Up To The Last Minute Guest

by admin on August 15, 2012

I was invited to a friend’s wedding yesterday.

…Except only to the ceremony.
…And I was invited by a group message on Facebook.
…Oh, and did I mention that it’s on this weekend?

While I was not in the least offended at not being invited at all, as I know that (like us) she’s planning a very small wedding, I find this kind of hasty, impersonal grab at a few extra last-minute guests rude at best and downright insulting at worst. 0812-12

If readers will notice, this story was submitted on Sunday, August 12.  That means the OP received the online invitation on Saturday for a wedding held either later that same day or the following day.

Yes, it appears you and several others were last minute add-on guests.  Makes you feel special, doesn’t it?

{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

Katie August 15, 2012 at 8:51 am

This was obvious a last-minute invitation that wasn’t dressed up to be anything else. I don’t see the problem with that: it’s easy to refuse on the grounds that you’re busy.

Most people don’t have infinite space/capacity at a venue, and inevitably, some people are going to be on the ‘reserve’ guest-list if the original guests drop out. Very often, the ‘reserves’ are people that the couple would love to have there, but just can’t afford to accommodate.

It is interesting to see that some people would find it more offensive to be on the ‘reserve’ list rather than not be invited at all! Where I’m from, I have found people to be quite open about reserve lists, even communicating to particular people that they are next in line, should anyone else drop out.

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Katy August 15, 2012 at 11:30 am

I did find it offensive once when I found out I was on the reserve list. I found out less than a week before the wedding. I was upset that they gave me no time to make plans to go, especially since it was several hours away from me. It generally gave the feeling to those of us on the reserve list that we were friends when there were chairs to be filled, but not important enough to the couple to warrant an invitation to the event in the first place. The way you are describing it sounds even more offensive, as the couple is implying the ‘reserve’ guests have nothing better to do than to sit around and wait to see if they are going to be invited or not. That devalues their time.
There is a way to do reserve lists without being offensive, and that’s to send out invites to that list in a timely manner so the people who are on the list never know if they are on the reserve list. Inviting someone last-minute is a surefire way to let someone know that they are on the reserve list.

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Katy August 15, 2012 at 11:34 am

Oh, and these days a lot of people who get invites to things they probably won’t be able to go to (and the couple should know that a day-of invitation is probably going to be turned down) view it as a gift grab. Whether it is or not is up for debate, but even if the couple didn’t mean it in that way, if it is taken that way they may lose friends/family members.

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Shiny Gloria August 15, 2012 at 9:44 am

Bleh, I think reserve lists are offensive. I’m with the OP. I’d rather have someone say, “We’d love to have you at the wedding, but it’s going to be so small and space so limited that we can’t. Let’s have lunch and catch up on xxxxx date.”

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AS August 15, 2012 at 10:09 am

@Katie – the major problem with the post is that it was a last moment invite, via a group facebook message, for only the ceremony . That sounds more like either a gift grab, or that they don’t have enough warm bodies to fill up the ceremony venue (maybe the ceremony has way bigger seating capacity than the reception). If I am invited to a wedding, I’d prefer to be invited because the couple loves me to be there, rather than for my wallet or as a filler.

Coming to your second point: “It is interesting to see that some people would find it more offensive to be on the ‘reserve’ list rather than not be invited at all!” If I am not invited to a wedding, then I’d know that they are not close enough to make it to the cut down guest list that the hosts have. But if the hosts makes it obvious that I was invited as a reserve, then I’d feel like a second class guest while at the wedding. Basic curtsey demands that no guest should be made to feel less wanted than others by the hosts. In everyday life, we are always closer to somepeople than others. But if we have two good friends, Ant and Bat, and we are closer to Bat, we don’t go around telling Ant that we are closer to Bat even if that is true and Ant already knows it.

