No Spouses At The Rehearsal Dinner

by admin on August 14, 2012

My husband is the best man in his cousin’s wedding a few months from now which has put him in quite an uncomfortable position. We have no idea the polite/correct way to handle this situation so I’m hoping you all can give us some good direction.

A few weeks ago my husband received the details on the rehearsal dinner. Included in the text cousin wrote that significant others were not invited. My husband assumed that to mean no boyfriends/girlfriends but called the cousin to find out. Sure enough he was told that due to their restaurant choice they will not be able to afford for any of the bridal party to bring their husbands or wives (a total of 3 of us not invited).

Last year when we got married I made sure that we budgeted for everyone and had a home party catered by a local restaurant to lower costs. Cousin’s GF at the time was invited so I feel really hurt that I was not included. The kicker is that I work at the school next to the restaurant so I will be getting off the same time as the dinner and will drive past them. My husband is torn about the situation. He does not want to go without me yet he also knows that he is best man and his family will chew him out if he does not come to the dinner. I am trying to remain neutral when talking to him about this on this but obviously inside I am thinking, “Please don’t go!!!”. I’ve looked a lot on wedding websites and it seems to be pretty well known that the proper etiquette is to invited spouses, yet cousin told my husband that he doesn’t see anything wrong with it. What would be a good way to handle this situation? 0813-12

I am flabbergasted that Cousin is so ungracious and uncouth as to not invite the better halves of his bridal party members to the rehearsal dinner.  Cousin choose pricey, upscale restaurant ambiance and food over the civility of good relationships for many years with at least one cousin.   People should be aggressively finding ways to avoid barriers to positive, happy family experiences and relationships and if that meant scaling back plans to prioritize people over place, you do it.  This decision to exclude spouses of the wedding party is profoundly stupid and short-sighted.

Rant now off, what to do?   Discussing this further with the cousin is futile, imo, because if he does change his mind, it was due to pressure and not a real change of heart.   Would you really want to attend knowing Cousin extended the invitation not out of love for his extended family but rather because he felt guilted into it?    Cousin apparently knows your husband isn’t in agreement on this and he’s stubbornly stuck in his choice.

I think your husband should go to the dinner in order to fulfill his obligation as best man and to keep the family peace.  But that doesn’t mean he has to do more than what he is obligated by his position to do.   After dinner is over and all other official business done, he can take his leave by bidding good bye to his cousin with, “I must be getting home to my lovely wife.  I will see you tomorrow. ”

I think you should also prepare yourself for the possibility that your husband could arrive at the rehearsal dinner to find all other spouses are there except you.   I don’t like to borrow trouble prematurely but something about this story has my “Uh oh” hairs on the back of my neck tingling.   In which case, I think your husband can ask his cousin, “Did you intend to purposely exclude only my wife from attending this dinner?  Because she appears to be the only spouse not invited to this affair.”    Depending on the answer, your husband may face a hard choice.   He may want to resign his role as best man right there but I suggest that he carry on with his duties as he should be a man of his word.   But that doesn’t mean he has to do his job 110% or with great enthusiasm.  Civility and responsibility doesn’t demand that we must act as if we are enjoying the process but does require behavior with decorum.   Your husband would not want to do anything that could be used by his extended family to accuse him of undermining Cousin’s wedding joy.

But once the wedding is over, the frigidity of an icy cool relationship can commence while Cousin wonders why on earth his best man and cousin is so distant lately.

{ 83 comments… read them below or add one }

tangerine August 14, 2012 at 9:37 am

I think the cousin is being very rude. At my rehearsal dinner we included ALL of the bridal party and ALL of our relatives who had come from out of town. It seemed to me that it was a nice opportunity for everyone to socialize before the wedding and certainly better than leaving them all to find their own way around a strange city.


Ellen August 22, 2012 at 6:18 pm

I agree. I don’t understand how anyone can celebrate their contract of marriage and proceed to exclude the significance of others’ similar vows.
I think the husband and wife should make reservations for two at the same restaurant and wave at the bridal party across the room.


starstruck August 27, 2012 at 7:16 pm

i love that idea ellen, and was myself wondering why they dont just go and pay for her meal themselves if the bride and groom cant afford it. my husband would do that in a heart beat


Bint August 14, 2012 at 9:40 am

Very rude of cousin. Very rude indeed. But yes, in your husband’s place I would go. Strip it of meaning. It’s a duty he has to do, and it’s just one dinner away from you. If the cousin doesn’t think it’s important enough to do it properly, don’t see it as important either.

If Admin is right about everyone else being there, I agree your husband should ask why you’re left out. After that, I am torn. Clearly the easiest way is to smile graciously, be best man and then keep his distance. However, there is something rather splendid about someone refusing to play along, of the man who won’t put a wedding ahead of his wife’s treatment. After all, what is more important to him?

I hope Cousin has the deep joy of everyone asking where you are, being openly shocked and then reminding him that you invited his girlfriend. Should this not occur, however, take joy from the fact that you and your husband were generous, lovely people, and that your rehearsal dinner wasn’t spent defiantly reminding yourself that it’s YOUR day, knowing all the while just how mean you really are. Don’t kid yourself – Cousin knows he’s just a tight-fisted git, and so will everyone else.


Katie August 14, 2012 at 9:48 am

I’ve heard of this happening, and, while I personally think it’s bad manners, from talking to other people, I’ve come to realise that it’s one of those things on which people differ (I’m in the UK, so we do have somewhat different traditions over here, btw).

I wouldn’t take this personally. If there are three spouses/partners not invited, then clearly, it’s not a did at the OP. Unless I’m radically misreading the post, I can’t see *anything* in there to suggest that the OP is the only one left out, so I honestly can’t see where Admin has got that. If that does turn out to be the case, then I think that the only thing your husband could do is to leave the dinner immediately.

What I suspect, though, is that they have put a blanket ‘no spouses’ rule on the dinner to avoid all the other people (who do not have a spouse/long-term/serious partner), from bringing what amounts to a ‘date’ to the dinner. Now I do not agree with this (I think that everyone should be invited to bring a guest), but that may be an explanation. I would not take this personally unless you have been given reason to do so.

