I didn’t think about how our guests would treat our wedding on social media

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Nate and I had an engagement party on Sunday. It went really well and everyone seemed to have a lot of fun. Now pictures and posts are starting to trickle onto Facebook and Google+ — and I'm watching with a combination of trepidation and interest.

The use of social media in modern-day event planning and celebrating is a relatively unexplored territory, short of making events and inviting people to them, marking them private or public, and waiting for the RSVPs to come in. Most of my friends keep their more formal, more intimate, or more serious gatherings off Facebook entirely; it seems to be the province of housewarmings, open birthday parties, drunken meet-ups, and house parties. Wedding invitations, funerals, bar and bat mitzvot, anniversary parties — all of these seem to be too formal for an event on Facebook, at least in my social group.

However, the post-party roundup seems to go un-addressed in a lot of modern etiquette discussions. Putting an album of pictures up on Facebook where friends who weren't invited to the party can see them? Deciding whether to post a status thanking your biggest helpers and supporters so they can get some community love? Handling how to address the people who were invited but didn't RSVP, or the people who weren't invited who feel like they should have been? None of these things are handled in advice columns.

I didn't think about how our guests would treat our party online. Pictures have been posted, people have been tagged, comments have been left, and there seems to be a small, but healthy, amount of chatter about the weekend's events (specifically around all the pretty henna which arose from it!). I certainly don't mind any of the sharing that's going on, but it's funny, in hindsight, to have thought that I could keep this party on the down-low to keep from ruffling any feathers.

We have to own that we're more complicated than friend requests and status updates and allow ourselves not to be ashamed of being exclusive, as long as our exclusivity isn't mean-spirited.

It's also funny to examine my own feelings as I watch the posts go live. I keep waiting to feel some kind of guilt or embarrassment about folks who weren't invited to the party seeing the pictures and such, but so far it hasn't happened. I look at the pictures from the party and realize that with a couple of exceptions, we've known every person in those pictures for more than two years — many of them have been friends with one or both of us longer than we've been together as a couple. Every single one of them will be invited to our wedding. We didn't invite all the people we're going to invite to our wedding, but doubtless we could double or triple the prospective wedding guest list and still have people left out who could be hurt by their exclusion.

We're blessed with a huge and diverse community of interesting, generous, kind people. The flip side of that blessing is that it can be hard to impose limitations on who comes to what event. Drawing the lines between acquaintances, friends, close friends, and family feels so judgmental, but is a requirement, not just logistically, but emotionally.

This is one of those things that social media (especially Facebook) handles so poorly — the idea that friends are friends are friends, with no variation, no hierarchy. It encourages a sense of discriminating or of being discriminated against, rather than an acceptance of what should be a completely normal fact — that we segregate our social groups into layers of intimacy every time we call someone up to chat, we accept an invitation to lunch or a party, we look at the instant message floating on our screen and decide to ignore it. Social media just makes that segregation more public.

In the age of online communication and digital relationships, we have to fight against social media's drive to simplify our relationships into something computers can understand. We have to own that we're more complicated than friend requests and status updates and allow ourselves not to be ashamed of being exclusive, as long as our exclusivity isn't mean-spirited. We have to remember that making a judgment call is not the same thing as being judgmental.

So, how am I dealing with the posts by other people on Facebook et al? I'm not, really. I'm not explaining, statusing, worrying, excusing, or wringing my hands. I'm certainly not apologizing. If anyone wants to bring it up with me, they're welcome to, and I'm happy to explain our choices. But I'm not going to lie to anyone about why we made those choices, least of all myself.

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Comments on I didn’t think about how our guests would treat our wedding on social media

  1. “This is one of those things that social media (especially Facebook) handles so poorly — the idea that friends are friends are friends, with no variation, no hierarchy.”

    I haven’t played with this myself, but I believe the newest “new facebook” allows you to create groups of friends, for example “college roomies”, “work pals” etc. and choose to show some posts only to a certain group. Does anyone who’s more familiar with this have input on it? Is the time spent to create groups worth it, do you think?

  2. It’s fairly easy to put people into the “Close Friends” and “Acquaintances” categories and post only things you want to see to either be only for close friends or excluding acquaintances, or any other custom group you come up with. When posting you just chose who you’d like to share things with in the drop down next to the “post” button. Very similar to Google+. The problem is that *other* people posting pictures of your events. You can’t control that other than asking people to take them down. But it is a nice way to do it! You can create a group for your wedding so when you post anything about planning it can only be seen by the bridal party… or exclude ex-boyfriends from seeing it(even if people comment on it who are friends with them), very helpful indeed!

