The Washington Post

Engagement parties, wedding showers and post-wedding brunches: Are all these events crucial to the union? Here’s a roundup of advice from columnist Carolyn Hax to readers who want pre- and post- wedding event advice.

March 2013: Engagement party guest list

Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. The column includes cartoons by "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis -- Carolyn's ex-husband -- and appears in over 200 newspapers. View Archive

Some friends offered to throw my fiancee and me an engagement party. However, we are planning to have a small wedding. The friends don’t want to invite people to the party who won’t be invited to the wedding, but I think this would be a good way to have everyone celebrate. Ruling?

Trust your friends, yikes. Hire them as your social secretaries. What you propose is famously bad form; invitations to pre-wedding events are understood to be precursors to wedding invitations — unless it’s an office party. That’s the lone exception.

If you want to be inclusive, then suggest a party after the wedding and call it an informal reception (with these friends spreading the word: no gifts).


August 2012: Invite all or none?

Hi Carolyn,

Quick question for you and the gang: I am having a relatively small (<50) wedding (the size is set by both budget and venue) and thus need to keep the guest list to close family and friends. I used to live in another city where I had a small, close group of friends. Since I have moved away, I have not kept in touch with all of them, though they all are still very close. Is it terribly awkward of me to not invite the “whole gang?” Do I say something to some of them? I don’t want to hurt any feelings, but including these people would be solely based on their relationship to other guests, not to us. Then again, I’m not in junior high, so maybe I should just invite who I want and let people deal with it? Thanks for the input!

“Small, close group of friends” = invite all or none.

I think we have different ideas of junior high. To me, it’s more adolescent to want only the two friends you really like, and be willing to hurt feelings or strain the bonds between them to accomplish that, to save a few hundred bucks. I’d definitely say otherwise if the group were large or not close, but given these specs, I think generous is the way to go, even if it pinches.


June 2012: Maxed out on wedding plans

Getting married in a few months. Despite best intention by my fiance and I to keep things somewhat simple, it’s becoming a production, much of it due to prodding by our mothers. “Centerpieces for the rehearsal dinner!” “Goodie bags!” “Send-off brunch! We couldn’t possibly let people leave without feeding them again!” Pointing out that the hotel already has, in fact, a free breakfast doesn’t seem to be a good argument, apparently. And don’t even get me started on the shower, which I really didn’t even want but gamely went along with to avoid hurt feelings. You would think that day is the biggest day of my life rather than the wedding itself. Part of my irritation with the other wedding weekend activities is that even though they are the moms’ ideas, they don’t live here- so ultimately even if they are paying for those extra things the planning would likely shift back to me. Any ideas for getting them to tone it down?

“You’re kind to offer a brunch, but I’d rather not have one--I’ve maxed out on wedding plans. I won’t stand in your way if having one is important to you, but because of aforesaid maxing out, I won’t contribute to the planning.”

Then stick to it. This is less about brunch than it is about being able to live with yourself, and if you don’t like the way your wedding and your family relationships are playing out, then it’s (past) time for you to assert yourself. Your mothers are asserting themselves without apology, no? And it’s not even their party.



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