the etiquette of weddings and work

Wedding season is upon us, which means that offices around the country are going to be filled with wedding talk, etiquette dilemmas about gift-giving and invitations, and other wedding-related quandaries. But never fear – we have answers to some common questions and weddings and work.

Can I invite some of my coworkers to my wedding without inviting all of them?

It makes sense that you might want to invite a few coworkers to whom you’re particularly close without wanting to invite everyone else in your office. You can generally pull that off as long as you follow two rules:

  • Ensure the number of people invited is smaller than the number not invited. If you invited most people but leave just one or two out, that’s likely to be pretty hurtful to the people you exclude. But if you’re clearly just inviting just a small number of people who you’re personally close with, most people will understand that.
  • Don’t make your wedding a major focus of conversation in the office. If you share every detail of your planning with people, you may create an expectation that you’ll be inviting them.

However, if you have a particularly small team, it gets trickier. In that case, you probably do need to invite all or none.

What if I don’t want to invite coworkers at all?

That’s fine! There’s no etiquette rules requiring that you invite coworkers.

If you feel awkward about not inviting them, you can fall back on the always useful “we have a limited guest list for budget reasons” or “it’s going to be a pretty small wedding so we’re limiting it to family and close friends.”

Am I expected to invite my boss? 

Nope. Loads and loads of people don’t invite their bosses to their weddings, and there is no obligation or expectation that you will. If you have a wedding-loving boss who seems to expect an invitation, it’s fine to explain that you have a big family and a limited budget or a small venue with limited guest count.

What if I’m the boss? Am I expected to invite my staff members to my wedding?

Nope! (And really, most people will be relieved, since the power dynamics in the relationship mean people may wonder if they’re more obligated to accept the invitation than they otherwise would be.)

However, if you do decide to invite members of your team, keep in mind that as the boss, you can’t play favorites. If you invite some of the people who report to you but not others, it’s likely to look like favoritism and will make people wonder whether you’re being fair in things like work assignments, , raises, professional development opportunities, and access to you. So that means that you should invite everyone who reports to you or none of them.

I got invited to a colleague’s wedding. Do I have to go?

As the great Miss Manners says, an invitation is not a summons. You are free to turn it down. Just cite conflicting plans with regret and give the couple your best wishes. A gift is a nice gesture if you want to give one but not obligatory with coworkers (although a card is always nice).

Are we supposed to take up an office collection for a wedding gift?

This really depends on the norms of your office. Some companies foot the bill for gifts for major milestones, like weddings. In other offices, coworkers will commonly chip in for a gift. The key thing to keep in mind is that people shouldn’t be pressured to donate their own money toward a gift; it’s fine to give people the opportunity to contribute, but don’t make it an obligation.

My coworker just got engaged and I’m going crazy with all the wedding talk. Can I ask for a wedding-talk moratorium?

Treat it like you would if it were any other topic – just like if your coworker were constantly monologuing about cars, or Crossfit, or Game of Thrones. With any topic that’s taking up too much air time at work, it’s fine to say, “I need to get back to work now.”

And brides and grooms, remember that no one at work is likely to be quite as interested in your wedding as you are! It’s fine to share details with people who seem genuinely interested, but be careful not to overdo. You and your coworkers are trapped in the same space together day after day, and they probably do not want a play-by-play of your decision-making about napkin colors (as weirdly fascinating as that can be when it’s your own wedding).

{ 182 comments… read them below }

  1. Here we go again*

    I love how you took a complicated topic and turned it into simple and easy to follow rules. Love the one about making sure more people are not invited than are to keep people from being excluded. I am nowhere close to getting married (totally single), but if I do, this is great advice and I need to come back to it!

  2. Nobody Here By That Name*

    Thank you for that. I had a co-worker from a former dept. invite me to his wedding. I didn’t want to go and wasn’t sure if courtesy meant I was supposed to give a gift anyway.

  3. Naptime Enthusiast*

    This article could not have come at a better time. I’m currently wedding planning and do have coworkers I’m planning to invite, but only the ones I hang out with socially. If I wouldn’t have dinner with them on my own time, they’re not on the list.

    1. Nobody Here By That Name*

      I sort of had that in reverse for my guilt about turning a coworker’s invite down. We used to be close but now I don’t even know when we’ll be working out of the same office together. I figure if we’re not close enough for that kind of a heads up, we’re not close enough for either of us to spend the money on me being at his wedding.

  4. Jadelyn*

    This is so timely…I literally just got engaged this weekend, lol, and most of my local (non-internet) friends are people I work with, so it’s great to have a guide on how to handle it!

    Although, I do have a question that wasn’t on that list, probably because it’s a bit unusual – would love to get the AAM community’s input on this. I’m pagan and so is my fiance. My boss is extremely Christian, as in he and his husband have their own small church…ministry…thing? idk what it’s called, that my boss is the pastor for. We’re very chill about religion, he knows I’m a dirty heathen (said in fond jest) and we tease each other about religious stuff, but when I mentioned in a conversation not too long ago that my fiance and I had been talking about possibly getting married at some point, my boss offered to officiate.

    Which. I appreciate the offer, it’s very sweet of him, but I am So Not Christian and it would be awkward in the extreme to have a Christian pastor officiate the wedding of two pagans. I don’t want to be rude, I really do appreciate the sentiment behind it, and I actually am intending to invite him to the wedding since we’re part of a very close-knit small team and are all friends to varying degrees, but how do I convey “I’d like you to attend but I’m not letting you run the show” without coming off ungrateful or like a jerk?

