness of that crime, the bride and groom were not comfortable having that guest at their wedding. In both instances, the bride called the guest and explained why she thought it would be best for everyone if they didn't attend.

These are definitely extreme and stressful circumstances, but I agree with both brides that having those guests at their wedding would have only caused discomfort and negative feelings for everyone involved.

How Do You Handle the Uninvite?
If you have the guts to rescind a wedding invitation, you've got to have the guts to do it face-to-face or at least over the phone. Telling someone they cannot come to your wedding with a casual email, text or Facebook message is harsh. And as we all know, text on a screen lacks the compassion or tact that is required when giving such a message. For my friend who disinvited the friend involved in something criminal, it was difficult. There were two sides to the story. But the thought of it all was too stressful and not having that person at the wedding seemed like the best solution.

Most likely the guest in question doesn't want to come or has already decided to ditch (in the above example, the bridesmaid felt so guilty I think she was too embarrassed to come). No one likes confrontation, and these aren't easy conversations to have. But it's better to address issues head-on. The sooner you discuss the issue with the guest, the less stress it will cause everyone. Remember, life goes on after your wedding and these people are involved in your life. How you handle uninvited guests will affect the future of that relationship. Be honest, be gracious and be direct. Maybe you don't want to mend anything and you would prefer to tell someone off. If that's the case, by all means send a bitchy text. But remember, 'live by the bitchy sword, die by the bitchy sword.' In the above-mentioned legal situation, the bride made a very uncomfortable phone call, discussed the issues privately, and it was handled.

The Half-Invite/Half-Uninvite
Were you expecting an invitation that never came? Unfortunately, no one can expect an invitation, however some brides send very mixed signals. More often brides are inviting women to their bridal shower and/or bachelorette party but not their wedding. This behavior enters treacherous waters and can upset and offend friends. It's also a little tacky and confusing. If brides are having a small wedding, family only, or an intimate destination wedding but want a big shower or bachelorette party to celebrate with more friends, then brides must communicate that. When a woman is invited to shower, she assumes she's invited to the wedding. Every couple planning their wedding has their own life and limitations to consider: cost, location, time, etc. but know that if you invite someone to your shower or bachelorette party but are not inviting them to your wedding then you need to explain why. Maybe a nice email could do the trick, but I think when things get delicate, the courtesy of a phone call is the least a bride can do. Most women and friends will totally understand if you keep them in the loop. Going to a shower and then seeing photos of a wedding you weren't invited to on Facebook is just mean.

Ultimately it's impossible to please everyone when planning a wedding. The older we all get, the more we realize that life goes on. Not being invited to a wedding isn't the end of the world. If something upsetting or intense happens that causes you to disinvite a guest, that relationship probably needed a conversation anyway and the wedding just pushed things to the surface. Nobody wants to hurt anyone's feelings so as a bride be kind and honest with your guests. And if you aren't invited or are disinvited to a wedding, while feeling hurt, understand that no one is owed a wedding invite.