Whether your husband goes or not is up to him (0r you both as a couple) but I think that Admin’s suggestion of the ‘icy cold relationship’ AFTER the wedding is totally wrong. If this has upset you to the point that you don’t want a relationship with the bride and groom now, then I think that now is the time for him to pull out of best-man duties.

Personally, though, I would try to just not take this personally and see it for what it (probably) is- a clumsy cost-cutting device.


Meegs August 14, 2012 at 3:59 pm

I agree 100% with this entire post.


AS August 15, 2012 at 10:48 am

I don’t agree that everyone should be invited to bring a guest. You don’t want to spend upwards from $50 a plate for someone your guest just invited because he/she was allowed to invite. But I still think that spouses (and long term partners) are supposed to be invited to social ocations together.

I agree with you thought that I don’t see anywhere in the post either suggesting that only OP was not invited, and all other spouses were invited. I hope that is not the case, but there is no reason to believe right now that it is either. They probably have a blanket rule for bridal party only. OP, please do update us!


June First August 16, 2012 at 1:07 pm

The couple should live within their means. If they can’t afford to feed the spouses/dates of the people at the rehearsal dinner, then they should find a better way (like OP’s catered-at-home dinner) to cut costs. The family means more than the food.


Jay August 15, 2012 at 1:08 pm

I don’t agree with this. Not inviting spouses just so you don’t have to worry about the single people feeling unpartnered? Ludicrous. You could make the same argument about the wedding itself, but presumably the spouses were there.

There is a completely standard “rule” that says you don’t invite one half of a married couple to an event without inviting the other half, unless it’s a very specific group of people (like a bachelor party).

The Admin is definitely jumping ahead with the thought that the other two spouses might be there, but she acknowledges that.


ferretrick August 14, 2012 at 9:54 am

I disagree with admin. Attending the rehersal is not optional, but I don’t think the rehersal dinner is an essential requirement of fulfilling your duties as best man-certainly something you would do in 99% of cases, but not a prerequisite. What is there to do besides eat? If I was your husband, I would show up at the rehersal on time, do everything there is to do, and then excuse myself from the dinner with, “I’m sorry, I cannot fulfill that request. I have other plans to have dinner with my lovely wife at home.”


Elizabeth August 14, 2012 at 1:00 pm

You have come up with the perfect solution. You are absolutely right that what the best man needs to be there for is the rehearsal itself, and not the dinner. Nice job!


Sarah Jane August 14, 2012 at 10:10 pm

I agree with ferretrick…I never understood rehearsal dinner attendance as a “duty”. I thought it was an expectation of the groom’s family to accommodate the bridal party (and their spouses,etc) after the rehearsal.

I think you could reasonably attend the rehearsal, do your job, and split before dinner. Tell them all this wedding business puts you in a romantic mood and you’d like to be with your wife.


Katie August 14, 2012 at 9:55 am

Ps- I meant ‘dig’, not ”did’, and I have just realised how many ‘personally’s there are in my post!! 🙂


Hal August 14, 2012 at 10:20 am

I agree with the moderator. Your husband should go and be pleasant but not enthusiastic. It is only one dinner, actually. Don’t let it escalate. If the other spouses are there he should not mention it. Others will notice and comment for him. Pretend not to be offended. Do not give power to this cousin.


SlyDude August 14, 2012 at 10:22 am

This is someone that picked you to be their best man. Do you not know them well enough to be able to start an open discussion about alternatives to excluding your wife? That would be sad.

If the cost is the limiting factor, why not offer to pick up your own tab if you’d like to attend?


Katie August 14, 2012 at 12:01 pm

Yes, I agree with this. To me, it would seem weird to *not* say anything if I was *that* upset by this, and yet be close enough to the groom to have been chosen as best man.


AMC August 14, 2012 at 12:54 pm

I like this suggestion. If the issue really is the cost, then Best Man paying for his wife to attend should solve the problem.


Cherry August 15, 2012 at 6:27 am

The Op says “yet cousin told my husband that he doesn’t see anything wrong with it”. I took this to mean that OP’s husband has already voiced an opinion on the matter and been dismissed by his cousin. I could be wrong, of course.


michelle August 16, 2012 at 10:40 am

OP here, my husband did voice his concerns but of course I wasn’t expecting an after thought invite. I offered to pay for my food but he denied it saying that this was the rule and they weren’t budging on it.


Cat August 14, 2012 at 10:23 am

So cousin is an insensitive idiot. Any family lacking in insensitive idiots, please let me know. I have more than a few and would be happy to give you one. No, no, don’t thank me. I’m happy to help.

There’s nothing stopping the three uninvited spouses from getting together and having dinner together on the night of the rehearsal dinner. If you want to make a point, go to the same restaurant so you can arrive and leave with your spouses without making a scene over it. You can also go to another restaurant and enjoy yourselves there. Depends on how the three of you feel about it.

I would go through with my obligations with the wedding. Cousin doesn’t sound like the sort of person with whom I would pursue a close personal relationship in the future.


Kaiti August 14, 2012 at 3:39 pm

I like that idea – call the other spouses and see if they’re game for an SO’s night out.


June First August 16, 2012 at 1:09 pm

That’s a fun spin on taking the high road!


No Wedding August 14, 2012 at 10:27 am

Is the wedding party all family members? Some families are just plain weird about who they consider “family.” My X’s is a prime example – my family invited my then-fiance on a “family” vacation. When his family planned one, he was told I couldn’t come because I wasn’t “family.” And it wasn’t just me, any spouse or significant other that came into that family was treated like an outsider.

I think admin’s advice is good – go to the rehearsal, go the dinner, and then leave saying you have to get back to your spouse. I understand your hurt feelings, OP, I would feel hurt too, but if my boyfriend had to go to an event like this, I’d say go and not make a big deal out of it. There will be many times in your marriage where you may not get to eat dinner together, so just consider this one of those times and let it go. And congrats, OP, I think you said you were married a year ago, may you have many, many happy years together!