    1. Anooooooooooon*

      If he mentions it again, just say “That’s so kind of you but we’ve got that covered!” with a smile and change the subject.

      1. MWKate*


        Also – even if you were So Christian, it would be completely understandable not to want your boss to officiate your wedding.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I like this script best, combined with Jessesgirl72’s comment about ensuring that he gets to enjoy the party/celebrate.

        I always find it somewhat odd when people offer (without prompting) to officiate.

    2. Jessesgirl72*

      “Thank you for the kind offer, but we’re going in another direction. I look forward to seeing you there to help us celebrate our day!”

      And Congratulations! :)

    3. animaniactoo*

      “I want you to know how much we appreciate your offer. While I loved that you offered, we’re going to go with someone who ______”

      Fill in the X whether it be “is a family friend” or “is part of our community”, etc.

    4. Miss Nomer*

      “Oh, that’s so nice of you to offer, but we had made other plans! We really hope you’ll be able to relax and enjoy the wedding with us, though.” Even if you haven’t necessarily made plans, you know the plan is not to have him officiate, so it works. Since my grandfather was officiating our ceremony, it was much easier for me to shut that kind of thing down, but I think this approach should still work.
      Congratulations, by the way!

      1. Jadelyn*

        That’s true – at the very least, “I don’t want you to be the one doing it” is a plan in and of itself. Thank you!

    5. k*

      “That’s very kind of you to offer, but we already have plans for an officiant. We hope you’ll be able to attend, we’d love to have you there!”

      When I was planning my wedding, whenever anyone offered help or opinions, I used something to like this. The short and simple “thanks but we’re set” formula works out pretty well.

        1. SansaStark*

          haha I was coming down here to say just this — find a nice phrase that you like because you’re going to find yourself saying it a lot. :) “Thanks so much for the advice, I’ll think it over” said ad nauseam. Mazel tov on the engagement!

      1. BethRA*

        I think this “we already have plans for xyz” is the best formula for any and all helpfulness you want to decline, wedding-related or otherwise. Sometimes giving people a specific reason is interpreted as an opportunity to negotiate “We’d prefer a Pagan ceremony” “Oh, but I can do non-denominational ceremonies, too!” etc.

    6. Nan*

      I’d politely decline his offer and not give a reason unless he asks. If he does ask, you can just tell him it doesn’t seem right to you, to make promises in front of a god you don’t believe in. Or, tell him you want him to attend as your guest, and not have to work on that day.

      My hunny and I, both godless heathens, got hell from the family for not having A Big Catholic wedding. I told them I refused to lie to a priest, and that it was disrespectful of the priest’s beliefs and religion for us to stand up and lie him in his holy house. They still, especially my grandmother and uncle, wanted to me to lie to the priest, and apparently we broke my husband’s grandmother’s heart. I guess they missed “thou shall not lie.” I also got a letter from said uncle when our son was born a year later that he refused to acknowledge our bastard child because we weren’t really married. Family and religion – ugh.

      1. Naptime Enthusiast*

        OOOOOF that’s tough, I’m so sorry. I’m expecting a decent amount of resistance from my Irish Catholic family, but my parents have accepted a secular ceremony so hopefully that greases the wheels a bit.

      2. Jadelyn*

        WOW! That’s…an intense reaction to such a personal choice of ceremony. Thankfully, while my extended family is Mormon, they’ve been very accepting of my heathen ways and it’s more important to them to stand together as family than make distinctions based on religion.

      3. Temperance*

        For what it’s worth, we got it from both sides, and I find it mildly hilarious that other people care so darn much. I was especially impressed when my (crazy, evangelical) mother decided to invoke Booth’s grandmother and how she would be “heartbroken” if we didn’t marry in the Catholic church, and doesn’t he care about being a good grandson? I think she was trying to get us in a church, any church, because I shut down the idea of marrying in her creepy evangelical church so quickly that I got whiplash.

        The answer is no, BTW.

          1. justsomeone*

            Reference to Bones. Temperance (username) Brennan is married to Seelie Booth.

          2. Amarzing*

            As in Temperance Brennan and Seeley Booth of Bones, the TV show and book series. Of course at some point in the show they DO get into some goofy stuff where Seeley is a descendant of John Wilkes Booth, which I think he has some Feelings about.

          3. Temperance*

            I call my husband Booth online because I was a big Bones fan when I chose the handle. ;)

        1. Jadelyn*

          It never ceases to amaze me how much importance people place on *other people’s* life choices like that.

      4. Artemesia*

        Some uncle. If the child were born our of wedlock, what kind of total jerk would send that letter, much less to a couple who were legally married.

      5. Ann Furthermore*

        I just don’t get this. My husband and I also did not get married in a church, for the same reasons you stated, and we were quite clear with anyone who asked that getting married in a church would make us hypocrites, since neither one of us are particularly religious, nor do we attend church, and we felt it would be disrespectful to pretend otherwise. We didn’t get any pushback at all from our families. I’m sorry you did.

        Everyone I explained that to understood, and some were even surprised, as if it was shocking to find out that a couple of soulless heretics could have consciences and be respectful of other people’s beliefs. It was amusing.

