DEAR MISS MANNERS: Do you have any ideas about how to tell people gently and pleasantly that they are not on the invitation list to your daughter's wedding?
I have now put on weddings for two daughters and will be doing so again for another daughter. I was very surprised to learn that people of one's acquaintance assume that they will be invited and are personally hurt when they learn that they are not on the list.
Example conversation with a friend:
He: So, what's going on with you?
Me: I'm very excited. My daughter is engaged!
He: When is the wedding?
He: Great! I'll put it down on the calendar, and we'll be sure to be there.
Me: Uh ... duh ... hmmm ... um. Actually, I think my daughter and her fiance are planning to invite only people they know, you know, like their friends and family.
He: Well, aren't you inviting your friends, too?
Me: Well, yes, but only our good friends. (Ouch.) I mean people who have known the girls growing up or people who have met them before. (Oh, well, so much for that friendship.)
Acquaintance of my daughter: Hey, I hear you got married!
Daughter: Yes, in April.
Acquaintance: Well, I had to find out from Charlotte. I was really surprised you got married and didn't invite me.
Daughter: We had a small wedding and invited mostly family and close friends.
Acquaintance: But you invited Charlotte. I always thought you and I were close.
And so it goes. I had had no idea that people assumed weddings were free-for-alls with everyone from the highways and byways of your life invited. Some people are simply rude and can be snubbed, but others are genuinely hurt and puzzled that you do not consider them to be among your close friends.
I have tried reiterating that we have big families, that the girls prefer small weddings, but nothing seems to make a difference. Can you come up with a response that doesn't hurt people's feelings?
GENTLE READER: Which feelings are those? Miss Manners has trouble believing in the emotional delicacy of people who demand invitations to private events and then brush off the very euphemisms designed to spare them the embarrassment they are causing.
She does, however, admire your delicacy -- just enough to commend you for it, but not enough to recommend your giving in to social blackmail. In addition to whatever reasons you originally had to omit these people from the guest list, you now have two more: They are careless about your feelings, and they have no compunction about violating social rules. These are not good harbingers of how they would behave at the wedding.
While you should certainly be gentle, rather than as blunt and rude as they, Miss Manners will allow you to be as oblivious to hints as they are. No matter what they say, just keep repeating, "You're so kind to take an interest."