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Katie August 15, 2012 at 12:40 pm

I don’t mind being a reserve at all :) I just think of it as being a financial thing rather than anything else. Also, sometimes there ARE people there who in all probability they would rather un-invite and have their ‘reserves’ there (e.g. family members who you can’t *not* invite, etc). So I don’t mind at all, and I personally wouldn’t perceive it as being a slight/second class. But that’s just me!

I think the other point re. just the ceremony is a cultural thing, maybe? In the UK, it is normal to have two ‘tiers’ of guests anyway… the very close friends and family go to the ceremony, meal and reception (normally an evening disco type thing with a buffet), and then more people again get what we call an ‘evening invitation’ (just the disco). So I’m guessing a ceremony-only invite would be like our equivalent of an evening invite?? I don’t know, I’m just guessing :)

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AS August 15, 2012 at 10:15 pm

Katie – you have a point about the kinds of invite. In USA, I suppose if a wedding is at, say 2PM, then it could be a ceremony and snacks reception, and close family and guests go to a dinner afterwards. There is no reason for hosts to serve dinner to all the guests, and perfectly acceptable for close family members who would stay back to have a family dinner afterwards. It is not clear in the post what time the reception would be, if at all there was any.
(In my custom (I immigrated to USA) the weddings are between sundown to sunrise (yes, at night!). So I haven’t been to many weddings in USA and only know because of getting married to an American recently, and reading this site. Where I am from, there is a dinner followed by the wedding).

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postalslave August 16, 2012 at 11:52 am

This is how it is in my area as well. It’s a financial thing, people get it. It’s not a huge deal.

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Cara August 15, 2012 at 10:21 am

Reserve lists are great as long as people don’t know they’re on it. That’s why you send out invitations with RSVP dates, and as one invitation is declined you can send one to someone on the reserve list.

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Cat August 15, 2012 at 10:38 am

Perfect time to leave a message on her Facebook page wishing her every possible happiness in her new life.

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Ripple August 15, 2012 at 11:21 am

Why on earth would someone add extra guests to the ceremony only? I can somewhat understand wanting to have a full number for the reception so food isn’t wasted (but there would probably be someone who would like a second helping of food), but why the ceremony? So what if you have a few empty seats?

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Lola August 15, 2012 at 11:29 am

From the manner of the invitation, I wonder if this wasn’t a quick quasi-elopement. I.e. happy couple wanting to have it both ways — have friends and family fawn over them, take photos, and give gifts without having to actually throw them a party, feed them or put any thought into accommodating their schedules and preferences. If there’s one wedding trend I abhor more than destination weddings, it’s the quasi-elopements. It happened to a dear friend recently and poor thing was near tears, as she felt that this was a snub by the bride — her thinking was, “If [bride] really wanted us there, wouldn’t she give us more than 2 days notice and bother to issue a personal invitation or a phone call vs. a Facebook group invite?” To add insult to injury, said friend was invited to the bachelorette party for the same bride on Friday afternoon. The party was to be held on Friday evening, giving her only a couple of hours to RSVP and prepare. The kicker was, DAYS before all this came about, the bride (not engaged yet at that point) was confiding in my friend about her relationship doubts and whether the groom was the right man for her. While I don’t personally know the bride, the way she handled her engagement and wedding seems to indicate a thoughtless, selfish, and entitled attitude with no grasp of manners. Does not bode well for marriage, where success rests on parties’ empathy, proactive communication, and the ability to compromise.

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manybellsdown August 15, 2012 at 1:37 pm

I once received a verbal invitation to a wedding from the groom, 4 days before the event. This was not, as someone else suggested, a last-minute elopement, but a very large expensive affair. It was quite clear we were C-list or lower invitees. I’d honestly rather not be invited at all than be invited as an afterthought. Not being invited can have lots of reasons; lack of space, lack of money, desire for an intimate ceremony (my wedding had a 12 guests and almost all were family). Being invited at the last minute says “you’re not one of the in-crowd”.

