How do you uninvite guests when you’ve already sent out a Save the Date?

Uninvite guests when you've already sent out a Save the DateSometimes, you get a little carried away. I know the feeling. You pop into New World to grab some milk, and $200 later, you’re struggling to fit everything into the boot.  Well, your wedding guest list can be a little like that too. You want this person to come – oh, and that person… you better invite them if they’re going… and suddenly… you’re staring at the till wondering how the hell you’re going to pay for all this. And that’s why today, we are talking about the not-so-fun task of how to uninvite guests when you’ve already sent them a Save the Date.

We get a few tough questions in the community, and this one was one of the meatier ones:

How do you go about telling people that you have decided to scale down wedding to an intimate family affair when save the dates have already been sent?

The couple in question had tallied up the costs, and realised their wedding was going to get way too out of hand. Unfortunately, they’d realised this after their Save the Dates had been posted. The frustrating thing is sending Save the Dates is OPTIONAL. If you don’t have a big budget, or if there’s ANY doubt about your guest list – don’t send them. Or only send them to overseas guests and close family. Save your money!

Proper Wedding Etiquette for calling the wedding off (…for some of your guests, anyway)

First up, for any awkward situations I like to refer to a printed book. That way I’m not making judgements clouded by personal opinion. The Everything Wedding Etiquette Book is one of my go-to books, and has some advice for how to deal with cancelling a wedding.

While the couple are still intending to be married in this situation, the resolution is similar:

The etiquette for cancelling the wedding is the same no matter the reason. If the invitations have not gone out, let your close friends and families know first, either by phone or e-mail (yes, e-mail is acceptable). You can ask your parents for help in this matter. If you sent Save-the-Dates, you may need to expand this phone/e-mail list to include your entire guest list, especially if some guests will already be busy making travel plans. A card can be sent if there is enough time. 

From The Everything Wedding Etiquette Book, p194, by Holly Leferve

Practical advice on how to deal with scaling back a wedding

Here’s how an engaged couple could keep (former) guests sweet:

  • Firstly, I’d go against the advice of the etiquette book above and would actually avoid emailing where possible – especially in the situation where you are scaling back the wedding and they didn’t make the list. Ring your guests. We all know emails can be misconstrued and you want to minimise relationship issues going forward.
  • Be honest with people. If they’re close enough to be invited to the wedding in the first place, they should understand why you’ve cut back. 
  • Do it sooner rather than later so your guests don’t spend money on a new outfit, or booking travel or accommodation. Rip off that bandaid and get it done!
  • Don’t just not send them an invite as some people do only send Save the Dates. I have been to a wedding where we didn’t receive an invite, only a Save the Date (yes I did check we were still invited! The bride decided an invite wasn’t necessary… so didn’t send them). Burying your head in the sand is not an option. If you’re old enough to get married, you’re an adult and need to act like one.


Instead of uninviting guests, how about scaling back the budget?

If uninviting guests is the last thing you want to do, then consider whether you’re willing to sacrifice a few things for your big day. Changing up the structure may mean you are able to afford to have everyone attend after all. This will allow you to save face, awkward phone calls and credit card debt:

  • Invite some people to the ceremony only, then have an intimate dinner for immediate family only – you could even cut the cake immediately after to share for afternoon tea.
  • A potluck/bring a plate style wedding might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but would mean you can have more people there to enjoy your wedding day
  • Have a cocktail menu only – this means you’ll only serve finger foods, which is a lot cheaper per head than a full meal. Be wary of this though, as if you’re supplying alcohol – alcohol and small portions of food can become messy.
  • What about a cash bar or BYO wedding? Or even a dry wedding? If you’re financially a bit tight, saving on your bar bill could be a huge bonus.

Have you had to uninvite guests when you’ve already sent out a Save the Date? Or considered it?

If you’ve been in this situation, I would love to hear how you dealt with it, how your guests coped, and if you are pleased you did it (or regret it). Leave your thoughts below.

13 thoughts on “How do you uninvite guests when you’ve already sent out a Save the Date?

  1. Mine is a bit tricky:
    My fiance has an old friend, who I knew had previous casual sex with prior to meeting me. My fiance never spoke highly of this person (chronic liar, sociopath-type tendencies, is quite easy going with whom they sleep with), and during our 5.5 year relationship, I met this person once. The friend lived up to the picture my fiance painted of them. The two occasionally send social media message (“hey how are things”) a few times a year, but otherwise have zero contact.

