I received this query today from a lovely reader whom I will simply call L.S.:
I have a problem, and I don’t know how to approach it. I’m hoping you can help. About a week or so ago, my sister asked me if she could bring her boyfriend to my wedding. I asked my parents, and they knew nothing about him except that they’d been seeing each other about a month. They expressed a lot of reservations about inviting her. So I told my sister no, and that I didn’t think it was fair to me or to her boyfriend to have our first meeting at my wedding. For one thing, my ability to socialize with any one person will be minimal. And I’m really trying to have everyone at this wedding to be someone that my finance and I know, or at least have met.
Well, today I got an email from my aunt asking if she could bring a date. I feel really bad saying no, because I think she’s been seeing her paramour for a while. But I still don’t think that the best place to meet someone’s family for the first time is at a wedding, where they by necessity have to meet EVERYONE at once.
I’m considering asking both my relatives (separately) if they would be willing to get together for dinner sometime before the wedding so at least my fiance and I can meet these guys. At that point, I’ll likely allow both my sister and my aunt to bring dates. But is it really inappropriate to say no when someone wants to bring a date?
Well, before I answer that, I just want to ask whether anyone remembers the films My Best Friend’s Wedding and The Wedding Date? Because they are two perfect examples of why the world of wedding dates can be disastrous. But that’s neither here nor there.
Anyway, L.S. is feeling unnecessary guilt. While it is quite courteous to graciously allow guests who won’t know anyone other than the bride and groom to bring a date, couples are under no obligation to allow gratuitous, uncontrolled ‘and guest’ing. In a perfect world, guests would be mannerly enough to understand that invitations that do not specifically say ‘and guest’ (or ‘and family’) are a way of informing invitees that they have not been invited to bring a date (or assorted family members) to the festivities.
In case I haven’t made myself clear, brides- and grooms-to-be can invite or not invite anyone they feel like inviting or not inviting. It is okay to specify that children are not welcome – in much prettier language, of course. It is okay to tell the MOB and MOG that they cannot invite their hairdressers and workmates. And it is more than okay to leave the words NUMBER ATTENDING off invitations. Hopefully, invitees will get the message.
Yet I must give L.S.’s relatives credit for politely asking (one hopes) if they could bring their man friends. There are plenty of horrid people in this world who have no qualms about bringing uninvited dates to weddings. Of course, now that L.S.’s relatives posed the question, it’s up to her to answer it. Personally, I think she’s wonderful for conceiving of the whole pre-nuptial meet and greet idea. No doubt it will prove a wonderful way to make new friends AND keep the peace!
But I’ll still think she’s wonderful if she puts her foot down and says no. Because it is 100% appropriate to say no when someone asks if they can bring a date to your wedding.