Can you invite someone to an engagement party but not the wedding?

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The Classic Vintage engagement party invitation from Minted.
The Classic Vintage engagement party invitation from Minted.

A friend offered to throw us an engagement party. Yay! Now we have to get serious about the guest list. Boo.

The problem we're having right now… Because of the venue and the hosts, there are definitely people who would be weird to not invite to the engagement party — We like them! They're pillars of this friend group! We love partying with them!

But it would be weird to invite them to the wedding — We've never spent any time alone together! It's a destination wedding, so it's a big financial ask!

If you search the internet for “can you invite someone to an engagement party and not the wedding” you'll get two answers:

  1. HELL FUCKING NO. Don't be a daft asshole.
  2. Sure. Times they are a changing, and some people have super-small weddings, or wedding very far away, and can't invite as many people as they'd like.

Overwhelmingly, though, the internet leans towards #1: Daft asshole-ness. Shit.

So we're sitting on the guest list for now. I feel like mayyyybe these would-be engagement party guests would understand. Hell, I think that I would understand! Much like being a B guest list-er, I'm just happy to get to party with friends whenever possible. But if there's a chance anyone gets confused and sad come wedding time, I don't want that.

I think we'll just limit the guest list to only those that are invited to the wedding. But I ask you…

Are you inviting people to pre-wedding parties that you aren't inviting to the wedding? And would you mind it if that were done to you?

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Comments on Can you invite someone to an engagement party but not the wedding?

  1. I think it depends on the party and the wedding (and the culture of where you live). Sure, an engagement party can be fun, but for many people the wedding is ‘the big game’. That being said, in the age of Facebook I think you could get away with an open invite to people for a causal party and not everyone would expect to be invited to the wedding. I think it’s a grey area if you send out individualized invites.
    I think people can throw parties FOR you and invite people you might not have on your list and it be ok.
    Also, if it’s a destination wedding……just invite people and let them work it out. Chances are they feel the same as you and will decline your invite.

  2. Simultaneously, I wouldn’t really be bothered if certain friends did this to me. I have friends in the ‘party friends’ group that do not fall into the ‘intimate wedding’ group.
    But also I don’t think I would risk insulting one of my friends by doing this to them.
    Although I also think it depends on the size & formlessness of the engagement party, and who the invite comes from (if you & fiance don’t send them out yourselves).

    • You basically summed up the circle brain goes in every time I think about it. I wouldn’t be bothered. –> I don’t want to insult someone. –> But we’re not hosting this party. –> so could the hosts invite non-wedding guests? –> I wouldn’t be bothered… and so on.

  3. No. Unless there is no real wedding bash.

    If the engagement party is huge and the wedding is teeny tiny, then I think you can get away with inviting to just the engagement because then the engagement is THE party. If you want to throw a 100 person engagement bash, and have nine immediate family members (or super close best friends) at your wedding, that’s ok. Otherwise, to me, it feels like telling the not-as-beloved guests that they are party filler.

  4. I honestly think if you’re doing a small, intimate destination wedding, then it only makes sense to throw a large engagement (or post-wedding) bash for all the peeps and freaks you couldn’t invite to the “real” shindig.
    Those Burning Man weddings are a case in point: not everyone is cut out for (comfort and) survival on the playa. Many couples holding destination weddings make it very clear: 1) it’s going to be far away 2) it’s going to be inconvenient 3) it’s going to be expensive and/or 4) we want to “keep it tucked in for the wedding” (read: we don’t want to be toooo freaky on our wedding day).
    Therefore throwing a large and loud bash outside of the actual nuptials only makes sense! 🙂

  5. First of all, I don’t consider myself easily offended. I would totally understand being invited to an engagement party for a destination wedding specifically, or a teeny tiny wedding specifically, and not the ceremony/reception itself. But if it’s a 150 guest wedding and we just happened to be #165 on the list and didn’t make the full cut? I’d probably be a little hurt. I wouldn’t make a big deal out of it, but it would sting. Personally I do not plan on setting any expectations for people I don’t intend to have at my wedding… much less messy that way.