      6. Emi.*

        I told them I refused to lie to a priest, and that it was disrespectful of the priest’s beliefs and religion for us to stand up and lie him in his holy house.

        As a Catholic, I want to say thank you to you for that! :D

        1. SimonTheGreyWarden*

          This was why my husband and I had our wedding with a JP; I’m Catholic but he is not religious at all (not atheist, not agnostic, just not interested).

      7. New Bee*

        Why do people who are shunning you always have to inform you of said shunning? Totally defeats the purpose…

      8. Imperatrice*

        My fiancée and I are having a Catholic wedding this fall, and after all the statements we have to make, paperwork to fill out, classes to take, and 150-question survey, we both agreed that we couldn’t imagine how much it would suck to jump through all these hoops if we weren’t completely sold on a Catholic wedding. Trying to keep up a “everything’s going to be okay” face through all of that, without the priest catching on, would be HARD.

        We even had to testify that we ourselves wanted a Catholic wedding, and that no one was forcing us to go through with it.

        1. Temperance*

          My ILs wanted me to convert (!) to have a wedding in the church of their choosing. I have serious ethical issues with the church, and wasn’t about to spend a few thousand for premarital counseling and the wedding … or to go through premarital counseling.

    7. LesleyC*

      I think it’s perfectly fine to just say “thank you so much, but we’ve made other arrangements–and I look forward to having you as a guest!” It’s not necessary to include extra explanation about the religious conflict if you’d rather not. A breezy decline like this would satisfy almost anyone.

    8. TootsNYC*

      Do you really see “him offering to officiate” as “him demanding to run the show”?

          1. Anon today...and tomorrow*

            Yes! We were held captive by the grandfather of my sister’s husband who officiated at their wedding. Nearly an hour of him rambling on and on. The ceremony was all him and he went with it.

      1. Jadelyn*

        …did I say anything about anyone “demanding” anything? Genuinely asking, because I don’t see that anywhere in my comment, and this reply is coming off pretty sharp and judgmental based on a tone you’re assuming I have, which I don’t see my post as having had.

        Although, speaking as someone who knows him personally and has seen this happen with another employee whose wedding he did officiate, he does have a tendency to slip into “event manager” mode, and quite apart from the officiating thing I’d rather avoid that too.

        1. BenAdminGeek*

          “Dearly beloved, I am gathered here today with my employee and her partner. I’m so glad to be here officiating, and that I can see you all here today as well. I have strong views on marriage, and have a 45-minute tutorial arranged. Please keep your eyes on me throughout the ceremony.”

          1. Jadelyn*

            I am so glad I wasn’t taking a sip of my coffee when I read that. Perfect!

        2. nonegiven*

          How about:

          “We’re so looking forward to [specific pagan ritual] and [specific pagan blessing] and our officiant has that covered.”

        3. TootsNYC*

          The choice of the words “letting you” made me wonder if there were something going on.
          In general, it’s not fair to jump on people for their word choice, but those subtle connotations (or overt meanings) can be indicative, so that why I was asking.

          “I’m not letting you run the show”

          1. Rainy, PI*

            I’ve known more than one person who ended up with *thoroughly unexpected* partisan shit in their wedding ceremony because A) the officiant is literally running the show and B) they were pushed to use an officiant they didn’t know well, who was not forthcoming about their personal biases beforehand when the couple could have told them to can the stuff they didn’t agree with or like.

            While the officiant is talking they really are running the show, and if/when they start saying things you don’t agree with, it can be really hard to stop them. I have witnessed this at weddings and funerals both, actually.

    9. Parenthetically*

      “I’d like you to attend but I’m not letting you run the show”

      This seems… needlessly hostile, for what is essentially him saying, “Hey, the thing you need doing is a thing I do, and also we are friends! Let me know if you want me to do the thing!” A breezy, “Oh, thank you, but we’ve got that part covered!” is all that’s needed, surely.

      1. Parenthetically*

        Or perhaps hostile isn’t the right word, but needlessly confrontational or something.

      2. Jadelyn*

        Which is quite literally why I was asking, because I don’t *want* to come off confrontational.

        And, as Alison helped clarify above, the officiant quite literally is “running the show” for the ceremony, which is all I meant by that phrasing.

        1. Parenthetically*

          Gotcha! I didn’t figure you were planning on going after him with that phrasing. Thanks for the clarification! :)

      3. fposte*

        I don’t think it was being suggested as an actual response; it was just loosely summarizing Jadelyn’s response to wanting the attendance but not the officiation. (And I think of the officiant in faith-based weddings definitely as the ones running the show, as it were, so to me it didn’t suggest so much that he wanted to take over as that that role is often an inherently directorial one.)

    10. Retail HR Guy*

      For whatever it is worth, when my wife and I (both atheists) needed to find an officiant for our wedding in the heart of bible belt country we found a wonderful Baptist preacher who was happy to perform a completely non-religious ceremony (which was rare for the time and place). He didn’t include the slightest hint of proselytization and, in fact, wouldn’t even accept a fee for his services. We couldn’t have been happier with him.

      1. Jadelyn*

        How lovely! I’m glad you were able to find someone like that. I’m in the Bay Area, California, so non-religious or alt-religious officiants shouldn’t be too hard to find, lol.

