Weddings

'You're not invited' alerts: New wedding trend draws criticism

Feb. 7, 2013 at 10:39 AM ET

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Didn't make the cut? Don't be surprised if you get an alert from a newly-engaged couple that informs you that you weren't invited.

Careful: That e-mail from your newly engaged friend may be just the bearer of bad news. It could be to kindly not request your presence at their wedding.

“You’re not invited” alerts are the latest trend for those brides and grooms who feel a need to confirm non-attendance. With some couples looking for more budget-friendly receptions (i.e., smaller guest lists) and social media serving as wedding announcements on steroids, some feel a need to let non-essential pals know they’ll be sitting this one out.

“Nine out of 10 times, it’s because of lack of space – and the couple feels super guilty,” Tatiana Byron, founder of event planning service The Wedding Salon, told TODAY.com. “These are usually people they’re friendly with, but not close to.”

Tatiana’s clients have done everything from personally e-mailing and sending cards to acquaintances to having their wedding planner do the dirty work for them – call and apologize on the couple’s behalf. The response? An unsurprising mix of disappointment and anger.

“Some of their friends complain and criticize the couple, thinking the planner won’t tell the client,” explained Byron. As for those who deliver the bad news personally, it usually becomes a game of throwing the significant other under the bus. “The groom blames the bride, and the bride blames the groom.”

It’s a relatively new tradition that many call foul, even cruel. “These are unnecessary and narcissistic” said one commenter on CafeMom.com. “Rude as hell” chimed in another, while one pondered “is this something from The Onion?”

For Nikki Khan, founder of L.A.-based Exquisite Events, the non-invite email is a common tactic for destination weddings and receptions in which the couple – not the parents – foot the bill. “This seems to be a growing trend and thinking among young people,” said Khan. “They inform [friends] that they have decided to have a very intimate affair, and as much as their parents would have preferred to have it in their city, they understand the decision and respect it.”

The delicate dance of who to cut from the guest list is one of the top stressors in the middle stages of planning, says Kellee Khalil, founder of Lover.ly, a bridal planning site. “Many brides don't consider the fact that this will come up (often) once the guest list has been set, so it's good to have a general plan to avoid awkwardness and hurt feelings as soon as you send out your save-the-dates.”

Supposedly, sending notes to lower priority or non-guests is called for sometimes. Etiquette expert Emily Post suggests sending wedding announcements the day after one's nuptials to those left off the guest list – “to acquaintances or business associates who might wish to hear the news.” Is the “You’re not invited” alert almost the same thing, except that it's sent just sent before the wedding instead of just after?

There are, of course, variations of this trend. Some brave couples alert pals that they’re on “the B list” – as in, should space open up, they’re guaranteed a seat. One New Jersey bride informed second-tier friends they were on the wait list, and sure enough, when there were openings, they gladly accepted the full invite – but not without some blowback. “There was some resentment,” said the bride, who preferred to go unnamed. “One still refers to himself as a ‘B-list’ friend.”

So what should you do if you feel compelled to send your own “You’re not invited” alerts? A few tips to help smooth the situation:

Make the cut. Byron’s rule of thumb for whom to downsize from the guest list: “Have you had dinner with them in the last year?”

Don’t leave it till the last minute. “Have this conversation early, because it will be more uncomfortable to have people assume they are coming the whole time,” recommends Annie Lee of Daughter of Design Events, a wedding-planning agency in Culver City, Calif. “Feelings are hurt when guests have imagined themselves invited and then feel like it was revoked. Manage expectations.”

Don’t go on the offense. “Express gratitude to the asker that they want to celebrate with you,” said Khalil. “Don't be defensive about how rude it is for someone to assume that they're invited to your wedding. The situation gets more awkward when you make it awkward.”

Keep it simple and gracious. “You don't have to go into intricate detail; just start by saying how touched you are that they would want to come, then explain your limitations, whether due to budget, space constraints, or big families... they'll get it," said Elizabeth Graves, editor-in-chief of Martha Stewart Weddings. "Then include the person or persons in a different way later on, like offer to go out to lunch or drinks after the wedding. It will show them the exclusion is nothing personal.”

What do you think of the trend – smart or unnecessary? Let us know!

Rina Raphael is a senior TODAY editor contemplating sending an "I don't want to date you" alert to George Clooney.

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