    • That was the problem we ran into, Jackie–friends sharing albums on Facebook when we’d been totally silent about the whole thing (I have a strict “No wedding on Facebook, ever, period.” rule, because I just don’t trust their crappy filtering tools).

      So far, the response has been pretty minimal. It was a much smaller deal than I expected–I totally had a blast of OH SHIT when “Nate and Sarah’s engagement party!” albums starting going up on Facebook, but after a couple of deep breaths, I just let go. I’ve had a lot of angst and anxiety about our guestlist (specifically about who isn’t on it), so having such a small reaction did a lot to reassure me. Everything’s scarier in your mind, right?

      • We had a “no wedding related photos on FB” policy. And the only person who couldn’t seem to respect our wishes was his oldest friend and best woman. She posted up photos of his stag weekend while they were still away, then two days after the wedding posted up more of the wedding. Everyone else caught on and had no issue with no photos on FB. She just refused to get it. She kept saying it wasn’t a big deal. Unfortunately, due to her actions during our wedding and since, we’re no longer friends with her. It’s really sad and at the same time, do we really want someone in our lives who has such blatant disregard for our requests? The answer is no. To some persons, their FB lives are so important that they are willing to sacrifice 15 years of friendship.

      • We had a mysterious “guest” creating a whole new fb profile for our wedding! It brought a lot of drama (we didn’t know who they were and if they knew anything about the guest list… Heck, we didn’t even know if they were in it!), but in the end the wedding had to start one hour later and it was a GREAT way to tell most of our friends (who were friends with this “person”). I tried (with several educational mails) to get them to adjust fb privacy and even got mad at them for not doing so (all by mail… We still didn’t know who was the wedding vigilante), and I stopped caring somewhere along the way. All the pics were in their wall and all the comments about the wedding were made there too, and though I was worried about hurting feelings, nothing happened.

        Now I have a 2-month-old baby, and oh things are DIFFERENT. No pics of Chipi online, period. It’s her privacy and she should have the right to give it away whenever she wants. No pics of pregnant me online either. So far it is working, which amazes me.

        Ps.- the wedding vigilante were my sisters. My two social-media-addicted, totally-ignorant-of-privacy-settings sisters. No amount of educational mails could have helped anyway. But it was sweet… In a way 🙂

  3. We have to remember that making a judgment call is not the same thing as being judgmental. yes!

  4. Yes, you can post to certain groups via FB and G+ but the problem is, you can’t control what other people do.

    I wish I knew how to avoid this. It happens all the time in my circles. On one hand, you just have to realize that you’re not going to get invited to everything. Especially with a wedding, those choices are driven by factors other than your general awesomeness and likability. In non-wedding situations, it’s might be driven by who else is attending or what you plan to do.

    The reality is that not all friendships are created equal and we all have times when we only want certain people around us. Unfortunately, social media makes that nearly impossible to achieve without offending someone.

    I think that we need an Emily Post of a new generation because some of this is basic etiquette issues. We have a driving need to show off how cool our weekend was or to prove to everyone we know that we didn’t sit at home and watch Law and Order all day. Social media makes that really simple, but it shouldn’t trump the feelings of others or the overall best interests of everyone involved.

    • I think it’s also important to remember that social media does not always give you the response you want. I did post on Facebook once asking for photographer recommendations, and got a million people telling me I neeeeeeeded to hire a videographer for my special day! which was a) not what I’d asked, and b) annoying as shit. After that, the Iron Curtain descended and my Facebook has been sans wedding updates ever since.

      This driving need to share every! single! thing! on Facebook which so many people seem to have makes me a little nuts, so I try to be really careful about what I do post over there. I don’t want to hurt any feelings… and I don’t want to annoy people, either. I’m sure plenty of my Facebook friends just plain don’t want to hear about wedding stuff, so no need to inundate them with stuff they don’t care about, right?

  5. I knwo I have friends who feel jealous over NOT being included in certain events that are posted about, and sometimes I feel a pang of guilt over it, admittedly, but not enough to pretend to be friends with people that i don’t really care for.

    Also, I have admittedly felt guilty over seeing pics of a “party’ or whatever that a lot of my friends went to, and forgot to invite me to.

    It’s all friend drama, just more out in the open than it used to be. The trick is to not post a comment that you will later regret.