      2. CM*

        Meanwhile, at our inclusive interfaith wedding which everybody agreed to after lots of negotiation, we found ourselves saluting Lord Vishnu at the officiant’s direction.

  5. Miss Nomer*

    This is such great advice! I have recently been on the receiving end of the wedding chatter, and it’s hard to pull away, especially when I’m genuinely happy for the bride to be. Maybe inviting her for lunch one day and chatting about it will make it less of a focus during work time.

    1. Jessesgirl72*

      Alison is right, though, that yeah, it’s monotonous, but it’s no better or worse than the people who go on and on about the training for their next marathon or what happened on Scandal this week. It’s only interesting to people who are interested, and only for so long, but it’s part of life!

    2. TootsNYC*

      The other thing about someone talking so much about wedding plans at work–it makes some people think they ought to be invited. Which then creates all sorts of weirdness.

      That might be a thing you could suggest to her, and maybe it would encourage her to talk about it less.

      1. Miss Nomer*

        I will definitely mention that to her – I don’t think she wants to invite the whole office! Great idea.

  6. CherryScary*

    Very timely! I’m about 2 months out from my wedding (invites got sent today…)

    My wedding is back in my hometown, but I did decide to invite my immediate team. I’d love to have them there, as we’re a friendly bunch, but tried to be clear that if they’re not up for the trip, no hurt feelings here!

    I try to only bring up wedding plans if asked (mostly because /I/ don’t want to talk about it all the time!), and since we’ve had a couple of weddings in the department over the last year, we’ve had some note-comparing. Otherwise most “how’s the planning?” questions simply get “coming along!”

  7. Nan*

    Blargh. I detest weddings. If I get invited, I don’t want to go, so someone else at work can take my place. I’ll toss some cash in card or contribute to the office collection, but I really don’t want to have to go get dressed up, and eat mediocre food, watch people get drunk, listen to the dang Celebration song, and be out past my bedtime. I’m a curmudgeon.

    Good advice from Alison, I think.

    1. Snatch*

      I agree, except I’ll throw in graduations and office showers of any type. The truth is, few are as interested in your events as you yourself are. Why I don’t talk about my latest Oly lifting meet, I think it’s amazing but few others get it or care about it. (one coworker thinks it involves dumbbells…!) To each their own.

    2. TeacherNerd*

      When my husband and I got married, we made a lost of songs that we did not, under any circumstances, want played. “Celebration” topped every list (there were lists for different parts of the reception). (We also added “Everybody Have Fun Tonight” because NO FUN IS ALLOWED AT A WEDDING. Certainly not ours.)

      (The food was really good though. And no one got drunk because there was no alcohol. People don’t seem to realize that you’re allowed to not have alcohol. We got a LOT of pushback on that one.)

      (Let’s Put Everything In Parentheses Today)

      1. Annie Moose*

        Heh. I come from a teetotaller family, so all of my various cousins’ weddings have been sans alcohol. Confuses people to no end. “But… there’s no bar?” “Nope.” “So… there won’t be alcohol?” “Correct.” “So…… no one will be drinking???” “That does seem to be the obvious conclusion, yes.”

        Even with this shocking oversight, most of the weddings turned out fine. ;)

      2. Parenthetically*

        We had alcohol (MUCH to the chagrin of my fundamentalist relatives), so I’m obviously not against it, but shoo-wee, the feelings some people have about dry weddings!! I’m getting flashbacks to a Carolyn Hax comments section where a bunch of folks had extremely strong words (like selfishness, childishness, cruelty) for people who choose not to have booze.

        1. MWKate*

          My family is one of those that would be flabbergasted for someone to have a dry wedding. They wouldn’t say it was selfish, childish, or rude, but there would definitely be a secret bar in a hotel room or truck bed.

        2. KellyK*

          People get very weird about alcohol at weddings, and at parties and events in general. We got married in a Quaker meetinghouse and had the reception there, and “no booze” was a requirement of the meetinghouse. We didn’t get any pushback, but that may be because we got married in the late morning and had a lunch reception, and nobody expects to be boozing it up at eleven in the morning.

          So, if you specifically *do not want* to serve alcohol at your wedding, maybe a morning ceremony is the way to go.

          1. nonegiven*

            My husband made clear to my mother that a bowl of punch would be spiked. If she wanted a bowl unspiked she needed to have 2 different kinds.

        3. Mary Dempster*

          It’s not that people get weird or have strong feelings about alcohol, it’s that the reception IS NOT for the bride and groom, it is for the guests who come to celebrate the marriage, and to either 1) push your views on everyone else or 2)choose a location based on something you want vs. comfort/enjoyment of the guests is pretty selfish.

          Ceremony – for the bride and groom.
          Reception – thank you for coming to our ceremony.

          That’s all.

          1. Mary Dempster*

            I should add it’s akin to serving only chicken fingers and mashed potatoes because that’s all the bride and/or groom likes to eat. Will anyone die? Nope. Is it selfish? Yep.

            1. Rainy, PI*

              I dunno, my wedding reception isn’t going to have any shrimp or chicken. Selfish? Possibly, but I’d rather not eat cross-contaminated food and get a hole poked in my gown with an epi-pen. :D

          2. fposte*

            Eh. I think it’s also that people get weird, because it’s still the host’s call on the style of their entertaining, and a wedding isn’t an exception to that. Punch and cake people aren’t obliged to have an open bar just because their guests might hope one is there. Just don’t take up a mealtime hour without providing a meal. (Of course, this is the same school of etiquette that means the couple doesn’t get to expect or bitch about the expenditure on gifts and has to write thank you letters.)