    Well my fiance, without discussing it with me, invited this person to our wedding, with less 60 days before our wedding (We have had a year and a half engagement). Throughout our planning process, any and every guest was discussed, to ensure that both of us were happy with them attending. (We wanted a smaller wedding and didn’t want the guest list to get out of control)

    Once I found out, I voiced my displeasure over the situation, and stated I was not comfortable with this person attending the wedding. We had agreed to always talk about, and agree on all decisions made for the wedding. It is our day, and we should both be comfortable and happy with all decisions made.

    My fiance now has agreed to un-invite the person to the wedding, but neither of is sure how to approach this. We both realize that doing so will ruin the friendship, but based on their history, and my fiance’s actions, I am not comfortable with them attending.

    Any suggestions? Please.

    1. So… I hope this doesn’t sound too harsh… but why are you worried about salvaging the ‘friendship’? You’ve only met them once (and don’t particularly like them) so don’t spend so much time stressing about sparing their feelings 🙂

      If I had to write a message, I’d say something like…
      I’m really sorry, but I completely stuffed up saying you should come to the wedding. Invitations went out months ago and we don’t have the space to accommodate you. I should’ve checked before I suggested you come along.

      These situations are usually worse in your head than in reality so please go ahead and rip off the band-aid!

  2. I have a similar dilemma and would appreciate peoples thoughts and input.

    Long story short we are having a destination wedding in the Caribbean as that is where we live – but most family and guests don’t. – so we sent save the date mails to our original guest list so they could arrange flights etc. We had to postpone our original date and venue and are now re-arranging for a different island and different date (job relocation)

    There are some of the original guests we no longer wish to invite – various reasons. None of them had booked flights.

    Not sure how to deal with them not being invited to the re-arranged wedding…….

  3. My daughter is in this same position now. She sent out the “save the dates” and has been having panic attacks ever since. She evidently wanted only immediate family, yet didnt share this until she sent the cards out. The wedding was only about 60 people to begin with and is at our home. I want to have the wedding my daughter wants but now faced with how to tell some family they cannot come. I have suggested having immediate family for wedding only and keep the list for the Wedding celebration, but she is still in a panic for some reason. Any advise?

  4. I’m in this situation at the moment – the wedding is 5 months out and I sent out save the date cards 6 months ago. Unfortunately, I am faced with the task of letting one family know that they are no longer able to come. This is, in part, due to our scaling down the wedding, but also comes down to a very awkward and rude encounter with one of the family members. I know if we invite one, we have to invite all of them, and this person simply CANNOT be at our wedding – it would be a disaster. I don’t really talk to the family much and I don’t even have their number anymore. I’m hoping an email is acceptable on this occasion, or maybe a letter?

    1. This is such a difficult position to be in! I suppose the main question I have for you is do you want a relationship going forward?

      If their actions have burnt all bridges then go ahead and uninvite them any which-way that’s easiest for you. If they’ve been awful, then I would suggest writing a letter… as a letter is harder to reply to (whereas an email they might just hit reply and continue being awful).

      Does that help?

  5. Questions I had a bridesmaid (who I was extremely close with) back out of my wedding 2 days before going to pick my dress and theirs after saying she was going. I sent out save the dates before this happened and since then she has not asked or talked about wedding let alone barely kept in Contact with me.. Is it wrong for me to not send her an invitation to the wedding? I feel bad not inviting her but I want people there who care and keep in contact with me.

    1. That’s weird, what happened for her to go like that?! Is there stuff happening in her personal life that she’s struggling with?

      You should still invite her. If she’s going to ghost you then let her RSVP no and burn the bridge herself. But if you don’t invite her, after her being close enough to be a bridesmaid, then you’ll be the bad guy and damage the relationship irrevocably.

  6. I have a question: if I got super crazy invite happy with four of my co workers immediately after my proposal and told them they’re invited, but spoke to them before the save the dates went out that we’re scaling back and I’m very sorry but they won’t be invited-how much of a horrible wedding/Emily Post etiquette transgression is this

    1. Also the wedding is a full year away and no save he dates or posting of engagement pics (besides the proposal day with ring) have been made public

  7. We only sent Save The Dates to our overseas guests and they all RSVP ahead of time so that we knew how many guests we could invite when it came to sending our actual invitations. Less than half our overseas guests could make it and those that made the effort made our day really special. We had 1 situation where we invited someone we probably shouldn’t have but since it was only one person, we just went ahead. There are lots of ways to cut costs. Our venue only fit 70ish so that helped a lot. After inviting 20 or so family members each, that only left about 30 friends (including partners). It’s not many really. People understand.

    1. Only sending to the overseas ones is perfect – and you’re right, if they say they can’t come, you can skip sending a wedding invite, so you end up saving money there too 🙂 We were surprised how fast the family-list filled up too. I think we ended up with about 80 guests?

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