When we invite friends and family to events in our lives for parties or weddings, deciding on the invitation list can be challenging. Some events like weddings may have a limited number of guests.
From finances to venue capacities, inviting everyone you want may not be possible. Also, there may be people that you simply don’t want to invite.
That annoying aunt or a friend who can be obnoxious around others may not make it onto your guest list.
When you’re planning any special event though and planning to have guests, you may be wondering how to tell people that they’re not invited.
Do not explicitly approach someone to tell them that you will not be inviting them. If you are approached directly about the event, first try to blame the missing invitation on external circumstances such as the size of the venue or the budget.
Follow some basic rules
Keep in mind that one of the simplest options is to not say anything.
Specifically reaching out to someone to tell them that they’re not invited can be a little rude and hurtful. You wouldn’t want that to happen to you so you shouldn’t do that to others.
In some cases, though, you may have to gently tell someone that they won’t be receiving an invitation.
This may be more likely if you’re planning on an event where you won’t have guests or many guests. Couples that elope often have to break the news to the family that they won’t be attending. Other people may have gotten overeager and mentioned an event to someone, only to realize that they can’t invite them to that event.
If the fault is your own, try to be as gracious and considerate as possible. If it’s not, you should still be kind when telling someone who asks that they won’t be receiving an invitation.
To help these conversations go off without a problem, these are a few ways to break the bad news.
Blame the Budget
Some events such as weddings can cost thousands of dollars. If you’re trying to save money on a wedding or other large event, then you probably know that you can’t invite everyone you want. This can be difficult to hear but it’s one of the less personal ways to tell someone that they’re not invited.
It’s hard to get angry at a couple when they simply don’t have the financial means to invite everyone that they want.
Gently tell the person that due to budget limits, you’ve had to be pretty brutal in chopping down the guestlist.
“Inviting only close family and friends has been incredibly tough. We would have liked to invite more people to the big day.”
Follow this by telling the person that you still appreciate their friendship and would love to catch up with them afterward. If this is someone that you truly do enjoy, you can even make plans with them at another time.
Talk about Intimacy
For many couples, having intimate events is important. Maybe you struggle with social anxiety or simply don’t want a lot of spectators or participants. Smaller events with just a select group of people can be more fun after all.
Most people understand that large groups can be overwhelming or exhausting, and you would be stressed by having too many people invited at one time.
Tell the person that you made the difficult but necessary decision to keep the wedding small for health and mental reasons.
This is an area where it may be best to be vague.
Say that for your health, you had to make the difficult decision to keep the event as small as possible, which kept you from inviting everyone that you might have liked. Apologize for not being able to extend an invitation.
“We are really sorry, but it was not possible for us to extend the circle of guests.”
Being vaguer may be best as this will discourage someone from arguing with you.
Blame the Venue
This won’t work for all areas but it’s certainly possible if your event has certain space limitations.
For example, an event that’s happening at your home likely has limited space. Cramming too many people into one space probably won’t work. Similarly, if you’re having the event at a venue, they’re going to have limitations on space as well.
However, if you’re renting out a huge place, you probably won’t want to use this as your excuse.
Gently place the blame on the space rather than your desire to not invite the person.
Tell them that the venue has a limited number of people that they’ll allow, and the guest list has been taken up by very close family.
While you understand that it would have been nice to invite everyone you wanted, you had to make the difficult decision to cut down on the guest list.
“We would prefer that the event space can accommodate more people, but we have to abide by the contract we signed.”
You can also use this when you’re having an event to which some people are invited but you may be excluding certain people such as children. Many people simply don’t have the arrangements for childcare or the budget for people and their kids.
Venues may not want to have kids present either so don’t be afraid to blame the physical space if this is a reasonable excuse.
Consider Being Blunt
This is probably not your best course of action, but you may end up being pushed into a corner. In general, a polite response is one of these other solutions but not everyone can take a hint.
For example, if you have a pushy aunt who continues to insist that she can attend a certain event, then you’ll likely need to take a more direct approach. It’s probably best to try one of these other approaches first before moving to the blunt response.
Try to maintain civility and stay polite but you can tell someone the truth when you think this is best.
Tell the person that while you might have invited them, their habit of doing x, y, or z makes it impossible to invite them to the event. This could be something like their raucous behavior at events, unsafe behaviors that could risk your event, or other problems.
This should be said in a loving but firm way. You’re not saying that you hate the person but that you simply cannot put up with that behavior at your special event.
“In the past, we often had to witness how you create a poor atmosphere with political discussions. We want to avoid this on our big day in any case.”
When you state this as the reason for a lack of invitation, keep in mind that it probably won’t be taken well, and the person may be angry and try to argue with you. This is when you can walk away easily.
Don’t engage in an argument with the person. Instead, say that your decision has been made and then leave the conversation.
Disengaging from those conversations is best as you may be more likely to change your mind if you continue talking about that person.
Avoiding the Issue
This last method is also not particularly recommended since it can end up causing more damage in the long run. Using this method means that instead of specifically telling the person they’re not invited, you simply stay vague and avoid answering the question about invitations altogether.
This may end up with more hurt feelings when the person realizes that the event has taken place and they were either purposefully left off the invited list or forgotten about.
The only reason why you might want to use this is if you’re in a situation where the person asking will try to show up for the event even after being told that they’re not invited.
Using the aunt example again, your aunt may feel as though she belongs at your wedding. Even after not receiving an invitation or being told that she’s not invited specifically, she may still decide to show up on your special day.
This can lead to awkward decisions about whether you should ask her to leave or simply put up with her bad behavior. Both of these options are best avoided if possible.
When you encounter this possible scenario, answer all questions about the event as vaguely as possible.
“We are still in the middle of the planning process and cannot provide any details yet.”
This can often be met with disbelief, especially if you tend to be more of a planner. However, in this day and age, many people are avoiding making plans set in stone, so you have more reason to try this approach.
If you want to use this though, try to limit contact with this person when you can. Having conversations about this too close to the event can cause more problems in the long run.
Recognize Your Limits
Although most of these responses are considered polite, keep in mind that you still may be met with some hurt feelings. Even the most gracious of responses can be taken badly and you should be prepared for this.
The average person will probably read between the lines and accept these responses graciously.
However, if a person struggles with appropriate boundaries, then it’s likely you will have some additional pushback on your hands.
Maintain a polite nature but disengage as quickly as possible.
Ultimately, you did what you could and should not have to put in extra work.
Katie Holmes is a senior author at everyday-courtesy.com with over 15 years of experience in marketing and psychology. As a freelance consultant, she also supports companies and executives in overcoming communication challenges. Katie is a passionate digital nomad working on her first book on the art of communication.