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TylerBelle August 15, 2012 at 2:29 pm

The “only to the ceremony” gets me. I really don’t know what to think of receiving something as that. I would decline and send a simple, polite congratulations, and let that be it I suppose.

Though I do think it’s better if no one catches on they are on the reserve list, I can tolerate those as long as every guest is treated the same. From the A listers to the Zs, all get to enjoy the perks of what ever wedding festivities is being had.

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lkb August 15, 2012 at 3:46 pm

I was a last-minute invitee to a wedding once and I wonder if the scenario is similar (mind you, my situation was pre-pre-pre Facebook (you know, when dinosaurs walked the land! ;D).

I had a work-friendship with a delightful young woman who was getting married. She was one of those people that everyone liked. A few weeks before the wedding, she had mentioned attending a Renaissance faire and saw a lovely set of goblets (the stems were pewter statues, one of Romeo and the other of Juliet, posed in such a way that their hands could be joined). She mentioned liking them very much but regretted that the budget would not stretch to the point she could buy them. She really only mentioned it in passing and it was definitely not a hint for a gift.

Unbeknownst to her, I had planned to go to the same Renaissance faire the following weekend with my family. I surreptitiously took up a collection and easily gathered enough (with plenty left over!) to buy them for her as our workplace gift. We presented them to her on her last day of work before the wedding and she was thrilled.

It came out that I was the instigator behind this (turns out I was the only one she had mentioned the goblets to at our workplace) and she invited me to the wedding. (I think she also invited others from work at that same time.) I only attended the wedding (it happened to be at my church and I somehow had to see her in her bridle finery), though I could have gone to the reception as well.

I had absolutely no problem being a last-minute invitee. Could this have been a similar scenario for the OP or other Facebook acquaintances?

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Allyne August 15, 2012 at 10:32 pm

What a beautiful story! Thanks for sharing this one.

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RedDevil August 15, 2012 at 6:58 pm

I don’t see any problem in being invited to the Ceremony only, providing the reception is a) in a different location to the ceremony so you’re not booting guests out, and b) the reception is far smaller in size than the ceremony – ie, perhaps just family and a few close friends.

The picture I have in mind is a public park/garden/beach wedding, where there are no chairs, or very few of them, and guests are expected to stand – a casual affair; followed by a reception for just the family, bridal party etc, at another location (restaurant or what-have-you).
In such a case, it’s clear the couple wants you to share in their joy, but can’t afford to pay for everyone for dinner. I think it’s becoming more common now as the cost of living increases. I don’t believe a present would be expected either, as the presents are usually taken to the reception to be placed on a table there, not hauled around the ceremony venue.
At least, that’s how it works round these parts.

On the subject of last-ditch invites – I was invited to an old classmate’s wedding once, verbally, by his mother, simply because I’d happened to bump into her. I politely declined.

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Anonymous For Fun August 16, 2012 at 12:04 am

If as a bride you are in need
And fain would know whom to seat and feed
Let Grace and Mercy to you plead
Each guest is gold and you should heed
Have you thoughts that “It’s just MY Day!”
Put all such childishness away
Open your heart and let them stay
Your guests will make a happy way
Do you mutter over budgets
Fuss of when and how to cut it
Simpler fare take for your subject
And you will not have to fudge it
Has the stress reached up to the skies
Forced tears from sad and tired eyes
Give you to ways both kind and wise
Your fame and honor highly prize
How many in your family tree
In his, and with your friends agree
To do an event that you afford
Shower your love and not discord
If parents all or friends adored
Offer help of gifts ,room or board
Be pleased to receive, gratefully
For the light given of hearts, free
And tend your guests all one way, see
Have no first, preferred, then laity
No memory will cause you shame
Nor others justly offer blame
Your peace and joy you will retain
“Happy Day” will be your refrain

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essie August 16, 2012 at 7:18 am

I see 2 possibilities:
(1) It wasn’t an invitation at all, merely an announcement. I see a lot of letters to columnists complaining about last-minute (or even after the fact) invitations when what they actually received was an announcement.

