I Screwed Up...Help Me Fix It! (Wedding Invites)

Our wedding is in August. Because it is a destination wedding (Las Vegas) we decided to send out a save the date this weekend via Evite to let everyone know well in advance that it would involve some travel and planning ahead. Unfortunately I fucked this one up really badly.

We have a smallish wedding chapel for our ceremony that holds at most 90 people. We have a guest list of 85 people. We are also getting married in Las Vegas. Apparently everyone on our guest list feels like since individual names were not mentioned on the save the date (my error for sending out a mass Evite instead of proper paper save the dates via USPS) they get to bring their whole family, first dates, and strangers they meet on the plane ride to the wedding. Our thought was that people who are married, engaged, or have been part of a couple for more than 6 months get to bring their significant other. No one gets to bring kids…in fact part of the reason we liked the idea of a Vegas wedding was because it would encourage people to leave the little ones at home!

We now have people reserving spots for whole families, including several children, and asking if they can bring a date even though they aren’t in a relationship. I called my parents to ask how to deal with this and they advised that we can give the chapel several months advanced notice and they can just deal with it. I don’t want to do that though, in part because we signed a contract for a wedding chapel that allows for seating for 70 people and standing room for 20 more and in part because I don’t want to pay for 30 extra people to eat and drink on my tab.

At this point I need to do some damage control. I am trying to come up with some wording for our website indicating that children are not allowed to let people know that kids need to be left at home and hopefully that will help some, but now I have to figure out how to call people and tell them they can’t bring their cousin/blind date/best friend to the wedding with them. I don’t want to be the bitch who calls and screams at them for assuming they can bring extra people but I don’t want to be gentle about it and get ignored either. What is the best way for me to explain to people they can bring their entourage to Vegas if they want but it is only those on our guest list who are welcome at the wedding?

No the chapel can’t just deal with it. This will leave the chapel, guests, and you in a mess that will piss off everyone. You have to suck it up and tell everyone you sent invites to that the chapel can’t accommodate anybody but themselves. This straightens out the mistake of not specifying who was invited. This still leaves you with the swift move of inviting people that have partners, but are not allowed to bring them.

I’m confused (and utterly clueless about wedding invitation etiquette). Are save the date cards now the same as actual invitations? I thought they just clued people in that you are getting married on a particular date… Are they supposed to be addressed in the same manner as an invitation? In that case, why bother with the invitations?

To address your problem, yeah, you need to suck it up and be prepared for a lot of people to be pissed at you…

Good luck.

Yeah, that is what I thought too. I didn’t anticipate that I would need to specify who was included in the save the date because it was just meant as a way to give people a heads-up to the date and include a link to our website so people can keep up with the wedding stuff if they want. We didn’t expect people would start RSVPing at this point.

If the ceremony is at the chapel that holds 90, then you could always have the ceremony itself be family/special friends only and the rest can join the party in progress at the reception. Or since you find yourself so richly blessed with folks willing and able to shell out the $$ to travel just to be there for your big day, be happy you’ve still got time to find a larger venue to have the shindig.

Pretty much you have to assume every adult will bring someone, whether it’s their spouse or SO or just someone they want to have along with them. You invite an adult, it’s implicit that the invitation includes their companion. You should work that into your numbers accordingly ahead of time.

Kids are slightly different, it’s now considered perfectly fine to include wording in the invitations that it’s an adult-only event, but be prepared to get flack for it and Cousin Shirley thinking that only means other children and not her perfect angels.

Remember that there’s a common 10% no-show rate for weddings, folks RSVP thinking they’ll make it but stuff comes up, people get sick, have unexpected expenses, what have you. So you’ll have some padding there, regardless.

Wouldn’t the best approach be to send another email explaining pretty much what you said here, that the chapel only holds a limited number, that here’s only room for “people who are married, engaged, or have been part of a couple for more than 6 months”, with no kids, and that you didn’t expect RSVPs yet?


I’m thinking your best bet is to pretty much tell your prospective guests just what you’ve told us (you might alter the “unfortunately I fucked this one up” line slightly for some :)), using a mortified, confidential, and apologetic tone and employing much charm. By all means, let them know you are flattered that so many people want to join to you and your beloved, and explain that you never thought you’d need a larger chapel.

If this fails, elope.

If it makes you feel any better people will invite others on their own even if you specify whp is being invited. We sent out invitations and we got one back where someone wrote in a name. We had to call the person and explain that it was only for those who were on the invitations.

I think Sweetie Pea has the best option. If you apologise and accept some blame for not making it clear on the evite then hopefully most people will accept it gracefully.

However, I think you need to be aware that it may be a big ask for many of your guests. Many of the parents may not be able to leave their children for the length of time required to travel, and many may not want to even if they can, so you might have to accept that those people won’t come if their children can’t. Also, weddings are long affairs and feel very awkward for singles who don’t have anyone to talk to. If any of your invitees who aren’t in a couple aren’t likely to be part of a group of friends of family, I would strongly consider letting them bring a date just so they can have some company.

