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I was once invited to a wedding the day before it happened. Actually, I was invited to a pre-wedding cocktail party, and after a few drinks my friend, the groom, said I should just tag along to the next day’s main event. I won’t use his real name because I don’t want to embarrass him, so I’ll just call him George Clooney.
George and his wife weren’t hosting a casual, backyard celebration where guests could come and go. It wasn’t a Southern tea to which the whole town was invited. No, their wedding was a formal ceremony with a sit-down dinner and place cards that marked the assign seats. There were even personalized thank-you gifts for all the guests.
When George suggested I come to the wedding, we were several drinks into the evening and it sounded like a great idea. He and his fiancée assured me that it would be easy to squeeze an extra person onto the guest list. But when I woke up the next morning, I wasn’t sure what to do. Was the invitation just a drunken rambling? Was it genuine? Where was the wedding held? If I did go, what time should I arrive? I couldn’t call the groom to ask; it was his wedding day and that would be awkward. Even more awkward? The groom was my boss.
This is why I wasn’t originally invited. George was my editor, and if he invited me to his wedding he worried that he’d have to extend the gesture to everyone he oversaw—or else he’d look like he was playing favorites. Of the few people from our office who received proper invitations, most were other editors and none were his direct employees. But George, his fiancée, and I were friends outside of work—in fact, we still are—so at the last minute he thought, “Eh, what the hell.”
“I can’t tell you how many times people have asked me what to do about their co-workers,” says Marcy Blum, a New York-based wedding planner who has been in the business since 1986. “Most weddings these days are sit-down affairs, and the couple is billed per person. So the best idea is to invite only your close friends that you happen to work with.” And if you’re worried about the “if you invite one, you have to invite them all” situation, Blum advises to do what George did and err on the side of fewer attendees. “Ten years from now you don’t want to look at your photo albums and have no idea who’s in the pictures,” she says. (Unfortunately, that method only works if you don’t feel guilty about it and invite people at the last minute.)
Blum’s method seems to be the accepted response; most brides I talked to said they invited a couple co-workers but not their whole office. “I invited two people from work, but it’s turned interesting in the last month or so because one of them just got promoted so now she’s directly in charge of me,” said my friend Alyssa, whom I immediately called when I started writing this article because she’s getting married this fall and won’t stop talking about it. “I also invited my regular manager because he’s cool and I thought it’d be nice to invite him. But I didn’t invite my big boss. I don’t want him to come; that would be weird. What’s he going to say? ‘Hey, nice kiss up there’?”
Blum says Alyssa made the right decision. In most cases, top bosses have no place at a wedding. “If you are having a fun, upbeat, celebratory wedding and you work as a lawyer or hedge fund manager or something, you absolutely do not want to invite your boss,” she says. “The last thing you want to do is have him or her seeing you drunk on the dance floor doing hip-hop moves. They’ll never get the image out of their head.”
“Some people think it will further their career if they invite their boss,” says Anja Winikka, editor of the wedding website TheKnot.com. “But it’s not going to get you a promotion. Don’t be a brown-noser.”
Winikka says guest list etiquette is one of the hardest parts about planning a wedding and is one of the most commonly discussed topics on TheKnot. “Women always wonder, ‘Should I invite my co-workers to my wedding because I’m talking about my wedding so much at work?’” she says.
Alyssa has definitely experienced that. “When you go to lunch or are at a happy hour, people ask how the wedding planning is going, and it’s really awkward to be telling people who aren’t invited all the frickin’ details,” she says.
Hillary in Los Angeles doesn’t have this problem. That’s because she invited almost everyone in her entire office. “[My fiancé] and I work at the same company,” she explains. They met there, they started dating there, and most of their friends are somehow connected to their work. “It’s hard for us to separate the people we consider friends from the people who we wouldn’t necessarily invite” otherwise, she says. Of their 360-person wedding, nearly half of those invited are colleagues. ”It was easier to cut friends we haven’t seen in awhile than people we work with and see every day, even if we aren’t that close.”
You know what would be even easier? Eloping.