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Tacky Invitations

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I received a wedding invitation in the mail recently.  I was delighted to learn that the friend was getting married and looking forward to meeting her fiancé.  I was not aware of an engagement party or wedding shower.  It was a morning wedding.  Enclosed with the invitation to the ceremony was a small card explaining that due to finances and scheduling issues, the reception was limited basically to the bride's and groom's extended families and the wedding party.  That was okay with me.  However, the second paragraph on the card stated that it would not be necessary to bring a gift; our presence, love and support would be gift enough.

I was very surprised by that.  I was taught that whenever someone extends you the courtesy of inviting you to their wedding (ceremony, reception or both), the only correct thing to do is to give a gift.  Because I was not sure if I would have an opportunity to give it to the couple at the church, I mailed it to the bride's parents' home.  Other guests brought gifts to the church and I'm assuming those were brought home for the bride and groom to open at another time.  I am happy for my friend and I'm glad I could be there for her on her special day.  (P.S.: The wedding was beautiful!)

I was stunned that my friend would need to include with her wedding invitations an explanation why some of the recipients didn't get a reception invitation.  In my mind, no explanation should be needed.  Is it still the case that you shouldn't assume an invitation to the reception just because you're asked to the ceremony?  I'm not sure how to handle the "no-gifts-please" thing in general.


I'm stunned, too.  An invitation to the ceremony automatically infers an invitation to a reception.  She felt she had to include a notice of explanation when she chose to ignore etiquette and invite people solely to the ceremony but not the reception.  That alone tells me she planned a wedding far too big for her budget since nearly everyone can afford cake and punch reception.  (A half sheet cake from BJ's serves 40 and costs $30.)  Yes, sheet cakes from BJs are not very extravagant but if that is what one must do to provide a very modest reception for ALL one's guests, that's what you do.   

The etiquette of wedding gifts is that one is not obligated to give a gift if not attended the wedding (note: that infers ceremony AND reception).  If you attend the wedding, giving a gift is a good thing.  However, reciprocally, the bride and groom are not to have expectation of receiving gifts lest they fall into the deception of believing they can direct their guests' gift giving.  Your friend fell into that faux pas by assuming wedding guests will bring gifts and therefore she could tell them to forego giving them.  Which is almost as bad as telling people what to get.  


This week my colleagues and I (all 135 of us) were mystified to find elaborate wedding invitations on our desks- we didn't know who the bride and groom were. Turns out our boss' son is getting married. Of course many of us declined as we don't know this person. I sent a nice note and a small gift with my apologies and well wishes (which I thought was generous considering the impersonal nature of the mass invitation to total strangers). 

The next day the office staff came around with a clipboard to ensure that everyone had paid the right amount as a wedding present if you were not coming-a substantial amount was quoted! Yes, your name was ticked off and your demanded 'gift' listed. Of course, if you were attending, the amount was tripled. Again, the amount to be given was specified. Again, substantial. I spend less on friends' weddings and I am no scrooge. I suppose we should be grateful. At least office staff were allowed to give a smaller amount due to their smaller wage. It's hard not to feed the gimme pigs when they are your boss, but this family has earned universal contempt and resentment for their efforts. Talk about abusing your position of power to milk the 'little people'. I hope they choke on the wedding cake my colleagues and I paid for! 


I received a wedding invitation in the mail on the 27th December. The RSVP date on the invitation was 20th December. In case you think the invitation got lost in the mail, there was no stamp on the envelope. The girl lives 3 houses down the street from me and dropped the invitation in my letter box along with a belated Christmas card. It’s nice to know that I was definitely on the B-list or lower.



When my brother "Dan" got married about 2 years ago, my family knew it would be a very small affair in the bride's home town and not many people were going to be at the wedding. Dan had not been getting along well with us over the years due to "materialistic" differences. Everything in his world revolved around what people give him (explains a lot!)

Imagine our surprise to find out he and his bride sent out over 300 wedding announcements before the wedding with the registry cards stapled to them. If that wasn't enough to make my family crawl under a rock, at the bottom of the announcement was the following...

Cards and gifts happily appreciated and can be sent to: Bride c/o brides family address, blah blah




My sister excitedly sent out all her wedding invitations and later that week, got her very first RSVP card back! She tore it open, only to find a blank RSVP card with nothing written on it, no return address, and no way of figuring out who was too dim to fill it out before sending it back in the mail. What a waste of a stamp. To this day we have no idea who it was from.


