Who controls the invitation list?

I'm the father of the groom and I'm throwing the rehearsal dinner -- can't I invite whomever I choose?


Cary Tennis
July 12, 2005 10:28PM (UTC)

Dear Cary,

Our son is getting married in August, and the wedding is already shaping up to be a real humdinger. The bride-to-be is a sweetheart, but she's kept a scrapbook since she was 12 of everything she wants at her wedding. Her family and our son are well-heeled enough that cost isn't really the object, but now I believe she has overstepped even the bride's prerogative by dictating to my wife and me whom we can and cannot invite to the rehearsal dinner.

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In an attempt to keep things reasonably priced, and to inject some eastern Colorado hominess into an overblown and overly formal wedding ritual, we decided to have a Western-style barbecue at my in-laws' farm. When we asked our future daughter-in-law for a list of people in the wedding party, she handed us an invitation list with nearly 80 names on it! The list includes the girls who will staff the guest-book table, the parents and siblings of two flower girls and three ring-bearers, and her two personal hairdressers. Our objection is not the cost -- it's a barbecue, after all, and we can easily feed hundreds, if we have to.

The problem is, all of the etiquette books and Web sites we have consulted say the rehearsal dinner party is supposed to be our way of thanking the participants for being in our son's wedding. In other words, it's our party, and the invitation list is up to us. We have registered our objection with our son, who insists that we not say a word to his bride.

My response has been to open the list up to other family members and friends with whom I want to celebrate my son's pending nuptials (forget the Country Club reception -- it's strictly high-hat, and my wife and I will be making only the required appearances). My wife says I'm being petty, which is probably true. But as the father of the groom, who is financing the post-rehearsal shindig, either I have invitation list privileges or I don't. Which is it?

Disgusted Dad

Dear Disgusted Dad,

Your decision to invite the folks you want to invite sounds perfectly reasonable to me. No one has to know that your apparent generosity stems from pettiness!

I'm no etiquette expert. We're kind of in the same boat, you and I, preferring the informal and democratic to the highly rehearsed and high-hat. So I too did a little browsing of wedding advice Web sites -- possibly some of the same ones you looked at. The impression I got was that the rehearsal dinner can indeed serve not only as a thank-you to the wedding party but also as an informal setting for family and out-of-town guests to get to know each other. So why not expand that a little? Who's going to notice an extra hundred or so guests?

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Where I would draw the line, I guess, is if any of this seriously inconveniences the core wedding party. I mean, really, it is mostly about them. So, for instance, if a bunch of motorcycle gang members and rodeo performers are coming, and if they're going to be drinking all night, spinning doughnuts in the pasture and trying to break one particularly recalcitrant filly, it'd be kind of you to make arrangements for the bride and her entourage to duck out early and get some sleep.

Nobody's really going to care how you look in the morning, but the bride probably has some crazy notion that she's got a big day ahead and wants to appear fresh.

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