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

Sometimes, 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. Think back to writing your guest list. You wanted 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.

Pop in a dash of global pandemic, a cup of Level 4 lockdown and well, no wonder wedding planning is stressful!

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.

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 invitation:

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.
  • Rip off that bandaid and get it done! The longer you sit and fret about it, the more of a ‘think’ it’ll become in your head.
  • 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. Especially if it’s COVID-19 related.
  • Do it sooner rather than later so your guests don’t spend money on a new outfit, or booking travel or accommodation. At the moment airlines are offering generous credit policies so if flights have already been booked, chances are they won’t be too far out of pocket. 
  • Don’t just not send them an invite as some people do only send Save the Dates. 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.

Postponing your wedding instead

If you can’t face the idea of telling guests they can’t come, if circumstances allow perhaps you can postpone your wedding. This gives you the added advantage of more time to save. If you’re going to do this:

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.
shop this card here

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.

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

  1. Hello! I am in a similar position as many of these ladies. Our wedding was originally in April, but was cancelled due to COVID19. We now have a wedding date set in July, but had to cut our guest list. It was originally going to be a guest count of approximately 50, but is now 25 people. The family friends that are no longer invited definitely understand; however, there are approximately 10 family members (between both sides) who would no longer be on the list. These include uncles and cousins. The 25 guests we currently have include ourselves, immediate family (parents, siblings, and grandparents), as well as our original bridal party.

    For the 10 or so family members who are no longer invited, what type of verbiage would be the best to use? I feel a little awkward because we are planning to have a bridal shower before the wedding, and some of the cousins were on the original list, and I also know (through my wedding registry) that a few bought gifts already (either for the shower or wedding) – one of the uncles who isn’t on the list anymore actually bought the most expensive thing on our registry 🙁

    What do you think they would want to hear from us?

  2. I need some assistance with wording. As with many others we have to scale back our wedding by around 30 which includes family members that are close and local. Because we are super organised we had sent out invites and also received RSVPs from these guests. We decided to marry in a small ceremony on the day but didn’t wear a wedding dress etc and when the decision was made we told everyone that when we could have the proper wedding we will and will see everyone there BUT now due to Covid can only have 100 we need to cut down.

    I know they will understand but I am finding the exact working difficult. I have written that we are saddened they cant be there etc but how do I say that ‘you are cut’ or ‘ we have chosen you to not attend’?

    All suggestions appreciated.

    1. I am in a similar situation. We are scheduled for Sept 6. Due to a few family members battling cancer/are immunocompromised, we decided to cancel our venue with 160+ people, and have elected for a 50 person wedding the same day at my parents house.

      Also being super organized, I sent out save-the-dates a while ago, but due to COVID have been waiting to send out invitations until I made the decision. Now that I have, I’m really struggling with how to essentially (and very sadly) dis-invite 100+ people. I could really use some tips on what to say in a card, but also, like you said, make sure they understand they are not invited anymore.

  3. Can someone help me, my mind is split into two!

    Have a few problems were faced with…..
    I have a venue booked for our wedding and have sent save the dates out only.
    Since then and coronavirus we have had time to analyse things we have decided to downscale the wedding guests so just immediate family and close friends but also one extended family couple exception( close relationship). We also have changed our idea of our day including venue to something completely different to somewhere that we love and means a lot to us. The other side of the country.
    This means uninviting a chunk of people as we want to keep it close family and friends, these people That were uninviting are extended family members. Is a letter sufficient enough to do this ? Also will it leave a divide potentially when the one extended family couple still are invited but the rest arnt (we have a close relationship, will this also cause problems for my mum as its her family?).
    Aside to us changing Our minds on our original venue we couldn’t Still have it there as theywont accommodate for such few numbers so which means cancel the venue and find a new one anyway.

