The date debate

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.

19 Responses to “The date debate”

  1. fannypie says:

    She can surely say no to either or both, but I think her reasoning here is a little screwy. It’s not a good place to meet the family? Why, because of the quiz at the end of the reception?

    If she’s not okay with people bringing uninvited guests, there’s a reason. If she’s not sure a month of dating her sister merits the sister’s boyfriend an invitation, there’s a reason. But if the simple fact that a totally arbitrary restriction she put in place herself (wanting to have met everyone there) keeps her from letting her aunt bring her boyfriend…a point which she admittedly feels bad about…then why not invite him? Actually, the same applies to the sister’s boyfriend: if the only thing hanging her up about giving him the okay is that she wants the pre-wedding meet and greet, wouldn’t it go a long way in the span of family politics to just invite him? (And if a meet and greet beforehand is possible in the first place, why hasn’t she met her sister’s boyfriend? They are…sisters.)

  2. Never teh Bride says:

    fannypie: I can’t answer all of your questions – having limited information myself – but I am under the impression that L.S. is trying to limit the wedding celebration to close friends and family and thus has not invited her guests to bring dates. The desire to keep things intimate may have inspired her to limit the guest list to people she’s already met.

    In regards to not meeting the sister’s bf, heck, I’ve never met my sister’s bf…because I live 1,500 miles away from her 🙂 L.S.’s situation may be similar to mine.

  3. fannypie says:

    Ah, but she says that meeting for dinner at some point before the wedding is already possible.

    I get the close friends and family thing, I do, but it seems like the condition of having met people before is causing strife for L.S., and she’s in a great position to just let it go for one or both of these extra guests. Or not, as she chooses, but I think she’d be better served to stick with something along the lines of ‘sorry, we’re keeping it to close friends and family’ rather than lean on the rather bizarre rationale of ‘weddings are not a good time to meet the family.’

  4. fannypie my sister has a bf she’s been seeing for about nine months now, maybe ten, and my fiancee and I have met him the grand total of………three times. Now she lives about 15 minutes from me, but we’re so busy, and they’re so wrapped up with each other that it took her six months to organise a meeting. So these things are entirely possible. Hell I’ve dated plenty of guys I never got around to introducing.

    The other problem it’s possible LS is facing is not setting a precedent? It doesn’t sound to me like she’s set herself limits and they are now constricting her, it sounds like rationalization, which is required with difficult situations.

  5. Mcmiller says:

    I know someone in a suprisingly similar situation – in fact, I’m certain it is the same person. An important and missing detail is that the bride’s family is already nutty about this wedding and is also notorious for being difficult with first meetings. It is simpler to tell everyone “I’m not inviting someone I don’t already know” than to explain why your aunt can bring someone and your sibling can’t. Appealing to an arbitrary rule goes further with these people than case by case consideration.

    Up until this point there was absolutely no one on the guest list that the bride and groom had not met before. They were of the opinion that this is *their* day and should be filled with people they know. I totally support her decision to just say no to strangers even if it means disappointing her aunt.

  6. Bree says:

    I think if she has time to do the meet and greet then great, have the people come. But if she doesn’t have time for that I think that it is solely up to her if they come or not. If she wants it to be close family only I think her relatives should respect that decision. But its nice she has relatives that even ask in the first place. But when it comes down to it she should have the finaly say.

  7. L.S. says:

    OK, I have to chime in on this one. Maybe I’m wrong, but I always kind of thought that the wedding was supposed to celebrate the union of two people. It’s not supposed to be a platform for a birthday party, or a coming out, or a place to handle other important business. And frankly, I think it’s incredibly rude to presume to use such an event as a vehicle for those things.

    Drawing a line like this, wherein I’ve requested that I know everyone at the wedding, has meant a smaller and closer wedding. But in my opinion, it’s more important that I share this important time with people I love than it is that I introduce myself to someone when I’m not even going to remember who they came with to ASK who they are come picture time. It’s my WEDDING — there is enough pressure without adding onto it unnecessarily.

    I don’t know about you folks, but I’ve never met a person at a wedding that I later kept in contact with, for one reason — it’s nigh impossible to make a decent connection to a person at a wedding. It’s loud, it’s frenetic, it’s highly emotional, there is often a lot of alcohol involved… none of these factor well into a good relationship being forged.

    Someone very early on made a comment about the “quiz at the end”. It’s funny because it’s true. These poor guys will be expected to remember who people are, and impressions about all of them, and there are going to be a whole lot more of them at a wedding than at a quiet family dinner. It’s a lot of pressure for one person.

    (Someone else asked why I haven’t met these people before now — I just found out about them.)

  8. I’m actually marrying a stranger {to me} that I met at a wedding through a mutual friend…..

    that aside, I think you’re totally justified saying No. But it’s always harder in theory than in practice {I’m a terrible coward and still haven’t spoken and explained to two couples we’re not inviting } I think the dinner sounds lovely, but totally agree with the “who’s that?” in pictures you’ll have forever.

  9. k says:

    I think it’s fine to put restrictions on who is or is not invited because of space or intimacy, but I don’t think it’s okay to arbitrarily say that someone cannot come because it will be difficult for them to meet everyone. That decision would be up to your sister/her boyfriend, presumably if he was welcome the two of them would talk about what a family wedding would be like and he could decide for himself whether he’s up for it. Would you ever not invite a close friend to your wedding just because they didn’t know anyone else? No, you’d invite them, they’d come and chit chat with new people, and if they have any social skills they’d be fine.