Finally, remember 100% of people won’t acccept. We invited ~130 people to our wedding and about 100 came. I would expect given the expense and inconvenience of a destination wedding the acceptance rate might be even lower.

I think this is quite a bind.

I think some responses are missing the distinction between a save the date for a standard wedding and a save the date for a destination wedding. To me, a save the date for a traditional wedding means leave this day open. A save the date for a destination wedding means you (the invitee) should start doing some planning (travel, hotels, etc). It’s not so wise to book a flight and hotel only a few weeks before the wedding when the invitation arrives.

In my opinion, it is reasonable to request that kids not attend. But before doing anything I would realistically think about how many children are actually going to attend. I know if it were me, if two or three of the early responses said they were bringing their children I would assume that many others would be as well. This may or may not be reality.

I don’t think it’s reasonable to tell people they cannot bring a guest if they so choose. This is a destination wedding. Attending involves travel and hotel stay. I don’t think I could tell someone to book a trip and book a hotel to stay in by yourself. Especially if they don’t know anyone other than the bride and groom. Again, before I did anything, I would look at how many people that you are inviting would fall into the unattached category and how many would realistically bring an extra person.

-R. Incognito

I’d send out the addendum to the “save the date” right quick - you obviously know a lot of people who mistake a “save the date” for an actual invitation. Although I can see that a destination wedding is different from a local wedding, in that people do need to book time off work and tickets, etc. I’d get the addendum email out right away, and get to work on the actual invitations, too - it sounds like they need to go out sooner than usual.

Don’t shy away from making your wedding adults only if that’s what you want - you’ll probably have people guilt-tripping you (I know we did), but that’s their problem, not yours.

The wedding is in August, not in a “few weeks”.

Say what? Why should you expect that every non-coupled adult should be able to bring a date? That’s just silly. IME, single people come unaccompanied all the time, especially if they know people at the wedding. Only the invited person is invited.

I’m sure pbbth has considered this sort of thing when putting together the guest list. She’s a sweetheart, and she’s not the type to ignore the needs and wishes of her guests in service of some weird fantasy of her “special day.” And if she hears that the possibility of not bringing a date would present a REAL problem for somebody, I’m sure she’d accommodate that.

ETA: My mom attends lots of destination weddings, and she often agrees with a friend of hers that’s also going that they will be each other’s “dates.” In other words, they travel together, share a hotel room, and ask to be seated together if possible.
That said–pbbth–you should definitely send a follow-up email ASAP, but I wouldn’t say you fucked up. You didn’t. Perhaps you could ask them to confirm with you before they made any reservations. Then you could say something like “I’m so glad you both can come to the wedding! Have you made arrangements for care for Timmy and Jenny for that evening?”

In fact, it might be really nice for you to see if you can arrange for a babysitter. I’ve been to destination weddings where somebody’s “donated” their hotel room for the evening and brought in a babysitter.

p.s. I’ll be bringing my son, my mom, and my Aunt Ethel. Hmmm…come to think of it, I didn’t get the save the date email either… :stuck_out_tongue:

It might be too late to do this, but a friend of mine used some sort of service for sending out her invites. For each invite she told the service who it was going to and how many people they could bring, then the people would RSVP to a website or by phone (don’t remember which, maybe both). Doing this was a great way to prevent people from turning their +1 into “I’m bringing my husband and our 4 kids” since the service simply couldn’t take accept the additional people. On top of this, it made someone else the bad guy.

It’s gauche to invite single people without allowing them to bring one guest, especially to a destination wedding. If they are making the trip to Las Vegas, then assume that they will take advantage of what the destination has to offer and not limit themselves to events surrounding your wedding. Asking them to attend shows, or take side trips to the Hoover Dam, alone, with no one along to share the experience and/or share the costs, is a bit self-absorbed. I don’t think there’s a graceful way around that.

As far as children go, the assumption that children are welcome is not unique to destination weddings. You’d have had the same problem at home. But since it is a destination wedding, and airline reservations will have to be made, then you should make it clear ahead of time that your wedding and reception is for adults only. I’d certainly make that distinction on my website immediately and follow up personally with any guests who’ve RSVPd that they’d be bringing children.

Of course, since it was your decision to have a destination wedding, you’ve done so with the knowledge that you are asking people to spend more time off work and more money than they would have had you chosen to host your wedding in their hometown. Given that August is the middle of the summer, which is prime family vacation time, you should have expected that people will, indeed, make it a family trip. (Me? I’d fly us all out and take an RV to the Hoover Dam, Grand Canyon, etc. before or after the wedding.)