            I kind of get you on the location–I think you’re talking destination weddings rather than “I hate that you picked the community center,” right? And at that point it’s gone beyond hosting to expecting people to map their vacations onto yours. But even there as long as hosts are understanding that most potential guests aren’t in a position to make that kind of calendar and financial commitment I think it’s okay. It’s when anybody on either side starts feeling entitled–to attendance, to parties, to presents, to booze, to whatever–that the trouble starts.

          3. ReneeB*

            I don’t know. I went to a friend’s wedding, who said friend is a committed vegan. I took fiancee who was of the opinion they couldn’t *possibly* be serving vegan food at the reception. Because…vegan! reception!

            They did serve vegan food. It was ah-may-zing. I still think about some of the dishes served and get cravings. And fiancee got over his harumps real quick when he tasted the food.

            The reception isn’t just for the crowd. It’s also a reflection of the couple’s values. With the average wedding costing upwards of $20k, I will side any couple who consciously choose with their values in mind as to where that money goes.

            Which doesn’t mean be a spoil sport. But if the concept of alcohol-free, or vegan, or anything else you know to be true about the couple would feel annoying to experience at the reception. Maybe we don’t go and be the spoil sport at their lovely event.

          4. Detective Amy Santiago*

            Reception – thank you for coming to our ceremony.

            I could not disagree with this more. The reception is about celebrating the marriage and that should absolutely reflect the personalities of the bride and groom.

          5. Parenthetically*

            Yeah, I’m going to push back pretty hard on this. It’s not ok to ask the couple to compromise their ethical positions or even their strong preferences, as if alcohol is a necessity for the “comfort/enjoyment of the guests.” It’s akin to throwing accusations of selfishness when a vegetarian couple choose not to serve meat — and I’ve seen those accusations.

            I don’t happen to think the ceremony is only for the couple OR the reception is only for the guests. I happen to think both are for the couple to celebrate the beginning of their life together with the people they love. And I also think it’s pretty churlish to pit the comfort and enjoyment of the people I love against my own desires like it’s some competition with only one winner. If they love me, they’ll respect my limits and boundaries and not accuse me of selfishness because I don’t want to serve alcohol/meat/gluten/whatever.

            That’ll be my last comment on this thread because I recognize it’s getting off-topic.

          6. SimonTheGreyWarden*

            Eh. Alcoholism has taken a toll on my family. For our wedding, we had champagne and a keg at the reception. There was a bar but people had to pay for their own drinks (we were in a Knights of Columbus hall; it was not our bar, it was the hall’s). I was NOT going to subsidize that vice, not even for the comfort of other guests. We also were up-front with everyone that this would be the case, and I didn’t receive any pushback about it.

            I would “push my views on my guests” again about not having my dad too drunk to dance with me on my wedding day.

        4. BananaPants*

          I saw more wedding planning controversy online over cash vs. open bar than any other issue. Open bar is the norm in our area and a cash bar would be considered tacky. It’s more socially acceptable to serve no alcohol, or to have a limited bar of beer and wine only, than to expect your guests to buy their own drinks. But then on the wedding planning forums and websites we had cash bar folks in other parts of the country claiming that we and our guests were a bunch of alcoholics who just wanted to get trashed, etc.

          Frankly, I do find cash bars to be tacky. We viewed our reception as equivalent to hosting a party at our home – we wouldn’t ask dinner guests to pay us for their drinks, so we provided an open bar. No one got drunk and acted stupidly, but that’s because our guests were, you know, responsible adults.

          A dry wedding wouldn’t bother me as long as some kind of beverages were provided. My family/our social circle would find a dry wedding absolutely baffling, but it’s not like we’d boycott it or anything.

        5. bookish*

          Yeah, people have such strong feelings about it that I’m serving alcohol at my wedding no question, and I’m lifelong straightedge, never had a drink, always dreamed of having a dry wedding. And my fiancée doesn’t drink either (she quit years ago). People get REALLY fired up about it.

      3. Soupspoon McGee*

        My mom told me that if we didn’t have meat at our wedding, my aunt and uncle probably wouldn’t come. Because a full vegetarian buffet is not food, apparently.

  8. Meredith*

    My wedding was about 90 minutes away from my city, so I didn’t have to think too hard about not inviting most work people. I invited my closest colleague (we’re counterparts) and we share and office and we’re neighbors, and I invited my manager because I like her a lot personally and wanted to invite her. I like all of my co-workers, but I didn’t invite anyone else and didn’t feel bad. I don’t think they would have really wanted to come anyway, and I didn’t want anyone to feel obligated to give presents or attend.

  9. Gene*

    Well, my boss was my Best Man, so he got invited. And the rest of the office, also. But since it was in Vegas, he was the only one who came.

    And in reply to Jadelyn; as an officiant, I have no problem with someone saying they already have plans for one if I offer my services. And I completely agree with your reasons; I would have problems officiating for a devoutly religious couple.

  10. why is it still so cold?*

    Are these etiquettes specifically for people in the US or would it be safe to refer to them for people in the UK (or other countries)?

