Invitation etiquette

Compiling the guest list for a wedding can induce headaches for most couples. But, for same-sex couples, the challenge could be even greater.

While marriage-equality laws are being instated like wildfire — seriously, it’s hard to keep up — and today’s America is a much more enlightened, LGBT-accepting place than it was five years, or even one year, ago, that doesn’t mean every person in your life is waving the rainbow flag. Which introduces new questions to the initiation process: Do you invite the great-uncle you know grumbles about your relationship?

While family and friends play big roles in the big day, a wedding is essentially about the two people getting married. Which means it’s up to the couple themselves who populates the seats at their ceremony and/or reception. Some couples may be fine having relatives or others present who they know aren’t supportive or understanding of their relationship, but who they still want to share the day with; but this may bother others, who would prefer that their guest list contained only those around whom they feel comfortable and accepted. There’s no easy answer to the question.

Some same-sex couples have taken the middle ground between inviting and not inviting and included a special note in invitations that they’re looking forward to celebrating their happy day with all those who are truly happy for them — a polite message that communicates that the day is meant for celebration. While implications of not inviting certain guests should be considered, potentially hurt feelings or family infighting shouldn’t be given more priority than the comfort level of the couple.

Apart from the issue of guests’ attitudes, putting together the invitation list is itself a taxing undertaking.

Most reception venues have minimum and maximum capacities, and going under or over could cost. Final guest numbers aren’t determined until RSVPs are all in, which is usually just weeks before the wedding. If you’re looking to stay within a certain range of guests, try to figure out ahead of time who is least likely to attend (travel, time constraints, etc.), and use those figures to help stay within your target. And, if you’re afraid you’ll be under your limit, pull together a back-up list (they don’t need to know if they’re second-tier invitees!).

Invitation lists can easily get carried away. If you have family or friends helping you, they may want to invite every family member they’re close to, their friends and coworkers. Rein it in early to avoid future fights.

Plus-ones can also be a tricky issue. Giving every person you invite the option to bring a date can swell your invitation list tremendously. If you’re looking to keep your numbers manageable, a standard rule to use is, if the person is in a longterm, committed relationship (cohabitating/engaged/married), he or she gets a date; those who are single or in newer couplings have to go stag. For my partner and me, we have a couple people on our list who don’t belong to particular family, friend or work circles and would be coming without knowing any other guests, so we’re giving those individuals a plus-one. And we found the plus-one topic is one that a lot of people may not understand. We’ve encountered a number of single friends brainstorming about who they’ll bring as their date to our wedding, and we had to put the kibosh on that. We explained that the couple (or whoever’s footing the bill for a reception venue) typically pays per plate, so each guest is another dinner bill. While the price may not be an issue for some, for other couples it is a consideration, so limiting plus-ones, regardless of the protests of dateless guests, can help keep costs down.

There are a multitude of options for sending out your actual invitations. You can go with a printing company that specially designs engagement announcements, save-the-dates, wedding invitations and any other stationery needs, although this route does tend to be a bit more expensive. Sites that offer handcrafted wares, like, are also packed to the gills with designs and designers. And you can even DIY on sites like Or, for the couple with the ultra-technologically savvy guests, there are options for online-only invites.

Depending on the length of the engagement, couples often send out save-the dates between six-nine months prior to the wedding, and wedding invites two-three months ahead of time.

Happy planning!

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