    I say decide whether or not to add these 2 people, because they’re important to people close to you, and then if possible set up dinners. I wouldn’t make their invitation completely contingent on whether you have dinner, or else it would seem like an interview for a spot as a guest at your wedding!

    Also, while it is the couples SPECIAL DAY (ugh), part of being a good hostess is creating an atmosphere so your guests have a good time. If a couple was being so strict about their no guest rule, that say, any non-married partners weren’t invited and the majority of people had to come alone, I think that’s over the top too. There has to be a compromise between the size/intimacy the couple wants and being a good host and providing an enjoyable event.

  10. Mcmiller says:

    In the month before a wedding, its hard to find time to spend with your own fiancee, much less other people you haven’t met yet. As previously stated, this family really does quiz new boyfriends and it really would be a problem for him and the bride. The point of making it into a rule is that the family is too rude to take a simple no for an answer. Yes, they were nice enough to ask but they really weren’t expecting a no and that is pretty rude.

    She could have made the rule that anyone who starts dating after they receive the invitation can’t decide retroactively to bring a guest – seriously, if you just started dating a few months before the wedding that is completely different than long term non-married partnerships.

  11. Rsue says:

    I fully agree with k, what is the big deal about letting her sister and aunt bring a date. Why wouldn’t she want her aunt and sister to feel comfortable and have a good time, after all weddings are suppose to be one big party to celebrate something very special. It sounds like a case of bridezilla to me.

  12. Never teh Bride says:

    Rsue, don’t forget that allowing people to bring dates can up the cost of weddings – a concern for those footing the bill themselves. And a sister and close aunt won’t exactly be without people to socialize with at the event (unlike single people who might not know anyone else).

  13. Rsue says:

    Never teh Bride, I partially agree with you, yes, allowing people to bring dates can be costly but at the same time they are family and she should make 2 exceptions, but of course its her day and ultimately her decision.

  14. MNT says:

    To put in my 2 cents — I think the bride here needs to take a step back and think about whether having 2 extra people at the wedding will really be such a problem for her. Is it really worth upsetting close family members? It will undoubtedly cost a bit more money, but allowing family turmoil to fester unnecessarily is emotionally expensive.

    As for her given reason for wanting a pre-wedding meeting — that a reception is not a good time to meet and greet — I have to say it seems a bit weird to me. Is she going to judge whether they are good enough to get an invite? And who cares if she doesn’t get to know the dates at the reception? Just make sure the basic hellos are said, and that’s all that matters! Plus, this idea that the day is OURS and we should only have the exact people we want at the wedding flies in the face of something that marriage will undoubtably teach her — family harmony requires COMPROMISE!

  15. Julia says:

    My parents raised me to always consider the “regret function”–i.e., how sorry will you be if the worst case scenario pans out? In this case, if the bride refuses to invite the boyfriends, but both relationships turn out to be lasting ones, she might be facing a lifetime of reproachful “Remember when you refused to invite Bobby to your wedding? God, that was so hurtful!” comments. The worst case scenario if she DOES invite them, however, seems like it would be that she’d end up having to pay for two extra dinners and do some shuffling of her plans. It’s not a perfect situation, but it might be the lesser of two evils.

  16. Well I think one of the worst case scenarios can also end up being “oh she got to bring Billy, why couldn’t I bring Ralph?” and “If she gets to bring someone I should get to bring someone too!” and suddenly you made the exception for two people and there are 10 more that expect the same treatment. When you have a situation like that it can end up feeling like you’re going to pay for 12 people you don’t know, not 2. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with not wanting to meet people at your own wedding.
    Whilst there should be consideration of those guests being comfortable, I agree with NtB, and sometimes those family members can end up baby-sitting their respective partners because they have no one else to talk to, which impedes the guest.
    I have invited my sister’s Bf even though I don’t really know him, but as she is a bridesmaid I was adamant with her that if she wanted him to come she would not spend all evening sitting in his lap or consoling him. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.

  17. la petite chou chou says:

    Julia makes a lot of sense.

    The bride has to weigh the consequences of both choices and see which causes the least trouble for her.

    Personally, were I attending my sister’s wedding and had only been seeing a guy for a month, I probably wouldn’t even think of taking him. Or, if it were my wedding, and knowing my sister, I also wouldn’t want her bringing her boyfriend. The thing is, is it worse to say “oh I didn’t invite Bobby because I didn’t know him,” than to say “I wish we could forget bobby ever existed but he is imortalized in our wedding photos”?

  18. Never teh Bride says:

    The thing is, is it worse to say “oh I didn’t invite Bobby because I didn’t know him,” than to say “I wish we could forget bobby ever existed but he is imortalized in our wedding photos”?

    Great point, la petite chou chou!

  19. M says:

    I know I am jumping in sooo late, but I have to say something!

    I completely support the bride’s decision not to invite these two people to her wedding. This is NOT just a party and she is NOT just a host. Instead, her wedding day is an intimate, emotional ceremony at which she and her groom will begin their lives together. why on earth would you want total strangers to attend such an intimate event? Guests should ONLY be people whom the bride and groom know personally. End of story.