Ah, the wedding guest list. It's a document of negotiation, argumentation, frustration and tribulation. Even after the list is set, don't get too comfortable, though. Invariably, a few people will assume they'll be invited even though they didn't make the cut. They try to engage you in wedding talk. They say they're looking forward to dancing at the reception. Before they spend money on travel or attire, you've got to level with them – but what do you say?
Quite simply, it's poor etiquette for anyone to assume an invitation to a wedding [source: Frankfort]. However, for those who missed that memo, you need to inform them gently, but firmly. Be flattered that they want to share your special day, but don't be coerced into adding them to the guest list. Telling them may cause surprise or hurt feelings in the short term, but if you handle the conversation well, you'll maintain your relationships.
The first thing to know is what not to do: Don't try to anticipate assumptions by contacting people before they wonder where their invitation is. Some engaged couples send out e-mails or cards telling people they won't be invited to the wedding [source: Raphael]. Wedding planners have even been called upon to deliver the bad news. But this kind of intervention really isn't necessary. While you don't want people to expect invitations if they aren't getting them, don't presume everyone you know is dying to save the date for your big day. The only folks you need to set straight are those who ask outright or come to you with erroneous expectations.
The one exception is for an extremely tiny, itsy-bitsy, teeny-weeny wedding. Then, and only then, it's advisable to give your family and closest friends – the people you'd invite to a bigger to-do – the scoop ahead of time. Be sure to do that in person if at all possible.
When uninvited people start making noises about attending your wedding, set them straight quickly. Explain how sorry you are, but the venue or budget is limited. It's not a lie. Even if you're having 500 guests, you still have that limit to work with ... just don't reveal that detail. If there are people you'd genuinely like to invite but just can't afford to include, have them over for dinner or a casual party after the wedding.
A related faux pas you may need to handle is when invited guests inform you they're bringing others who are decidedly not on the list. Common additions are children and dates. Be polite but insistent: No extra heads allowed. The invitations are for the addressees – and only the addressees – and you're under no requirement to accommodate rudeness. Sometimes guests propose footing the bill for the extras, but it's not about the cost. If this argument comes up, default to venue limitations and repeat that line until you're understood.