  11. The Photographer's Husband*

    Great list! I also have an additional question that wasn’t here related to weddings:

    What’s the etiquette if your spouse is a wedding vendor (my wife is a wedding photographer) and you hear about a coworker or a friend of theirs getting engaged?

    I usually listen and ask discreet questions about how the planning is going and eventually work my way to seeing if they’ve hired a photographer already or not. If not, I let them know that my wife is a great photographer and would love to answer any questions they might have. Then I hand them her card and say that there’s no pressure but it’s an option if they want to check her out.

    I always worry about coming across too pushy or salesy though (hence why I always try to say there’s no pressure). Is it weird to promote your spouse’s business that way?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’m a big fan of keeping that kind of thing separate. There’s too much potential for it to cause problems in your work relationships if there’s a dispute between your coworker and your wife. You might think that will never happen because your wife is lovely and professional — but your coworker or their new spouse may turn out not to be, or there could be areas of disagreement that are no one’s fault. (For example, my wedding photographer — who I loved — was really, really late with our photos. And kept telling us they were coming and then they didn’t. If she’d been married to a colleague, it would have been hard for my annoyance with her not to transfer, at least a little.)

      1. enough*

        Had small wedding and no photographer. Husband’s cousin said he was going to take pictures. It’s been almost 34 years and we’re still waiting.

        1. DCGirl*

          My stepmother was a wedding planner. Her advice was to skimp on everything else if you had to, but hire a professional photographer. The flowers wilt, the food gets eaten, and you never wear the dress again — the one thing you will have to remember the wedding by is the pictures.

      2. Artemesia*

        Such good advice. I think it is offensive to pass a spouse’s card out at work especially for something like this. I know a case where a colleague used a colleague’s husband for legal work and was very unhappy with the cost and it made for difficult relationships at work. And wedding photos are so fraught anyway. I did my son’s wedding album from snapshots that the bride’s brother and I took at the wedding and rehearsal dinner; the guy they hired totally dropped the ball. And so many wedding photos are terrible. And even if they aren’t the bride and groom may not be happy with them.

      3. Natalie*

        Yes, this. Also, if there are any issues it may be awkward if you have to socialize with the spouse later (at a Christmas party or whatever) or if coworker asks you to intercede. We rented our venue from a friend of a friend and had some problems, and I’m quite happy I won’t have to see the venue owner at parties or whatever.

    2. Naptime Enthusiast*

      I wouldn’t say weird, but if you decide to let them know, I would only mention it once. After that, let them decide if they want to follow up. I had a friend from work (not a direct coworker) immediately offer her services as a wedding photographer when she heard I was engaged, but has not brought it up since. It’s one way to spread the word about your wife’s business, though you have to respect if someone does not want to hire her.

    3. Malibu Stacey*

      Tbh, yeah, that approach is salesy. I would feel like you were asking me about wedding planning solely as a means to promote your wife instead of being genuinely interested.

      1. Sadsack*

        Which he is. Maybe some people are not bothered by it, but some probably are. I don’t think anyone can take his opinion as completely objective because he is married to her, even if he honestly thinks her photos are great on their own.

    4. Nolan*

      I wouldn’t even hand them her card. I think if the first time you hear about it you say, “oh my wife is a wedding photographer, if you’re still looking for one and want her info just let me know” and then leave it totally in their court.

      1. CM*

        That’s perfect. I was thinking of a more indirect approach, like, “Oh, I love weddings, in fact my wife is a wedding photographer” but Nolan’s is both straightforward and not a sales pitch.

        1. Emilia Bedelia*

          In some cases, I think trying to be indirect about making a sales pitch is even worse, because it looks like you’re trying to hide something. Short and direct with an open-ended “let me know” is the best way to approach this, in my opinion (similar to people who sell stuff at work- “My kid is selling Girl Scout cookies, let me know if you want any” is better than a roundabout conversation about cookies and children leading up to handing people order forms.)

    5. weeloo*

      I think it’s paradoxically less pushy or weird to mention it straightaway when you hear someone is getting married. Like ‘oh that sounds nice, by the way, my wife is a wedding photographer, let me know if you’d like her card.’ And then never mention it again unless they ask.

  12. Red Reader*

    My solution: Get married on the other side of the country. Nobody (or at least, nobody at my workplace) asks if they can come when it’ll cost them several hundred dollars to get there.

  13. Pharmgirl*

    What about inviting coworkers spouses? I know normally partners are a social unit, but is that something that applies when inviting coworkers? I’m not getting married anytime soon, but I’ve only met one of my coworkers partners (and don’t care at all for him) and haven’t met any of my other coworkers SOs and so would feel weird inviting them, but would still want my coworkers there.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think you still have to play by the etiquette rule that says you invite established couples as a unit (traditionally defined as married couples, but now expanded to people in long-term relationships).

      That said, if a bunch of coworkers are going, I think you could get away with explaining that you’re tight on guest list space and asking if you can put them all at a table together (so they have people to talk to) and not doing plus-one’s. But I think it would take a conversation about it to make it feel okay to people who are used to the etiquette rule.

      1. Antilles*

        Worth noting that even if you ignore that etiquette rule and don’t list “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” or “and Guest” or whatever, there will still be plenty of people who *will* go ahead and bring a plus-one regardless. So don’t be stunned or mad when (not if) your co-workers bring their respective spouses or dates.