(2) Gimmepigs.

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Ginger August 16, 2012 at 7:25 am

Really? It seems so petty to get upset about something like this. We all know that the majority of people can’t afford to invite everyone they’d like to invite to a wedding. Like it or not, family is often invited first and depending on the size of your family, that can be almost the entire guest list despite desperately wanting to share it with other people. Sometimes friendships spring up or deepen in the time between wedding guest lists being made and when the wedding actually occurs. I take the last minute invite to be the bride and groom realising that they would very much like to share the day with you if their budget was different. Really, why get offended? Perhaps they were so relieved to have a cancellation so that they could invite you rather than Great Aunt Maud who they were forced to invite. They certainly aren’t trying to make you feel like a bottom tier friend – probably the opposite in fact where they don’t want anyone to feel excluded that would like to be a part of the day. I also take an invitation to the ceremony to mean that they would love you to see the actual ceremony which to me is the most important part of getting married. I would never think that there is an expectation for a gift if you are invited to a ceremony (quite the opposite), just a desire not to exclude you from a precious moment. Perhaps though, this is a cultural difference because there is absolutely no way you would invite people to only attend a reception – the ceremony IS the wedding!!! When I got married, I had a few extra friends and parents of friends who came to watch the ceremony. I would have been mortified if they had brought a gift. It’s just not a gift grab. I have also just gone to the ceremony of friends that got married but couldn’t afford to invite me to the reception and quite frankly, I like it like that! I don’t always love spending an evening at a reception with a lot of people I don’t know, particularly if I am only friends with the bride and groom and don’t know the rest of their circle. Life is too short to take offense where none was meant. If you don’t want to go, don’t feel obliged. They will realise that it is highly likely that you already have plans. If you’d like to go and see the bride and groom on their special day, then go and don’t let yourself feel like your less than the other guests.

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Katie August 16, 2012 at 7:24 pm

I agree and think this is a great post x

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Kimstu August 17, 2012 at 9:55 am

@Ginger: “I take the last minute invite to be the bride and groom realising that they would very much like to share the day with you if their budget was different.”

I kind of doubt it. Did you miss the part where the OP was invited with ONE DAY’s notice via a GROUP FACEBOOK message?

Treating one of your B-list, ceremony-only, no-hospitality-offered wedding guests as a last-minute afterthought, who doesn’t even rate the courtesy of an individual invitation or any personal communication at all, is NOT what friends do when they realize “that they would very much like to share the day with you”. THAT’s why you get offended by it. A guest who tries to tell herself that this kind of cavalier thoughtlessness doesn’t clearly imply that she’s regarded as a “bottom tier friend” and “less than the other guests” is just being a doormat.

Here’s what the bride would do if she ACTUALLY really wanted to share the day with you and for some reason only had a seat at the ceremony available and only found out about it the day before. She would call you personally (yes, even with all the other things the bride has to do on the day before the wedding, she’d take time to do that!) and she’d say something like:

“Hi there [name], this is [Bride], I’ve been thinking of you and wishing so much I’d been able to invite you to my wedding tomorrow, well guess what, we just this second found out that there will be a place available at the ceremony, is there any way you could possibly join us then? I feel terrible that it’s such short notice and even worse that I couldn’t include you at the reception, you know how cramped a small wedding is, but it would mean SO MUCH to me even to be able to see you there smiling at me during the ceremony, of course I totally understand if you can’t make it but I would so love it if you could…pretty please could you?”

THAT (or something like that, at least) is how you make a last-minute invitee feel as though you really care about having them there.

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Bint August 16, 2012 at 7:54 am

Bad taste. ‘Come to my ceremony’! Then leave without any hospitality. Yeah, thanks, I feel special.