Shiny Gloria August 14, 2012 at 10:47 am

Since the rehearsal dinner is at a restaurant, I’d be tempted to go with my husband. You can always pay for your own dinner and let the cousin know that if he questions why you are there.


jena rogers August 15, 2012 at 9:13 am

Regardless, there may not be space. I think this action would put OP in E-hell.


confused August 14, 2012 at 10:58 am

My “uh oh” radar is up too. Sorry you are in this position OP, especially seeing as the restaurant is beside your school. I agree with admin that your husband is pretty much honour bound to fulfill his duties as best man but as admin says – this does not have to be above and beyond the call of duty. Where I’m from the best man has to sign the marriage license, give a speech, dance with the chief bridesmaid and maybe handle some of the money that has to be paid on the day. As long as your husband does all of that (or whatever else is required where you live), he does not have to try to be the best best man ever by doing any more, IMO.
Have you spoken to the 2 other spouses to see if they are also not invited? I wouldn’t call them and ask just that, but maybe with the pretext of arranging a car share or something you could ask? Not lie exactly, but your husband could call them and talk about something else before asking if they have also been invited? In case you are being singled out, forewarned is forearmed…
feel free to ignore any of this advice, you know the people involved better than I do, but think about it!


Jen R. August 14, 2012 at 11:24 am

Do you know the other spouses? Even if not, I’d reach out to them to arrange a dinner nearby, and the bridal party can join you for a drink or dessert following the rehearsal dinner. You’ll likely be spending time with these people during the wedding & reception, anyway.


Ashley August 14, 2012 at 12:01 pm

Husband and wife should be invited together, as they are a social unit. I can’t believe cousin wouldn’t invite you together.

I agree with Admin that Husband should go and fulfill JUST his duties, then leave right after dinner and mention getting home to you.


gellchom August 14, 2012 at 12:50 pm

I think that Bint’s post was perfect, especially the first paragraph:

“Very rude of cousin. Very rude indeed. But yes, in your husband’s place I would go. Strip it of meaning. It’s a duty he has to do, and it’s just one dinner away from you. If the cousin doesn’t think it’s important enough to do it properly, don’t see it as important either.”

And I intend to remember your words, “Strip it of meaning.” Great advice for many situations in life in all kinds of relationships. There are times to focus on the underlying meaning of others’ words and actions — but not nearly as often as we think, especially when we are hurt or offended. Thank you, Blint for an excellent mantra.

Of course, the hosts were rude not to invite spouses. But I see no clue to chalk it up to anything other than their being clueless or stupid. It’s not a personal slight. I, too, see absolutely no reason to speculate that the other spouses were invited; there was some sort of written instructions that said something like “no significant others,” right? Maybe the admin is contemplating that the others will just show up anyway or that their spouses will request invitations for them? Either of those things would be wrong, too. So would the uninvited spouses’ showing up at the same restaurant — very childish, as well.

The OP’s husband is the best man at this wedding. Therefore he should, despite their rudeness, attend everything, including this dinner, and not with any passive-aggressive reserve or frostiness or badmouthing them behind their backs, either, but with an eye to making sure that all the guests have a good time. The best man’s job is to help everything having to do with the wedding go smoothly and succeed, not to give the bride and groom lessons in etiquette (even when sorely needed!).

And in my opinion, giving the bridal couple the deep freeze over this after the wedding is a bit much, too. If there are other reasons not to be close, fine, but as this is a case of etiquette cluelessness, not a personal slight, I think cutting them over it is too severe a punishment.


Library Diva August 14, 2012 at 3:09 pm

I learned a great phrase in grad school: “assume goodwill.” It definitely changed my life. Normal people don’t go around scheming how to passive-aggressively hurt others for no reason. If someone really is like that, it often doesn’t take long to figure that out. In this case, someone probably erroneously told the couple that the only people invited were the ones actually in the wedding, or that it was otherwise OK to leave out spouses, or that you either had to allow everyone to bring a plus-one or no one, or some such nonsense.

Spouses should definitely have been invited to this, but it was probably not meant as a personal slight against the OP. Just people being not very smart.


Katie August 15, 2012 at 8:19 am

Agreed 100%, LD! I try to do this as well. It always becomes apparent eventually if people DON’T mean good-will towards you, and then at least they will have been given the benefit of the doubt.


GleanerGirl August 29, 2012 at 4:30 pm

But if the best man told the groom that he’s mistaken and that spouses are properly invited, and the groom stubbornly clings to his “that’s the way we’re doing it,” rather than apologizing, then good will has rather gone out the window.

If the groom were to apologize for the hurt feelings, and say, “Look, I know this upsets you, but I’m under all this pressure to have 27 attendants, and my parents are forcing me to have the rehearsal dinner at a fancy venue, and they insisted on the no-significant-others rule, and I just don’t have it in me to fight one more battle at this time. Please go along, for my sake,” I would be forgiving. There’s a difference between callous indifference and too desperate to do the right thing. Cousin seems callously indifferent. Deperation, though, I understand, have witnessed too many times, and can easily forgive. In that case, he’d need the best man’s moral support more than ever.

I agree with giving people the benefit of the doubt. I also think they should be given fair warning that you are doubting them, so they have time to rectify the situation, if possible, or beg for understanding, if not. If you just bite your tongue and go along quietly, then you are not helping them.


Ann August 14, 2012 at 1:36 pm

I’m having a deeply sarcastic chuckle over this. This guy is getting married yet has no 1) concept of being married and what that entails socially, and 2) manners. It should be a marriage filled with just loads of respect and well-raised children.

Admin’s advice is spot on.


TylerBelle August 14, 2012 at 2:31 pm

I agree that your husband/best man should go and fulfill his mandatory duties and let that be it. The cousin and his bride’s behavior (or who else calling the shots for the rehearsal dinner) were rude and they should have chosen a place to fit the other halves of the wedding party in.

A good thing is that it seems you live in the same town as the rehearsal dinner, wedding, etc., though I’m sorry you have to go right by the location at the time of the event, that’s kind of stinky. Although it could have been worse. Say the wedding you were attending was quite a distance away, for this dinner you may have been left to languish on your own in the hotel room in perhaps an unfamiliar town. There are a number of stories on the site of this exact thing happening.

I don’t know much else to say, besides as difficult as it may be, I’d put a smile on my face and try to put it behind me and enjoy what I could with my husband who thinks of me first.