  6. I went through this myself. My wedding was itty bitty. A grand total of around 35 people attended (that number included myself, my husband, and our kids)

    My sisters threw my a bridal shower and invited all the women we grew up with and even my friends from high school.
    Here’s how that went… All the women I grew up with graciously understood. They were all very happy to be included and held no grudges about the lack of wedding invite. The high school friends… not so much. They did not attend and don’t seem to want to speak with me anymore.

    So there you go. It’s gonna be weird. In the end- I am very happy that the ladies who did attend were there, so I’m happy about that… but I do feel bad that I’ve clearly offended a few.

    • Perhaps did your high school friends think you only invited them to your bridal shower so you could benefit from the gifts they brought ? I can wholly understand wanting to celebrate your impending marriage with as many people as possible, especially if only a limited number will be at the wedding itself, but your high school friends might have felt that they only received an invitation because you wanted a present from them, not because you wanted their company.

  7. One more thing–if other people throw your engagement party for you, people understand that those people don’t have access to your invite list (even if it’s just in your head), nor are they paying for or planning your wedding.

  8. I just want to say thank you to you for this post and also for all the comments on it. My Fiancé and I are about to plan our engagement party and we just had this conversation. We’re going to (probably) have 100-120 at our wedding (we have a lot of family) but were considering casting a wider friend net for our informal “grab drinks with us and celebrate” shin dig in a month or so. This confirms my suspicions that it wouldn’t be worth the potential drama to invite people to the engagement party who won’t be invited to the wedding.

  9. What about saying on the party invitations “we won’t be able to invite everyone to our wedding for reasons X, Y and Z, but we’d love to see you to celebrate”? There might be noses out of joint (and I think those will belong to people who haven’t had to organise/pay for a wedding themselves), but I think a lot of people will understand- particularly given that it’s a destination wedding- and expectations are less likely to be raised.

    • I wouldn’t understand why you had to put it IN WRITING that you possibly wouldn’t be inviting me.

  10. This whole debate sounds an awful lot like the discourse surrounding inviting someone to just the reception and not the ceremony, or vice versa. Personally, I find an invitation to any wedding event — pre-, post-, or main event — is special and wonderful. I’m celebrating two (or more) folks I love! Who happen to love each other! What could be better? Plus, I’m probably saving a buttload of money by going to a pre- or post- event as opposed to the wedding itself!

    Were I you or your partner, I think I would treat this as the same as considering to invite some of your people to only the reception or only the ceremony. How would that make you feel? Would it sit right with you? Forget how you would feel in their shoes, put that aside for a second, and really think about how you would feel making those kind of invites. Maybe apply that same feeling and thought process to your current predicament.

    But above all remember that whatever choice you make, you’ve gotta own it, and that it was the right one for you and your partner.

  11. I had this happen to me in reverse. A cousin of my husband’s was getting married. We were invited to the wedding, but I was not invited to her shower. At first I was pissed because the tradition in my family is that any woman who responds that yes, they are attending the wedding, is invited to the shower.
    But then I took a step back and realized two things. A. This is NOT my family so obviously things will be different. B. Her venue could only seat 90 people and obviously there are 89 people who are closer to her than her cousin’s wife who she’s met a grand total of like 8 times.
    So, I would definitely be one who would be cool with being invited to the engagement party but not the wedding.

  12. I think others’ points about the relative sizes of the party and wedding are great. Another really big point is and whether or not the couple is expecting gifts.

    I’ve been to engagement parties that were “L’chaim” parties–literally everyone (neighbours! parents’ friends! coworkers!) invited to a relative’s house for cake and toasting a few days after the engagement was announced, and then wasn’t invited to the wedding. So, first there was a cultural understanding that this was community-wide. Second, it was months away from the wedding; it wasn’t grouped in with wedding-adjacent events like showers. Thirdly, there was no expectation of gifts. If I was expected to spend money on a couple for a wedding-related event, but not invited to the wedding, I’d be peeved.

  13. Yes it’s fine. My fiance and I are doing the same thing. We have so many close family members that it is impossible to invite all our friends and extended family as our venue only seats 60. I included a little card in our engagement invites that had something along the lines of ‘due to large families and small venues unfortunately its impossible to have everyone we love on our ‘big day’ so would you join us in celebrating our journey to married life by attending our engagement celebration’. Most people would understand that you just can’t have everyone. And at the end of the day it’s your wedding and your big day not theirs so sometimes its ok to be a little selfish, it’s your wedding.

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