    This is now leaving us in a pickle because now my parents who i try to please and keep happy all the time.(But to be fair want Us to have our day how we want, just i must have a guilty conscious ) Loved the day we had planned and cant seem to get there head round our new idea and the venue we have now seen as its a polar opposite (basically think they don’t like the venue choice rather than the idea of changing it and downscaling people).
    We dont know what to do. Continue on with our original plan to keep our parents happy and we would enjoy the day just with a shit load more people there that we dont necessarily want there or bite the bullet and have the day we have now got in our mind and now want the other side of country with just our closest nearest and dearest but my parents not liking the venue ???? What would someone do !?????
    Help! Please 🙂

    Oh and p.s want to make this final decision soon as another chunk of money is due out to the venue in next couple weeks and want to nip this in the bud finally before another payment is due as now the indecisiveness has been going on far too long now. A decision needs to be made but just need the help, one minute were decided then talk to my parents and guilt takes over and then were back on the original day….. ahhhh!?

    1. Hey Rachel – sounds like you have a choice between making yourself happy and making your parents happy. And really, your parents want you to be happy… so go with what you want and they’ll understand (even if they do grump a bit initially). I’ve posted your question anonymously into the Southern Bride facebook group so you can get a range of opinions, if you are not already a member then head over to join and see what they say – http://southernbride.co.nz/group

      All the best, Amanda x

  4. We have learned just 5 weeks out that we will only be able to have half of the guests at the wedding due to COVID-19 restrictions. What is the best way to tell people they can no longer attend the wedding?

    1. I am in a similar position. My wedding was originally May 9th and I changed the date to July 4th and I just don’t want to push it out again. I dont know how many I will have to cut because we dont have actual answers on what phase weddings are or what my options even are but I need to know how to politely cut my guest list. I was thinking of sending greeting cards this time. My change the date was a post card to keep the price down after invitations. I just dont want to offend anyone but what is the proper protocol?!

      1. I also would love an answer to this. I am in the same boat. Wedding originally 4/25, moved to 7/4, and now moving again to 8/19. I sent out invitations for the 4/25 wedding to 160 guests. Then sent them all email/texts notifications that the weddign would be 7/4. Now, with the new change and date, and need to decrease to only 50, I need to know the most appropriate/polite way to inform guests that we are only have close family/friends at wedding and the date is changing.

        My first thought was to send out a card indicating that we are postponing the celebration until COVID 19 restrictions allow for a proper party, but will be having a small family ceremony this year. Thoughts? How could you word this? What would be the best method of getting this information out to the (uninvited) guests?

        1. I received a save the date in March for a July 25 wedding. I went ahead a got them a gift because good manners call for always inviting someone you sent a Save the Date to and to always gift someone who does so as well. I noticed others saying they got invitations this week so I wondered why I did not. My friend showed me the additional note saying that the wedding wound follow social distancing rules and have sanitizer available. It said it would be live streamed if someone felt better about that. It never said sorry we had to cut the list and you didn’t make the cut. I got no explanation or apology. Also, the wedding list is still quite large. .I’m a little embarrassed that I sent a gift because I assumed a save the date meant an invitation would follow. COVID or not, a better explanation should have been sent. I understand the idea of scaling down. A simple letter sent to those that were cut would have been better than nothing. I’m simply embarrassed for assuming.

    2. My daughter is sending out an email with the following message:

      Over the past few months, the world has turned upside down. We’ve all had to make some really hard decisions, and that includes us.

      Due to the ongoing pandemic, we have to reduce our guest list dramatically to adhere to mandated numbers of people gathering so that our wedding can go on as safely as possible.

      We are so sorry to have to do this, but at this point, we can no longer extend an invitation to our wedding.

      We hope that you understand that this is a drastic measure we never expected to have to make. We love every single person we invited to our wedding, and this is heartbreaking for us.

      Please hold us in your hearts on _________ as we take our vows to each other. This is not how we envisioned entering married life, but we are doing so with an even greater appreciation of life and love.

  5. 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!

  6. 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…….

  7. 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?

  8. 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?

  9. 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.

  10. 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

  11. 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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