Margaret August 14, 2012 at 2:52 pm

Maybe one of the other significant others is toxic, and the couple is dealing with it by not inviting any significant others.

Or maybe the cousin is just a social clod, and really did choose venue over people.

If it were me, it wouldn’t bother me for my husband to go. I’m an introvert, though, so I would find it stressful to be expected to attend the dinner.


Marc August 14, 2012 at 3:40 pm

I see there are some advocating having the spouse come along anyway (and even picking up the tab for her). Don’t do this! Just because the cousin was rude not to invite the spouse doesn’t me you get to be rude by crashing a party. Just being in a restaurant doesn’t make it right. The groom may have reserved a room or have a section set aside just for the party. It may also cause some confusion when the others who did not bring their spouses see you show up with yours.

I also disagree with skipping the dinner altogether. This will likely come off as passive-agressive. The Best Man has various duties, and attending the rehearsal and dinner are usually included. If you are looking to pull out of the responsibility completely, then that is a different story.


Tracy August 14, 2012 at 5:08 pm

I think ferretrick’s advice is spot on. He should do his duty (i.e., attend the rehearsal and serve in the wedding) but the dinner itself is completely optional, and it’s perfectly appropriate to decline that particular invitation.

Also, I’m not sure why admin feels there are going to be other “plus ones” there? Is there something that was cut from the post?


Kendra August 14, 2012 at 5:41 pm

I think I’m going to bring up a point that caught my attention, but isn’t mentioned anywhere in the post and that is….Who exactly is paying for the rehersal dinner? Traditionally, the groom’s family pays for the rehersal dinner. Is it possible that cousin’s parents are paying for the rehersal dinner and “laid down the law” on no-one at the rehersal dinner except those who are actively in the wedding and now cousin is forced to enforce that rule regardless of how he feels about it? If the cousin is not the one planning the dinner, then we might be being a little harsh against him. Giving the benefit of the doubt.

To the OP, most of the advice seems good, but I would avoid just showing up saying that you’ll pay your own meal or planning an “alternate” dinner at the same restaurant with the other spouses. Both smack of pettiness and childishness and no one will think better of you for it. If you are close to the other spouses, you could invite them to your house for a ladies night in with sappy movies and pizza or you could make your own plans for the evening like spending time with your friends. For your husband, I agree with the others, that he should attend the rehersal dinner because it is his duty as best man. As others have pointed out, the rehersal is not mandatory, but some families have a tradition of the best man and maid of honor giving toasts at the rehersal dinner and that would be part of your husband’s best man duties. I think it might be easier if your husband could find out, without prying, if this is cousin’s decision or if it is someone elses decision that he has to enforce. It’s not fair to blame someone for the actions of others. Also, for your husband, if this is a “deal breaker” for him and he feels that he cannot in good concience support this cousin in his marriage, then he should withdraw from the wedding as soon as he can. Though I do agree with the admin that your husband should honor his word, if he can no longer truly support his cousin’s wedding, he should gracefully bow out while the couple still has time to find a replacement.

On the silver lining part of the cloud, at least you live in the area and aren’t going to be left on your own to find dinner as best as you can in a strange city. 😉


Cat August 15, 2012 at 3:00 pm

I disagree that going to the same restaurant with the non-invited spouses smacks “…of pettiness and of childishness and no one will think better of you for it.” The wedding party is having the rehearsal dinner at this restaurant but, unless they have booked the entire restaurant for the evening, they have no right to dictate who may or may not choose to dine there.

There is no reason spouses cannot travel together. Why should they have to take two cars or have one of them find alternative transportation? That’s really bending over backwards to accommodate rude people. Of course, you would not expect to sit with the wedding party or to share in any of their celebration.

It makes no difference as to whose decision this was. It’s not a blame-game. The fact is that the spouses were not invited and they do not have to go out for pizza or to exclude a non-invited husband for a “ladies night out.” The point is not to exclude significant others. Their doing it does not give you the right to do the same thing.

Bowing out over this slight seems overly dramatic. “You didn’t invite my wife so I won’t do it! That’ll show you!” and then flouncing off is not adult behavior. I’d reserve that for folks who shoot my dog, cast aspersions on my sister’s reputation, and who steal my family Bible.


Kendra August 19, 2012 at 3:44 pm

I stand by what I said.
You are right, it is a restaurant and if they haven’t booked the entire restaurant ( the op doesn’t say one way or the other) they can’t dictate who may or may not eat there. However, how would her just showing up at the restaurant play out? If she shows up without the other non-invited spouses, I would expect that she would want to sit with her husband, effectively crashing the party. Even if she is paying her own way, she is still going to a party she is not invited to.

“Of course, you would not expect to sit with the wedding party or to share in any of their celebration.” How would that work? She would sit at the other end of the restaurant from the wedding party and eat alone. What would be the point of that except to point out to the wedding party something along the lines “you rude people didn’t invite me, so I’m going to sit here and hope you feel guilty.” If that’s not petty and childish, what is? Even if she eats with the other significant others at that restaurant, the point would still be to “show the cousin and bride how rude they are being by excluding us.”

I’m not sure where you are going with the spouses driving together thing. The op states that she works in the school next to the restaurant and she will be getting off work about the time as the dinner will be starting. Assuming that the rehersal is before the dinner and that hubby will be at the rehersal, it is a good bet that they will already be in separate cars. The way I read the post is that she will have to pass by the party going into the restaurant, reminding her that she is not invited, hurting her feelings which is completely understandable. But just showing up at the restaurant is also rude and as we’ve said on this forum many times, responding to rudeness with rudeness is still rude.

No, it’s not a blame-game. I’m just pointing out that it might be possible that the cousin doesn’t deserve all of the names he’s being called in the comments. Who is planning the dinner does have some bearing on how much responsiblity the cousin has. If someone else is planning (and paying for) the dinner, cousin may be in the position of not having much say in who is invited and who isn’t. I can think of many reasons they might want to exclude spouses of the wedding party, though it is still rude not to invite spouses. The stated reason of not being able to afford may not be the real reason since cousin has stated catagorically that no spouses even ones willing to pay their own way.