    “Awww, wish I coulda been there!” is fine. “Why wasn’t I invited?” is NOT.

  6. I am in a similar situation,a girl I went to high school with who thinks we are close will see our engagement/wedding pics and I think it will be a huge shock to her that she hasn’t been invited. I know it will upset her but we only wanted people who we have seen physically recently not someone who pops up on instant messenger telling me we need to catch up but never does anything about it. Social media does make things tricky!

  7. THANK YOU for posting this! I’ve been pondering this more and more as we get closer to the wedding date. At 6 months out, I’ve posted exactly ONE thign about the upcoming wedding since our engagement mid-last year, and that was merely in passing while talking about something else.

    I’m not worried people will “forget” I’m getting married, especially since they aren’t invited! the people who ARE invited won’t forget and not posting constantly about it won’t make it any less special or important!
    I’ve never really had something like this which I’ve deliberately chosen to exclude from my social media presence, but it feels good leaving it out – it stays personal instead of being a social media circus or gossiping point. phew!

  8. I’ve experienced this problem first hand on two separate occasions. I don’t have a solution – I can only tell my story and offer one possible way to solve some problems which arise from facebook.

    Firstly, I had a low key “Secret wedding” We told no one it was an actual wedding but planned to surprise them all on the day. One day a friend of a friend innocently asked me how the planning was going on facebook. She had no idea what we were planning – I’d only met her once but it was enough to tip my Father, who was already suspicious over the line and he asked. He waited til I was home one night and ambushed me – asking me to my face, point blank if we were getting married. I splutterd, coughed up my coffee and told him the truth. Fast forward a few months and a friend of my soon to be mother in law, posted a “have a safe journey and enjoy the wedding” post on her wall. my Mother in law lives internationally – we’d had to share our plans with her to ensure she was able to make the 18+ hour trip home.

    All in all – the wedding was not a surprise to our closest family thanks to a few well meaning friends.

    Then on the day of the wedding, extended family who were not invited for a number of reasons were whinging and complaining before the reception was done because they’d not been invited and saw the evidence on facebook. One particularly nasty uncle made horrible rude comments on all the iphone photo uploads – you know “urgh! Pink wedding dress! Gross!” I told myself that the “facebook fall out” was simply justification as to why they were not invited in the first place but it was horrible having to delete those comments and I felt exposed that friends had seen my family carry on like that (in a public forum) before I got a chance to remove the commentary.

    To add further insult to injury I later blocked from facebook by an immediate family member who was at the wedding but sided on the same side as the non-invited family. When she blocked me it was sudden – I could have never guessed that my own Mother would “un-friend” me and I lost access to any of the photos she’d taken of the day – some of the only ones of my wedding cake were taken by her. Sadly, we’re not on speaking terms and I have limited ways to access these photos.

    Finally, a few months later a cousin was engaged and only invited family who were not invited to my wedding to her engagement party. A large number of scorned family members then proceeded to “check in” to her party. The event name on facebook was for “Special family only” and the description was “for closest family and friends” – this sparked round two of the facebook wars – which ultimately lead to old battles being re-visited and one whole branch of my family (my father, siblings and I) severing all ties with the rest of the family on facebook – which was our only real connection anymore due to the fragile nature of the relationships in the first place.

    I am not pretending that facebook caused these problems but I am certainly saying it made them worse.

    My feelings for how to avoid this:
    Tag only photos as private or friends only,

    if you need to keep something private or a secret – do not put it on facebook at all. Let friends know about your choices. Ask people not to post if you do not want them to – this is the norm for my social circle – engagement annnouncements, births etc – you’re not to say a word online til the main person involved (mother, bride and groom to be…) announce it.

    be mindful of what gets out there – how people will perceive you and vice versa

    It’s a horrible area to navigate and one I think is best avoided if you don’t want to deal with it.

  9. I don’t post on Facebook anything. I hate people showing off and I alwyas think we see just the beautiful side of life from people on Facebook. I like my life and I don’t want to compare it with other people. Why should I? I just use it to chat and to send mails.
    There is nothing about my wedding on Facebook announced and there will never be something. My friends and family know everything they need and I’m sure my other Facebook”friends” aren’t really interested in it. Once it is on the internet it will be there forever.

  10. This might come off sounding terrible but I can’t shake the feeling that the real problem is with the ‘traditional’ approach of hiding events from non-attendees rather than the conflict between that and social networking sites.

    In what other situations do we tip-toe around grown adults as if they’re the younger sibling who has to be given a gift on everyone elses birthday because they’re not yet mature enough to understand that sometimes it’s not all about them?