    2. BenAdminGeek*

      Yeah, I got invited to a wedding of a co-worker as the “plus 1” of someone else from our work, because the co-worker “didn’t have enough space” to invite us both separately (turned out there was plenty of space, but that’s another story). Current me would have said no outright, but Old me went and it was awkward at the wedding, with my spouse, and just all-around strange. Being “the date” of one of my co-workers ended up being a lot more odd than either expected.

    3. MegaMoose, Esq*

      Yeah, I think you always want to include the “plus one” unless you can have the sort of conversation Alison mentioned and know there’ll be a group who can hang out together. Even when I was single, it was nice to be offered a plus one, especially if it’s a situation where there might not be anyone I knew there but the couple (of half of the couple). I understand couples wanting to only invite people they know, but as a guest, it’s nice to have a guaranteed friendly person for company, as even at small-ish weddings the couple really aren’t likely to have much time to hang out.

    4. petpet*

      Partners are a social unit! I don’t see why that would change just because they’re your coworkers. I also don’t think it’d be a great look to invite people to witness and celebrate your marriage while asking them to leave their own married partners at home.

      1. Jessica*

        This could be another useful metric for who’s close enough to invite. I don’t want strangers at my wedding. If Coworker is really a personal friend, not just a congenial work friend, then I probably know their spouse. If we live near each other (as we must if we work together non-remotely), but I have never met the most important person in your life, how important could you and I really be to each other?

  14. Cadbury Cream Egg*

    This is good timing. One of my team leads recently got engaged and his fiance was telling him it was proper etiquette for him to invite me. Thankfully my staff know me well enough that they can ask me just about anything and I won’t get offended. He asked if he should invite me and I flat out told him that under no circumstances should he invite me because of some silly etiquette rule. Knowing that they were trying to limit the number of guests I told him to invite the people you want to invite, party/celebrate with and it’s FINE that it’s not your manager (or some random relative your mother wants you to invite for that matter).

    1. KellyK*

      I have heard that if you invite people from work, it’s expected that you invite your boss. I’m not sure if that’s a “real” etiquette rule or not, but I’m happy AAM says you can skip it.

  15. HisGirlFriday*

    I agree with everything Alison said, and I would also add: If people are being private about personal things and not talking about them at work, DON’T PRY.

    When I was pregnant last year, it was increasingly hard to hide, and I didn’t want to hide it, but I also didn’t want to talk about it in-depth. Yes, I was pregnant, yes, I was happy about it, yes, I was getting bigger, but, hey, I could still do my job.

    But let me tell y’all, the months between my announcement and my LO’s birth were full of well-meaning but really nosy questions, and it got Real Old, Real Fast.

    I had multiple ultrasounds because I had placenta previa, and my co-workers, who all had had children, kept asking why I was having so many scans and what was wrong with the baby and no amount of my saying, ‘Everything is fine and under control, the doctor just wants another look,’ dissuaded them or got them to shut up. I was staring down the barrel of a C-section at 36 weeks (which I ended up not needing) and my boss knew what was going on because we had to plan my maternity leave, but my coworkers, who weren’t impacted, didn’t.

    Tl; dr: Don’t ask personal questions if people aren’t forthcoming.

    1. EddieSherbert*

      +1 It’s fine to say congrats or ask how it’s going…. if they don’t offer up more than that, let it go.

      Also, I’m glad your baby was fine, HisGirlFriday!

    2. Mike C.*

      Yeah, I don’t understand this intense desire for people to pry into the reproductive choices and situations of others. It’s gross and needs to stop.

      1. MWKate*

        Agreed – and apparently touching pregnant women’s stomachs is still a thing?! Which horrifies me. Don’t touch your coworkers is a good general rule.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Yeah, people get real weird about marriage and reproduction (or the opposite of those things). I find treating it like it’s gross helps, either by pulling a face or saying something like “Wow, that’s inappropriate” or ” . . . [awkward silence] . . .” and then turning away and leaving. But I’m also ok with being mildly rude to someone who’s being insanely rude. I know Emily Post would not approve, but I’m willing to live with it.

      3. weeloo*

        Humanity evolved in tribes and small villages. Considering you spend most of your waking hours with your co-workers, it’s natural. People shouldn’t pry but it’s a consequence of the way we live today.

    3. all aboard the anon train*

      This. I have a lot of coworkers who share about their dating or marital life and I never do. Partially because it’s no one’s business but mine and my partner’s and partially because even the most genuinely well-intentioned people still get weird about bisexuality.

      I always go by the rule that if it’s something personal, you don’t get to ask first. Let that person bring up the subject first.

  16. Anon today...and tomorrow*

    I look back at my wedding planning time and wonder if I was a pain in the patootie to my co-workers due to all my wedding talk. Probably. If you’re reading this…I’m sorry!

    I invited only 2 co-workers and no manager / boss.