“Bowing out over this slight seems overly dramatic” Really, most of the advice here for the husband has been to follow through with his promise, do minimum necessary, strip the role of meaning then distance themselves from this rude couple. He is the BEST MAN, one of the major players in the wedding party and supposed to be one of the staunchest supporters of the marriage. If he can’t fulfill his duties with a full heart and to the best of his ability, then maybe he should bow out, gracefully, now while they still have time to find someone who can support them in their wedding. Nobody said anything about throwing a tantrum and “flouncing” off. But to me, planning on “phoning it in” then distancing themselves after the wedding before the wedding has even happened seems worse than not getting invited to the rehersal dinner.

Nobody said anything about excluding the non-invited husband. I was just saying that if op didn’t want to sit at home by herself on the night of the dinner feeling excluded that she might want to make other plans that night. She could have either a night in or night out the other spouses or she could make plans with other family and friends, or she could even plan an evening for herself doing something she really enjoys but doesn’t usually have the time to do.


RedDevil August 14, 2012 at 5:42 pm

Wait, I thought the rehersal dinner was essentially to thank those in the wedding party, for the work they have done that day (the rehersal) and will do the next day (wedding day). So, to me it seems that as the dinner is only for the wedding party, and as OP isn’t IN the wedding party, the invite wouldn’t naturally be extended, but could be extended if the hosts wanted to. Am I wrong about rehersal dinners?

The fact that the OP hosted cousin and fiance at her rehersal dinner but is upset that she is not in turn invited to cousins sounds similar to expecting any exchange of gifts (wedding, christmas, etc) to also be of equal value – which we all know is etiquette failure. Just because you did it, does not mean the other party must also do it, and vice versa.

I think the husband should go to the rehersal dinner. He was asked to be cousins best man, and he agreed. He should also continue to fulfil his best man duties in the manner he planned to perform them before the rehersal dinner snub. One breach of hospitality is not worth potentially upsetting the couples wedding day, or causing the breakdown of any relationship.


dahaling August 15, 2012 at 10:09 pm

Nope- you don’t invite half a married couple out to dinner. Ever. Rehearsal dinner doesn’t make any difference to the calculus.


Library Diva August 16, 2012 at 12:06 pm

I’m betting that this is exactly how the couple in question looked at this when they were doing invitations to the rehearsal dinner. The rehearsal dinners I’ve been a part of have included spouses and significant others of the wedding party, and often even close family that have no role in the ceremony (grandparents, siblings, etc.). I think the couple was just being too literal-minded in their invitations. I can understand why the OP feels hurt and angry, but I doubt this couple intended anything malicious. They made a bad choice, but I still think OP’s husband is duty-bound to attend, to not be a little black raincloud, and to stay a decent amount of time. He can eat and leave, certainly, and not stay into the wee hours of the morning, but two wrongs don’t make a right.


Jenn50 August 14, 2012 at 5:52 pm

So, the passive-aggressive nasty girl in me would like very much to invite cousin to any future events without his new bride. If asked, give the innocent, deer-in-the-headlights look and say “Oh, I thought we’d decided it was socially acceptable to not invite each other’s spouses in order to save money.”

Okay, I would never really do that. But it would feel REALLY good. Instead, I would go to the dinner, leave as soon as I could, in order to meet up with OP and the other excluded spouses who would hopefully have gotten together for a fun dinner and drinks. I would perform my duties civilly, and just remember in the future that these people thought so little of my feelings and those of my wife, and conduct my relationship accordingly. No nastiness, no drama. Just with a lesser expectation of the kind of hospitality likely to be offered.

The other alternative would be to go overboard with gracious hospitality towards them any time you’re hosting, and if they comment, you say “Oh heavens, of COURSE we’re including Jane! I would feel just AWFUL knowing she was left sitting alone while we were having a party!”

But then, I guess I’m just evil.


2browneyes4 August 14, 2012 at 6:17 pm

I agree with (1) Bint “strip it of meaning”, (2) gellchom “despite their rudeness …. The best man’s job is to help everything having to do with the wedding go smoothly and succeed, not to give the bride and groom lessons in etiquette (even when sorely needed!)”, (3) Ann “This guy is getting married yet has no … concept of being married and what that entails socially”, and (4) Ashley “Husband and wife should be invited together, as they are a social unit.”

Yes, it seems that the bride and groom are clueless, however, the best man should show up, do his duties cheerfully, avoid any situations that would involve him in any further tackiness perpetrated by the bride and groom, and make a mental note to observe the new marriage throughout the years for further indications that the bride and groom have no idea what marriage really means. I’ll bet it will be interesting.

I was once slightly offended by a similar, yet not nearly so deep situation. I was asked to be hostess at the wedding of two friends (I knew them both before they knew each other). My wedding invitation included “& Guest” and I intended to invite the guy I was then dating. The bride also told me to invite him to the rehearsal dinner. Well, two days before the rehearsal dinner, the groom called me and said “Are you bringing someone to the rehearsal?” and before I could answer, he yelled “Don’t!! My mother is paying for this!!” Actually I did not intend to bring the date to the rehearsal, but I thought it was kind of tacky for the groom to (1) “uninvite” my date after the bride said I could bring the date, and (2) ask that I not mention his request to the bride. I didn’t mention it at all. Tacky!!


Liz0613 August 14, 2012 at 9:50 pm

I don’t see a problem with this at all. Maybe the cousin just wanted it to be close family before his big day. Maybe he doesn’t get along with the wives or maybe his wife doesn’t want them there. It’s just a dinner, not the wedding itself so what’s the big deal?


dahaling August 15, 2012 at 10:10 pm

The big deal is it isn’t socially acceptable to invite one half of a married couple out to dinner. Maybe if cousin just wants it to be close family, he needs to get over himself.


Liz0613 August 29, 2012 at 11:00 pm

Married couples are two individuals. There is absolutely no need to invite both people. What if you dislike your friend’s spouse? Does that mean that you have to invite them to every event? Absolutely not!


bloo September 1, 2012 at 3:31 pm

I’m sorry Liz, but you’re wrong on this one.

A marriage is two individuals making up one unit. So for social occasions, both must be invited to ‘every event’. Absolutely.