Does that mean you have to invite them all to the wedding? No. But it does mean that as the hostess you should be prepared for young guests. If you’re preparing welcome baskets for guests to be delivered to their hotel rooms, then include children appropriate gifts, such as crayons and coloring books or perhaps a Harry Potter DVD. And/or include recommendations for “kid friendly” places in Las Vegas on your website. At the very least, you should post the names of some babysitting services:

“As this is an adults-only function, and seating is extremely limited at the wedding chapel, please contact the concierge at the Bellagio at xxx-xxx-xxxx prior to July 15th to arrange necessary childcare. Alternatively, Bellagio offers a highly regarded Kids’ Club for $75 per child, which you can arrange the morning of the wedding.”

Good luck with your wedding. Remember that your wedding is a celebration of your new life together. Trying to control things too much will only result in you not enjoying the experience. If Aunt Matilda brings five guests to your wedding and she was only supposed to bring two, the world will not end. In the grand scheme of things, it’s not really that big a deal.

Add an addendum to the evite.

We’ve gotten a lot of inquiries about the wedding, and we’re glad everyone is so excited and happy for us! Here’s some additional information to help your planning:

– we plan to send out our invitations in _____ [May? February? whatever], so watch your mail!

– we’re happy to hear that some of you plan to combine a vacation with our wedding, and even bring some friends and others along to Vegas! Because of the size of our wedding and reception location, we’re sorry we can’t accommodate extra guests. But to make your vacation more fun, we’re putting together some ideas of things to do in Vegas while you’re there, so you can arrange for your guests to have some fun things to do while we’re getting married.

– For those of you planning to bring your children to Vegas, good news! We’ve checked with the host hotel and they do have the ability to help you arrange babysitting. We’re sorry that we can’t accommodate kids at the wedding and reception, but it sounds like the hotel’s babysitters will have lots of fun activities planned for the kids if you arrange babysitting with them!

I think I am going to ask my 16 year old cousin (who is traveling with his parents to the wedding but I am sure does not want to sit through the ceremony or any of that) if he wants to make 50 bucks by babysitting in one of the rooms and bring along a couple of kid friendly DVDs. That will take care of the children needing to come along but not being invited to the ceremony.

As far as the adults without partners are concerned, we really did consider pretty much everyone. The 2 or 3 that we know only know us and don’t have anyone else to talk to were taken aside and told that they will be able to bring a guest but to please not mention that to anyone else that might be coming. Everyone else that is single is going to be there with their family or people they have known as friends for a long time and know one another well enough to share rooms or whatever if they don’t want to room alone. I will start drafting a follow up email to advise that people contact me before they reserve a room or purchase plane tickets.

Just to note - people would have been pissed at you regardless of how perfectly and exactly you addressed the “save the date” emails. It’s the nature of the beast when you’re getting married - someone will be pissed they didn’t get invited, someone will be pissed they can’t bring their kids, someone will be pissed they can’t bring their SO. Without a doubt, even if you addressed an invitation to “Mr & Mrs. Oblivious, and NO ONE ELSE”, Mr. & Mrs. Oblivious would have RSVP’d themselves, their 3 kids, one of their kid’s friends, and their slightly demented aunt. So think of this as a matter of degree.

I believe standard etiquette is that you must invite both members of a married or an engaged couple, and singles are up to you. More modern etiquette is that if someone is in a long term relationship, you invite their SO as well. You’re under no obligation to allow a completely single person to bring a date.

I would think it a good idea to make some babysitting arrangements for the parents attending your wedding. I know I wouldn’t leave my young children at home for a long weekend…I don’t have anyone to watch them that long. But knowing I’d have some place to take my kids for the duration where other kids will be watched would make me more likely to attend. Sometimes the hotels themselves can help you out with that.

I have an old wedding book from when I worked at a hotel and for some reason I have this book, but it was for the person who handled weddings at the hotel. Why do I have this book? :slight_smile:

Etiquette is simple in this case. You’re supposed to respect the wishes of the bride and respect the requests

HOWEVER…There’s always a “but”

Etiquette demands that if someone disregards your instructions, you as the host, must suck it up and not make a fuss about it.

So if you say “No, kids” the invitees should respect that. But if they disregard that, etiquette says: YOU THE HOST, must deal with it and treat the kids and people respectfully and deal with it.

See it’s a two edge sword.

The fact is some people won’t go to events unaccompanied. I have even seen work holiday parties where they say “no families” and some people won’t come, 'cause they can’t bring a date.

Some people consider weddings to be a “family” event and thus consider it rude to exlude children, who despite their size are indeed part of the family.

The only acceptable way to phrase this is: “Adult Reception” or “Adults Only Reception.” Phrases like “NO CHILDREN” are not considered proper. Nor is it appropriate to exlude *some * children. That means no young kid as your ring bearer.

Same thing goes for dates. It’s all or nothing, it’s very rude to say “Some people can have a date and others can’t.” If you allow some people to bring a date, other should too. And length of dating doesn’t factor into it.

But a wedding is your day and you can make any rules you want, but don’t be surprised if someone is offended by your rules.