    Why is the default approach to someone being hurt that your life does not revolve around them and that you do sometimes have fun without them to try and hide it and pretend that’s not the case at all?

    I understand the drama it can cause, I’ve had my (un)fair share of it too. But I can’t help thinking that by trying to hide any fun event from anyone who wasn’t there we’re all actually reinforcing this behaviour by letting them believe that they are always involved in everything their friends and family ever do. On top of which if they do find out it’s like some terrible secret, which again reinforces the idea that ultimately YOU were at fault for having a party without inviting everyone you’ve ever met. Which is absurd.

    Maybe if we could do away with this concept, if people could grow up aware that their friends and family often have fun without them and that it’s ok because they also have fun without those people then we wouldn’t be having this problem.

    Well, you’d probably still have trouble with wedding guest lists because they seem to be a beast unto themselves and everyone has their own ideas on who MUST be invited. But at least it would be one rediculous issue out the way.

    • “In what other situations do we tip-toe around grown adults as if they’re the younger sibling who has to be given a gift on everyone elses birthday because they’re not yet mature enough to understand that sometimes it’s not all about them?”

      How is this AT ALL the same as the long-standing etiquette that you don’t discuss events with or in front of people who haven’t been invited? I’m happy to hear about your wedding after the fact, but I don’t want to hear about it for months in advance.

      • And on social media there is a very easy way for you to not have to hear about an event you don’t want to hear about that doesn’t have to involve the planner/organizer of said event keeping all hush-hush about it if he/she doesn’t want to. You simply remove someone (or a specific event) from your newsfeed. It’s really easy to do. I do it often.

    • Currently family assume they’re invited to all big events. Then we have old friends who want to be involved but you’re just not close any more and can’t fit another person (or persons) or you can’t afford to pay £60 per person more just not to hurt them.
      We’ve managed to open up our reception to a wider audience so we’re happy to open up about the wedding on Facebook a bit more but if it was a smaller wedding then I’d prefer to not rub it people’s faces. Other than the people who are going to be there who actually cares we’re getting married? Very few. So there’s no need to share it around the interwebs.
      It’s not really about appeasing spoiled children for me, it’s about not over sharing a private event. If anyone expresses upset over not being included we’ll deal with it case by case. I just don’t feel right complaining or boasting about my life at all, particularly to people who aren’t involved – it’s like being at school and saying my dad has a more expensive car than you’re dad, well my dad has a yacht.

  11. Everyone should do exactly what their comfort level is, of course, but I am always happy to see when an acquantance posts wedding photos on Facebook. Even if I don’t know the person well, my policy is I have to like him or her a little or we wouldn’t be FB friends–and it’s a delight to see someone I like very very happy. And I look for dress and cake ideas.

  12. Oh Ladies, I sympathize with all of your Facebook related problems.

    At the time of our engagement and wedding last year I was completely deactivated from Facebook (My husband doesn’t even use it). This solved many problems for me in regards to Guest List Guilt. Truth be told, we were pretty satisfied with our guest list and I explained to a small group of peripheral friends that we would love have them celebrate with us but my family is just too. damn. big.

    What I didn’t think about was the onslaught of Facebook photo posts after our wedding. My husband and I are very private with particular regards to our relationship. It was lovely to have friends and family so excited to celebrate our day and take photos but having them appear on Facebook hours later just felt awful. Seeing the photo of our first kiss as husband and wife blasted on the internet made me feel completely violated.

    We assumed that by not being on FB ourselves there would be no need for our guests to upload pictures from the wedding. Big mistake. I regret not including a note in our program that would prevent our wedding pics from entering the social network.

    All is fine now but at the time I had to take a deep breath and push aside the 13 year old girl inside of me that was on the verge of a tantrum. Emotions run so high, good and bad, during weddings and I had to remember that we are lucky for the love we have and the joy we share with our family and friends. I can’t hold it against them for wanting to share that joy with *their* friends. C’est la vie.

    • This is totally my fear! Even though I’ve put a note on our website saying please don’t upload photos of us to social networking sites I just know certain people will do it anyway as they seem to live on Facebook :/
      I too would feel so violated at such private moments being uploaded for all the world to see.