It has been acknowledged on this site and the forum that recreational occasions: gaming, sports, hobbies, bridal showers, bachelor parties, etc.) can be handled differently (I’m not offended to not be invited fishing with my DH and some of his male buddies).

But social occasions such as dinner parties, backyard bbq’s, weddings, graduation parties and others too numerous to list mean that both halves of that one unit must be invited. It is rude and hurtful to do otherwise.

It is NOT rude and hurtful for one-half of that unit to decline while the other half attends, but the most the Head Couple can do is HOPE for that if they actually dislike their friend’s spouse.

You may find this quote taken from Miss Manner’s article in Washington post interesting:
“Yes, a host should select interesting guests, and yes, a host cannot invite half of couples to most social events.

How are you going to manage doing both?

Miss Manners has a solution for you, but it does not involve making clear to your friends that you can pick interesting people for an evening better than they can for a lifetime.”
Original article here:


JWH August 15, 2012 at 6:02 am

Whoever’s hosting the rehearsal dinner sets the rules. If this person says no spouses or SOs, that means no spouses or SOs. If BM has a problem with this, he doesn’t have to attend the dinner. It’s that simple.


Tracy August 16, 2012 at 1:32 pm

The host sets the rules of dinner, but not the rules of etiquette. This is still rude.


bloo September 1, 2012 at 3:33 pm

Agreed, Tracy. Can’t say it better than you did.


Spuck August 15, 2012 at 11:39 am

If the cousin is just being a boar about not having the significant others of their bridal party at the rehearsal dinner then her husband should go. If the other spouses are present, and if this is the situation where the cousin is trying to exclude his best man’ wife, then the husband should not go. I say chuck family harmony aside in a situation like that. The cousin is the one making waves in a situation like that, and if it is a situation where the best man has to choose between the cousin and his wife, it should always be the wife.


Kendra August 19, 2012 at 3:49 pm

But hubby won’t know if the other spouses are invited until the actual dinner. Then he won’t know if the other spouses were invited or if they “crashed” the party as some here have advised. Either way a sticky situation.


KiKi August 15, 2012 at 1:25 pm

I showed this to my DF and he couldn’t believe someone would try to excluse spouses from the rehearsal dinner. I agree with admin. To the husband: You can either go, but only do the minimum amount of your duties as Best Man, or (if the other spouses were included) you can tell him that he put you in a tough spot between your cousin and your wife. As it happens, your wife comes first so you will have to reluctantly step down as Best Man.


KiKi August 15, 2012 at 1:25 pm



Akili August 15, 2012 at 3:45 pm

First off, shame on you for saying “oh I bet they just don’t like you!”, isn’t it bad etiquette to cause MORE drama?

Also, I can see the post in a couple days. “We were having a dinner in which only close family members and members of the wedding party had been invited. John Doe’s wife appeared and started to complain about hoe she hadn’t been invited, even though we had told everyone that it was only family and people of the party! We had to find space for her at the table even though there wasn’t any space, which was part of the reason for our no SO rule!


dahaling August 15, 2012 at 10:12 pm

Except, it actually isn’t acceptable at all to have a no spouses rule. It is acceptable not to allow single friends to invite their own dates, but not no way no how acceptable at all to leave out spouses.


bloo September 1, 2012 at 3:34 pm

Wow, there have been more responses supporting a no-spouse rule for dinner than I would have imagined…and I imagined zero responses supporting it.


chechina August 15, 2012 at 10:18 pm

I am genuinely surprised that OP is so offended at this. It’s a rehearsal dinner, they don’t need you there, no other spouses are going, and you’re invited to the wedding. If you pass by the restaurant every day, you can go there some other time with your husband.


Joni August 16, 2012 at 12:42 pm

The last three – no, four – rehearsal dinners that I’ve been to, for the weddings of my many siblings, weren’t even limited to the wedding party alone. They were more of a pre-wedding celebration with siblings, their spouses, nieces and nephews, cousins, friends of the bride and groom, and whomever else happened to have come into town for the wedding. Usually these dinners were inexpensively catered or held at affordable restaurants. I’d so much rather balance a plate of Dinosaur BBQ on my knee while chatting with a cousin I haven’t seen in 4 years, than enjoy a hushed, upscale dinner with a carefully selected group of exclusives.


Angel August 17, 2012 at 9:23 am

The cousin is very rude. To save a few hundred bucks now he probably has strained at least 3 relationships within his family. Way to go, cousin!

Weddings are expensive in general, there are plenty of ways to cut costs other than cutting the guest list. I can’t believe they didn’t consider other options!

I disagree with many of the other posters who say that the best man should go anyway. His only obligations are to attend the wedding, and the rehearsal itself, NOT the rehearsal dinner. He should attend the rehearsal, which would be fulfilling his obligation, and go home right afterwards.

And if it turns out that the OP is the only spouse excluded, then all the more reason for her hubby to skip it. What a nasty thing for the couple to do. When we had our rehearsal dinner ALL spouses and significant others were included. It is the only decent thing to do.


Lacey August 17, 2012 at 10:30 am

I agree with chechina, and I know we are of the minority opinion. But why is it that some people feel that spouses must do everything and go everywhere together? It’s not as if the OP wasn’t invited to the wedding itself. Wedding parties are generally made up of the people closest to the bride and groom – perhaps the couple just wanted to spend some time with the people who are special to them, where everyone can just hang out and nobody has to “babysit” a spouse? (I’m not saying the OP is like that, but sometimes people have significant others who must cling to them all night or are shy/socially awkward, taking up all of their partner’s attention.) I wouldn’t consider this a huge deal, and I really think it would be rude of the best man to skip the rehearsal dinner.


Angela August 17, 2012 at 6:32 pm

Because for a lot of married couples, they are apart all day at work and doing some separate things at home and they don’t get that much together time…really! You come home, have dinner together and then it’s time to start laundry, take a kid to a social event, etc. Sometimes I feel like my husband and I are roommates. Both of us like to go out separately from time to time but for someone to invite you to something obligatory without a spouse…well, I feel that’s asking a lot.


Dowagerdutchess August 19, 2012 at 12:48 pm

Because that is social etiquette for married people. They must be invited together. And if you don’t follow the rules, you are bring rude. It’s really quite simple.