This sounds like one of those ‘I wanted to shaaaaare’ things that people pull, which only ever seem to involve other people giving them lots of attention and/or presents in return for the minimum effort on their part. Inviting someone to watch you get married and then go home is not ‘sharing your joy’, it’s just self-centred.

If this were a church wedding here, you could go without an invitation, heh heh!

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June August 16, 2012 at 9:53 am

I would have been offended with a same day/weekend invite, too. If it had been a week or two before the wedding, *maybe* it would not have been as upsetting. This appears to be an after-thought invite, or as some has mentioned, a seat-filler invite.

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Jared Bascomb August 18, 2012 at 2:02 pm

I would be very ticked off if I received a last-minute invite, and I find the idea of being on a “reserve list” equally offensive. IMHO, you invite the number of people you can afford to host to BOTH the wedding and reception – and assume that ~20% will be declines/no-shows. Inviting people to one part of the celebration only or having certain guests on a B-List is rude.

A few years ago I got an invitation (printed and very creative) from my somewhat-distant cousin to his out-of-town after-the-fact marriage celebration. They had about 150 people in attendance at their home.
When it came time to cut the cake, he gave a short welcome/thank you speech and explained the circumstances of their marriage: They didn’t want all the fuss of a big do, so he and his husband invited a small group of close friends to a casual at-home dinner. At the end of the dinner, he announced that they were going to married – right then and there. One of the guests was an ordained minister and she performed the ceremony.
The party we were all attending several weeks later was indeed a (no gifts!) celebration, but the minister was also in attendance so they exchanged their vows again in front of all of us!
It was great, and worked out well for all involved.

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sv August 22, 2012 at 5:38 am

What a lovely story! I would have been thrilled to witness such a creative and genuine marriage ceremony. Wishing them much happiness :)

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Hmmm... August 24, 2012 at 9:24 am

It’s not an invitation but rather an indication that they are ‘sloppy gimmes’ and you should be grateful you never got sucked in by a stationary invitation because that’s also not worth your time!

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Enna September 25, 2012 at 7:10 am

This is just bizarre.

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Mer October 31, 2012 at 12:08 pm

I don’t really find “B-lists” offensive per se, but I do think that there are differences in the situation depending how you do the invitation.

Around here it is really difficult to find locations that could hold a lot of people. To have a place where even 200 (massive wedding around here, but now after reading this site I think at least some of you would not use word massive with that amount of guests) people could dine are hard to find. And in addition to that, capacity of the venues are determined usually by fire regulations. That means that if the capacity is 147, you don’t squeeze in person 148. But most venues are a lot smaller, quick search around my area showed that venue for 70-80 is easy to find, larger places are a lot harder to come by.

This is just to say that even if you have the money, finding place to accommodate all the loved ones might be difficult. So, if I would be the bride working with very limited space, I would hope to fill it as full as possible to be able to share the day with as many loved ones as possible. I for example have a social circle, a group of university friends, with around 50 people. After a handful of very close ones, rest are about same level of friendship and most of us see each other regularly in different social situations. Given the venue restrictions I would say that it would be impossible to invite all of these. However most of them would be persons I would like to see at my wedding.

So what I would do in the scenario of finding that some family is for example fallen ill or something other impossible to know beforehand, I might consider calling some of these friends, taking into account to consider who would be pleased or if someone could be offended and explain situation and ask if they would like to join our festivities with such short notice (probably indicating somehow that all I ask is to show up and have some fun). I would think in our social circle people a) do know that even if we all are friends, most of us have smaller groups within the same circle that are considered “the friends” and b) venues here are really limited in size so with family also in picture, it is impossible to invite all friends. Actually quite several has resorted to holding a separate, very informal, no gifts or fancy clothes expected, parties for friends sometime after the wedding itself. They are not called weddings but more like “Hi guys, we got married two weeks ago with only family and very close friends but we would like to celebrate this with all of you too.”

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