Technology Faux Pas…a family friend was going on her second wedding (I was a bridesmaid in her first).  They had written up a preliminary guests list, but decided to keep it small, as it was her second time around.  So in a very distasteful e-mail, she stated that she had cut us from the guest list as she didn’t want to pay for our meals.  But if we still wanted to come, we were more than welcome…but we would have to pay our own way.  We all regretfully declined.  TACKY!!!



This is a horrid story I heard from a co-worker not too long ago. She received an invitation from some friends inviting her to their wedding. The catch?

You needed to not only bring your own chair for the reception, but your own plasticware, plate, bowl, and cup as the couple would not be providing them for your meal. Needless to say, she did not attend.



"Jess" and I met at age 13. To make a very long story short, Jess' parents wanted to control every aspect of her life, and Jess took off to pursue her dreams as soon as she was legally able. During this time, most of her old friends had no idea what she was up to, but when Jess resurfaced five years later, she informed us all that she found the man of her dreams and got engaged to him after mere months of meeting each other. I was surprised but didn't say anything; it's her life, after all. We promised to keep in touch. That was at the end of 2006. In February, Jess and I were chatting about life, when she brought up her wedding; in that conversation, she said that she felt most comfortable putting the wedding off a full 13 months.

To my surprise, two weeks later, I received an email from Jess -- a "Save the Date; Invitation to Follow" e-card for April 5, 2007. Needless to say, I was surprised. I knew that there was little chance that I could take time off and pay for a plane ticket (I had recently moved several hundred miles away to start a new job), but I thanked Jess, just the same. Then last week, Jess called to wish me a happy birthday, and would I mind accepting or declining her wedding invitation? After collecting myself, I told her that I was unsure and explained my situation. Apparently unsatisfied with my response, Jess pressed me to make a decision because she was only going to send invitations to those who were definitely going to attend. I told her that it was her decision whether or not I would receive an invitation but not to expect anything either way. Annoyed, she claimed she had to take another call and hung up. Another friend called me to relay a similar story. Neither of us expect to get an invitation after that phone call. As I explained to that friend, I completely understand how costly a wedding can be, having gone through it, myself. But letting people know that they would not receive an invitation unless they could confirm their attendance on the spot is not being frugal; it's being unbelievably tacky.



In the autumn of 2006, my fiancé "Billy" and I received a wedding invitation in the mail from his sister, who lives several states away (I have yet to meet her). There was nothing tacky about the invitation, other that the request that gifts be in the form of cash, of course. If I recall correctly, there was an explanation about needing the cash for such practical things as household bills and expenses related to child care and car maintenance. I can definitely empathize with not quite having enough money for essentials, but I also know that weddings should not be used for the raising of such funds. This may sound kind of catty, but from what he's told me about her, this wasn't completely unexpected. I will give her credit for getting my full name and putting it on the invitation and envelope.

Billy and I ended up deciding not to go. The invitation definitely factored into our decision, although there were other factors to consider, such as a ten hour drive each way, the renting of hotel rooms, and neither of us would have known anyone, as the rest of the BTB's family wasn't planning to attend (which is a different non-etiquette-related story). We marked the RSVP and returned it accordingly.

It was just as well that we didn't go, because the groom-to-be "mysteriously" disappeared the night before the wedding and didn't show up until it was conveniently too late to go through with the ceremony. A couple months later, Billy heard from his mother that there had been another attempted wedding and the groom had gotten cold feet AGAIN.

Fast forward to now, March 2007. After getting a voice message from her, Billy tells me his sister is getting married. He has three sisters, all of which are dating (to various extents) someone, so I have to ask "which sister?" (One day, perhaps he'll learn to say "My Sister [name]" so I won't have to keep asking him which one he means, but it's always a fun guessing game!) He says her name, and sure enough, it's the sister that has already been stood up TWICE by her intended groom. I ask if it's the same guy (one never knows) and sure enough, it is!

The etiquette point of my story, aside from the original tacky invitation, is the fact that no invitations were sent out for the second and third weddings. To be fair, the second attempt was probably intended to be an elopement (nobody else had been invited/warned, that we are aware of), but for the upcoming wedding, we were invited by phone. Obviously, this lady has more pressing things in her life to worry about than etiquette, and I do hope she learns to take care of them so she can eventually focus on the "little things" like avoiding eHell. Thanks for letting me share my story!