Angel August 19, 2012 at 11:49 pm

The fact that it’s a family member’s wedding makes this even more appalling. It’s not as if this is just some fly by night date that the best man picked up recently, this is his spouse who is an established member of the family. I can see telling the wedding party they cannot bring dates, but spouses are different. I’m sure some people would not be offended, would not mind being away from their spouses for the evening, but really that’s not the point. The point is when you get married, there are certain events that are family and couple oriented that it’s only right that you attend together. If the best man is obligated to attend the rehearsal dinner then he should be allowed to attend with his wife. And if not, he can attend the rehearsal itself and then go home.


GleanerGirl August 29, 2012 at 4:53 pm

The rule is that spouses are invited, as a social unit. That does not mean that they MUST do everything together. They may choose to accept for only one, while the other stays home and enjoys a bubble bath, or takes part in a previous engagement. However, they MUST be INVITED together.

You give them the opportunity to be together, and then you let them choose whether or not to take advantage of it.

Interestingly, when inviting a married couple to a dinner party, the proper thing to do is to seat them apart from each other, so that they have different people with whom to converse, over the course of the evening. The social theory there is that they have plenty of opportunity to chat with each other, and will enjoy being able to spend time with other people. However, they are still invited to the same function, at the same time, so they come and go together, as the social unit they are.


Lacey August 18, 2012 at 1:33 pm

@Angela fair enough, that’s something I hadn’t considered. But when I think about it, that also sort of supports what I was saying – if a husband and wife are looking at the rehearsal dinner as a chance for some together time, that might not be ideal for the people who are really looking forward to spending some quality time with the husband. Maybe they’d rather have the husband focus on his friends/family for one night? I don’t know, just a theory.


GleanerGirl August 29, 2012 at 4:56 pm

This is when you do one-on-one invitations. “Hey, best man, Bro! I want to hang out with you and get some quality time in, before the wedding. Let’s have lunch on Tuesday!”

For one-on-one invitations, married couples are not considered a social unit.


Lacey August 18, 2012 at 1:36 pm

I mean, obviously, it’s not ok not to invite a spouse to the wedding itself. But if the couple wants to have a small, intimate event for strictly the wedding party, for a couple of hours, I think it’s fine.


bloo September 1, 2012 at 3:38 pm

If they want it, they can have it. It’s not fine and will likely strain relationships between HC and at least three families because it’s violating a well-established rule of etiquette. What is lawful is not always advantageous.


2browneyes4 August 20, 2012 at 11:20 am

Regarding “Wedding parties are generally made up of the people closest to the bride and groom – perhaps the couple just wanted to spend some time with the people who are special to them”

I would definitely be offended if someone thought my husband was special to them, but I wasn’t special (unless there had been some cause for strain between the host and me).

Is there a hard and fast rule here? I always thought that rehearsal dinners are for the wedding party (including spouses/very significant others), the couple’s very close family (parents, grandparents and siblings [including spouses]) and out-of-town guests. Can anyone clear this up?


Liz0613 August 29, 2012 at 11:07 pm

Why would you be offended? You didn’t grow up with them so who cares?


bloo September 1, 2012 at 3:44 pm

She wouldn’t need to ‘grow up’ with them; she’s family – not a fly-by-night girlfriend (to borrow a phrase another poster used). I became best friends with my husband’s cousin. I’m closer to her than my DH is but obviously he’s known her far longer and is close to her. It would be unthinkable for her to leave me out of an event like that but have my husband there simply because they share DNA.

Even if we weren’t close, by inviting me – as proper etiquette dictates – she’d be acknowledging that a relative amount of closeness should be established as we’re now family (after all, I’m a cousin-in-law).

If she would want to keep a barrier between us and therefore between her and my DH, by all means she should follow your advice as well as OP’s DH’s cousin’s actions and that will happen.


Asharah August 24, 2012 at 4:41 pm

I can remember an old story from the archives told by the wife of a groomsman who was treated like an unwanted annoyance by the bride. Turned out bride’s sister, who was also in the bridal party, had a thing for the OPs husband and bride was trying to help sis out by keeping wife out of picture so sis could hit on married groomsman. I think OP had a hard time getting to reception from the church because bride decreed hubby couldn’t drive her because he had to drive some of the bridemaids, including sis of course, and OP had a hard time getting a taxi. Not saying that’s what’s going on here, but you never know.


GleanerGirl August 29, 2012 at 4:24 pm

Miss Manners has a phrase that is perfect for this sort of situation: “How dare you!”

You say it at the immediate moment of insult, to indicate exactly how deeply you have been insulted. Cousin can then have his “What the heck is wrong with you? It’s not a personal insult!” response, and cling to his rule that no significant others, at all, are being invited and it’s a blanket rule, and best man shouldn’t take it personally.

Best man can then reply with pointing out the etiquette rule that married people are considered a social unit, and ALWAYS invited together, unless it’s for a specific group, such as club-members only, or bachelor party, or girls-night-out. Then remind cousin of the gracious way in which he and his wife treated groom’s then-girlfriend, and then remind the cousin that their rule is offensive. By not including his wife in the invitation, they are, in essence, not recognizing the marriage.

Feel free to point out that, strictly speaking, the best man has exactly TWO duties: Show up at the wedding and make sure the groom doesn’t jilt the bride at the altar, and sign the certificate, as a witness. Everything else is gravy, and done at the discretion and goodwill of the best man. If the groom wants the best man to do nice things for him and the bride, then the bridal couple need to treat the best man well, not insult him and his wife by saying that their own marriage doesn’t count.

Then tell the groom that if he clings to this rule about no significant others at the rehearsal dinner, he’ll find himself with no best man at the dinner. The best man will keep his word, and attend the rehearsal, itself. However, the minute the rehearsal is complete, he will announce that he is taking his wife to dinner, and leave. And if he wants the best man to give a nice toast at the wedding, it would be a good idea to apologize to both best man and wife sometime before that part of the festivities, or they might find the best man has bolted, as soon as the certificate has been signed.

Tell them all this, straight up, BEFORE all the action starts. Give the cousin and his bride a chance to do the right thing. With time, they may change their minds.