  13. I do have one story to tell. I invited my ex and his girlfriend (let’s call her K) to my wedding. I’m not particularly fond of her, but I do like him. Everybody took pics the day of and some uploaded them in real time, and that was fine with me. But months later our fantastic photographer gave us the DVD with all the digital photos and posted a few on his own webpage. I shared a link to the post on my FB wall, but kept my copies for myself. I wasn’t even sure I was allowed to share them. Then, what does K do? She proceeds to download all the pictures posted on his web by the photographer and uploads them as her own album on FB with the title “Gracia and E’s wedding” without even referencing the photographer’s website.

    I asked her to remove them, I said I did not own the rights… but ANYWAY, what the hell was she doing uploading pictures of MY wedding taken by MY photographer when I wasn’t doing it? She took them down and replied to my message saying: “I liked some of the pictures, but not others. I’ll tell you which one of these days”. *Really?*

    Anyway, here are the “some nice, some not” pictures: http://www.fotografogandia.com/boda-en-la-playa?a=0 😀

  14. I’ve set up a filter on my facebook for “wedding enthusiasts” so I don’t bore people silly with wedding related updates and links. I don’t actually use it that much, but I liked setting it up – asking who was interested and things.

    I like the idea of having a private group on Facebook for after the event but I don’t think I’ll need it, we’ll see. I’m definitely going to ask people to upload their photos onto flickr so I can see them all.

  15. I am on Facebook and admittedly, do post things on it about our wedding. But it’s stuff like: we’re engaged; where do I get a dress that doesn’t cost a liver; I found my dress, etc. A few people have asked me to put up a pic of the ring on there and I think that is a bit more intruding than I like.

    I’m not sure what’s going to happen when we get married, but I am hoping that my friends won’t be so post happy. (My fiance doesn’t even need to worry about this as he doesn’t have FB.)

  16. As someone who has posted photos of other peoples weddings, I guess I haven’t thought about this too much. One friend’s wedding I did block one of my friends who had previously dated the groom, to save face more than anything else. I post photos really to show the bride and groom. maybe I got a different angle or something they didn’t see.

  17. Facebook and other social media is just mirroring the real world. The difference with these social forums is that we many times actually are faced with the reactions from people these days, something we weren’t 20 years ago to this extent. People gossiped and threw shit around then as well, but chances were you didn’t hear much about it back when.

    I have also seen drama through Facebook and it was a big surprise to me that it was family related; I hadn’t expected it. One update with suggestion how to solve the situation me and my husband found ourselves in led to a huge and unforgivable Christmas drama when my husband and I were completely cornered and we basically were told we had faulty views in life. Well, it’s pretty difficult to go on like nothing happened after something like that. I certainly won’t believe that I, a mum of a 17 YO and a 3 YO and 40 myself, have completely wrong views on right and wrong in this world and I’m not accepting drama like that again. Needless to say, they no longer have a place in my life – or on Facebook. This would eventually have happened regardless of Facebook, it just happened faster and more people learned about it.

    There’s no protection from these things because it’s part of being social creatures, it’s just that when it hits social communities it feels worse these days because it can travel lightening fast and you and other people can follow it.

  18. We are going to ask that no one post pictures on Facebook, but I’m not sure how well that will work. Has anyone tried any of the picture sharing sites for weddings? I read about some where people with smart phones can download a free app that uploads pictures to a shared website where invited people can look. This sounds a little suspicious though … still pondering.

  19. Luckily Facebook has updated to fit in some of the concerns this article raises but I still feel guilty about our wedding and who’s not invited, etc.
    We haven’t had an engagement party and due to getting engaged abroad we kept it quiet until we’d told alot of people in real life. By then it was too late for us or our loved ones to put out any statuses which could ‘offend’ or attract people to assume they have an invite.
    Now we’re 8 months away I’m really thinking about how we’re going to manage our weddings social media presence. We’re quite private so a quiet social media presence is normal. But do we just let things be and keep quiet? Or do we try and manage it? I’ve already asked my bridesmaids to keep their outfits secret and we’re keeping our cake toppers top secret.
    I’m happy I’ve got OBB to help us out!

  20. So, I’m mostly worried about unflattering pics being posted on FB…yes, I’m that shallow sometimes! I’m toying with the idea of posting a little sign with this poem I just created. Could I get an honest opinon please?? Cool idea or just tacky??:

    We love to share with our friends, and we know you also do,
    One modern way to share of course, is Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter too.
    To save the bride some moments of worry and dismay,
    Please let her see the perfect pictures you plan to upload of their special day.
    It isn’t fun to worry that you might not look your best,
    So take the pressure off and you’ll be the perfect guest!

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