I am an enthusiastic patron of couples who hand-make their wedding invitations.  Not only are they usually financially reasonable, but they also show the care and heart that the couple put into them.   But one dark and stormy day, that all changed, when I opened our mailbox and found a wedding invitation from a couple we were acquaintances with.  I had no idea what horrors awaited me inside the white letter-sized envelope addressed to us in blue ballpoint pen.   It was half a piece of white cardboard paper (the craft kind, not any special type), with a clipart ivy border in a dried yellow color (it almost looked like it was suppose to be green, but their printer ran out of ink), with all the regular wording (the marriage of, the time, the place), in bold bright blue Times New Roman font.  Bright blue, Times, New,  Roman.  Absolutely no effort, time, or care whatsoever!  So incredibly tacky!!    

And then, in complete disbelief and after grabbing a hold of my porch railing to stop from falling over and having a seizure because it was so bad, I frantically flipped it over hoping that maybe it would get better.  It got worse.  On the back was a big, colorful Sears logo, with the words “’John’ and ‘Jane’ are registered at Sears”.  And the icing on the cake, there were spelling errors.   Cost of wedding invitations:  $0.00 Time and effort into invitations:  None. Tastefulness and class of invitations:  None. Having your story on Etiquette Hell because of your atrocious invitations:  Priceless. 


What?  You didn't scan it in and send it to me?  I'm hurt.  


Here is an EMAILED invitation and the subsequent response from one of the invited.  I can't think of anything else to add.  The invited definitely said it all!.............       

For those of you who have not heard Jenny and I are having a Holy Union, and so we are officially putting this out to the whole community...   XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX & XXXXXXXXXXX   Request the honor of your presence in celebrating their Holy Union on Saturday the twenty-sixth of May two thousand and seven at two o'clock in the afternoon North Congregational United Church of Christ , Address deleted.   There will be a light reception following the ceremony. Since we are both poor students, we are asking that people who are local  bring a tray of fruit, vegetables, or crackers and cheese (Church, though, is a no peanut zone). We would greatly appreciate your help.  If you have any questions regarding this celebration please contact either XXXXXX or me.  We look forward to sharing our special day with our church friends and community. We would also like it if you can RSVP by simply responding to this email at, so we have a rough idea of how many to plan for.    P.S.- We are registered at Target and Bed Bath and Beyond.            

I thought that either Dear Abby or  Ann Landers was still alive, however  the horror of this email probably killed off the surviving sister.  If you MUST beg for reception food, do it off the invitation.  Also, your guests know that you are poor students, bringing it up is only whining about it.  If I am bringing food to a reception that you can't pay for, I'm gonna damn well bring what I wanna eat, and that includes peanut-laden items.  Hell, I may bring a baby seal and kill it on the spot if that's what I want to eat.  Extra tackiness points for adding the little blurb about where you are registered.  You get a fruit plate OR you get the rubber sheets.  Not both.   Come to think of it, that's not so bad after all.  I bought a Rubbermaid serving tray during the holidays and never used it.  I think I'll fill it with crudités and a dip, then put a gift tag on it that says "Here, wash this up and take it home.  Mazel tov."   RSVP????  I don't see why they need to know how many people are coming.  If everyone is bringing  their own food,  I think you're covered.  If you run out of drinks, you can just ask one of your guests to run across the street to Kroger and pick up more Big K.



My husband's cousin (we'll call her Natasha,) is getting married in three weeks. Natasha's mother sent out invitations to family via e-mail two days ago. Natasha's getting married in a well-known vacation spot five hours away by car. It's expensive to stay in this area during high season. The cheapest hotel rooms left at this point are $375 per night, and most places have a two-night guarantee as well. We've seen Natasha twice in the past three months at family gatherings; nothing was said about the wedding until 72 hours ago.

Evidently, the family members who've just been excluded are pretty hurt. Her mother's comments were that they "wanted it small" and "weren't intending to invite the family". They're sad it's such short notice family members can't attend. That's okay, though. You should still send a gift! Natasha's registry could be found at the following...


I received a wedding invitation in the mail this week.  It was poorly printed on the INSIDE of two RSVP cards that were perforated and not separated (but did separate as I was holding them), contained multiple typos and misspellings but the best was the following line, at the bottom.

"Picnic reception.  Bring your own lawn chairs."



Page Last Updated October 11, 2008