Perhaps cousin and bride are being forced by their parents or some bossy relative to have the “no significant others” rule for the rehearsal dinner. In that case, let them know that they need to develop a polite spine and stand up for themselves and for what is right, even if that means changing to a cheaper venue. If they truly can’t see what’s wrong, then they need to SEE what is wrong – that they are insulting many of their friends. Let them see the consequences. They are probably not currently aware.

However, after the wedding is over, give them a chance to rebuild the relationship, on new terms.

Also, the “uh-oh” hairs on my neck had a similar response, because I’ve seen that sort of childish behavior before. Often, one doesn’t know until the actual date of the wedding. However, if you react with the “how dare you” now, then on the day, if it should become clear that others were invited, but your wife was not, you will have the full ammunition to blow bride and groom out of the water. “I told you how it was, and you not only persisted in excluding my wife, but now you make it particular by excluding her and not the others! Good luck tomorrow, and the rest of your life. You don’t actually need a best man. Anyone can sign that certificate for you. Good bye.” Spoken in public. Everyone needs to know why you are cutting them out of your life, or else they’ll blame you.

Then you get on with the permanent cold-shoulder relationship.


GleanerGirl August 29, 2012 at 4:43 pm

I disapprove of passive-aggressive behavior. I vote for coming right out and saying why you’re being full-on aggressive. State the problem, state the consequences, and follow through. Nothing passive-aggressive about it.

I also believe in accepting apologies at the first opportunity.

Forthrightness! Get yourself a reputation for forthrightness, and people will not mess about with you. Passive-aggressive people are put upon, because people are willing to put up with a bit of passive-aggressive behavior, in turn. But people will rarely mess with someone who comes right out and says, “You’re behavior is insulting, and I’m not going to put up with it. These are the consequences: X, Y, Z. Apologize now, or I will enforce them!”

I learned that long ago, as a baby-sitter. My charges learned they couldn’t get away with things, and they learned to behave themselves with me. They also liked me more than their other babysitters, and looked forward to our time together. You see, as long as they behaved civilly, I treated them very kindly, and we had a great time together. Make people want to be on your good side, because you make them feel good and happy, while at the same time making them NOT want to be on your bad side, because they know you’re capable of enforcing consequences.


Liz0613 August 29, 2012 at 11:15 pm

I am literally horrified by some of these responses. This isn’t the 1950’s! I am a firm believer in proper etiquette but this is ridiculous! Married couples are not a “social unit”. They are two separate people with separate personalities. Also, this is just a rehearsal dinner. If you’re not in the wedding then there is no reason for you to be there. Who cares if you’re married to a groomsman? The world doesn’t revolve around you. The bride doesn’t want spouses there, end of story. Nothing bad will happen if your spouse goes out to dinner without you.


bloo September 1, 2012 at 3:50 pm

Wow, Liz. I’m not stalking you but I’m amazed by your comments. I choose to be ‘horrified’ by something actually horrific.

It is a long established etiquette rule and it’s a good one that helps protect the sanctity of marriage. It helps others to view it as a special relationship and one that should not be treated lightly by others.

If you’re a firm believer in proper etiquette, this may be just one of those things you don’t ‘get’ but hopefully still respect as there may be certain etiquette rules you may be firm about and are perplexed that others don’t get.


LittleLou September 7, 2012 at 11:50 am

Liz0613, why exactly are you ‘horrified’? No-one is saying that a married couple must be joined at the hip. Indeed, if they were both invited and they chose for only the husband to attend, that would be fine.

If a married couple if not a ‘social unit’, what is the point of a public wedding ceremony? As far as I understand it, one of the reasons is to announce that you are now a couple, rather than single. What purpose does it serve if your relatives continue treat you as unattached?

Coming from the other angle – what harm could it do to invite the wife? Especially as she has offered to pay for herself and will hardly be a stranger to the group (maybe making it a bit awkward) – she’s been part of the family for at least a year. So why NOT invite her, unless it’s a snub?


Liz0613 September 8, 2012 at 3:52 pm

Ok, “horrified” was the wrong word. Disappointed seems more appropriate. If they don’t want wives (not just one wife, but all spouses) at the dinner then that’s what they want. They aren’t excluding anyone. It seems that they just want it to be close family. I love my cousins’ spouses dearly, but it would be nice if we could spend time without them, like we did when we were kids. I completely understand where the bride and groom are coming from. Like I said, nothing bad will happen if the husband goes without her.


Liz0613 September 8, 2012 at 3:55 pm

Also, they said in the original post that they couldn’t afford to have spouses. Some suggested that they change venues but I think that’s selfish. If the bride and groom have their hearts set on a specific venue, then who cares? The OP is making a big deal out of something that isn’t.


bloo September 13, 2012 at 7:53 am

“If they don’t want wives (not just one wife, but all spouses) at the dinner then that’s what they want. They aren’t excluding anyone.”

Liz0613, the above quote, snipped from your comment is contradictory. By doing what they wanted, they DID exclude people.

If you want to spend time with your cousins w/o their spouses, there’s nothing wrong with that. You just can’t do it in such a way that SHOWS you’re deliberately trying to exclude them. A hobby, recreation, or meet for coffee when you know their spouse is unavailable will help foster that along. Keeping up with relationships with phone calls and I guess Facebook would facilitate something like this:

Liz’s cousin: Hey wife, Liz wants to go to lunch with me. Do you wanna go, too?
Liz’s cousin’s wife: No I gotta hair appt. Why don’t you guys meet up? Have fun!

Your cousins’s spouses will sense your primary motivation of excluding them and could possibly discourage a relationship/friendship with you. And I disagree that nothing bad will happen if the husband goes without her. It already has. There is already a barrier erected at the obvious exclusion of the OP. This will not bode well for their future relationship. People should want to build bridges (accept the new family member) not barricades (exclude the family member).

As for your comment that ‘they couldn’t afford spouses…changing venues is selfish’…looked at the other way, the cousin has shown that a venue they had in mind is MORE important than the people invited to it. So their hearts are set on a vision, but not on the building relationships?

The cousin and spouse can do what they want, and if what they want is to keep family members at a distance, they’re doing a good job. Hope they’re not the type to complain about, ‘why cousin doesn’t hang with us anymore.’


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