  17. You Can't Read My Mind*

    So this is related but kind of on the other side of the spectrum. Please remove if too off topic. I’m engaged and I’ve been engaged for over two years. We have not found a location. We have not set a date. And we frankly don’t intend to for a while. There are family issues at play as well as international visas and relocations and we are doing what works best for us. The thought of a big wedding stresses me out and I really really want it to be a completely low key affair with few, if any guests. I don’t care about the where, when, who, dress, flowers, etc. This is totally fine by me and my fiancé.
    The problem is that my co-workers keep bringing it up and asking questions. They want to know all the details and I usually shut them down with “we are not in the planning phase just yet” but they keep prying and the questions keep getting more personal. People (yes, more than one!) have actually asked if even want to marry my fiancé at all which I find totally inappropriate. I don’t think I have to justify my lack of interest in traditional wedding things at work but my co-workers keep saying “when you find ‘the one’ you’ll get excited about the details”. When I ask them blatantly to stop they make a face and it’s clear that they are interpreting it as something that I’m upset about and I’ve heard people gossiping about “how my engagement is on the rocks”. The more I push back the more it seems like it implodes and everyone has an opinion. How can I get them to stop?

    1. Not a Real Giraffe*

      For the more personal questions, and especially when they ask if you want to marry your fiance (I can’t believe the gall people have!), I like Alison’s script that’s along the lines of, “What an odd thing to ask a coworker!”

    2. fposte*

      Wow, that is weirdly intense. One possibility is to turn it nicely back on them with “we’re still thinking about details–what were your big takeaways/what would you like?” That has the advantage of engaging with them without going over your own plans, though the disadvantage is a lot of boring details about other people’s weddings. Another more audacious move, given that apparently there’s out of country family, is to hang this on culture: “We’re following the custom of our people.” (You don’t need to say that “your people” are you and your fiancé.)

      1. Kj*

        The custom of our people line is going to get more gossip I think. Coworkers will be speculating left and right about what that means. I feel bad for You Can’t Read My Mind, I think the gossip train is well out of the station and their are few, if any, good ways to put it back.

        1. fposte*

          Agreed on the gossip train. I think some folks could pull off “the custom of our people,” but it’s for individuals comfortable with BS. Hell, I’d use it and I grew up in the state where I’m living.

        2. You Can't Read My Mind*

          I so wish I could blame it on customs. My fiance is from the UK which my co-workers seem to think is the most quaint thing ever. I actually have one co-worker that will only speak to me in a false British accent when we interact because “You Can’t Read My Mind is going to become British so she needs to get used to the accent”. I wish I was exaggerating.

          There’s also a game they play where they try to see if pronounce anything oddly. Its rare but when it happens they’ll point it out and then there’s a group of three or four that will mimic me for the day. They think its hilarious.

          1. fposte*

            This isn’t an etiquette thing, this is a you work with jerks thing. Sorry–that sounds really unpleasant.

          2. LiveAndLetDie*

            Wowwwww that false-accented co-worker sounds like a real piece of work! I’m sorry you have to deal with all of this in the workplace.

    3. Kj*

      In all honesty, I think you do have an uphill battle. People hear ‘engagment’ and assume a wedding will happen within a year or two. It is also something most people feel compelled to ask about if you say you are engaged. Being 2 years into an engagment and not having planned a wedding or gone to the court house to elope is going to be considered unusual. People should be polite enough not to comment, but even those who are too polite to comment are going to wonder why you haven’t tied the knot.

      I don’t think you should have to justify your lack of interest in flower arrangements, but you need to have a quick way of either shutting down or explaining why you aren’t married yet. People are going to be curious, there is no stopping that. Are you comfortable saying “We have to figure out the international visa and such-like governments move so slow!” Or maybe “Fiance and I have some relocation details that need working out.” Right now the lack of info is fueling gossip. You should not have to share more about your situation, but it might help deflect the gossip some. It sucks, but it is kind of the way people work. The only other idea I have is talking to your boss, but I think that is a bad idea. If your boss tries to shut down the rumors they will just become stronger in my experience.

      1. K.*

        Yeah, I had a coworker who was engaged for 12 years – she might still be engaged now, 2 a few years after we worked together. A lot of people asked her about it because 12 years is a really long time. You could get married and divorced twice in 12 years. I also knew a woman who was engaged for 10 years before marrying her fiancé. There were no relocation issues; both couples lived together. The 12-years couple bought their house together. They just had a lot of life issues come up so they haven’t gotten married. But a lot of people ask her about it. She’ll mention her fiancé, then someone will ask when the wedding is, then she’ll say they haven’t set a date, then the person will ask something like “Oh, did you just get engaged?” and she’ll say no, it’s been 12 years. And people are like “Wait, what?”

        1. Anon today...and tomorrow*

          I worked with this amazing woman years ago who had been with her boyfriend for 30 years. They started dating in middle school and never had any intention of marrying or having kids. They didn’t even live together. They had their own spaces. He’d stay at hers, she’d stay at his, they’d each stay at their own. I met her when was 18 and stupid and didn’t think that long term dating was a good thing. Now I’m 42 and there’s not one single place in my home that I can go where I am alone due to kids and a husband. Even the cat follows me room to room! She had the right idea! Lois was a frickin’ genius!!!

        2. Lily Rowan*

          And this is why I wish straight people in the US would use “partner” more! I get that “fiance(e)” sounds more concrete than boyfriend/girlfriend, but it really does imply an imminent wedding.

      2. Anon today...and tomorrow*

        I read your first two sentences and had to laugh to myself. Adult life is an uphill battle. If you’re single you hear “Dating anyone?” If you’re coupled you hear “When are you getting engaged?” When you’re engaged you hear “When is the wedding?” When you’re married you hear “When are you having kids?” When you have kids…there’s this breather of questions but so much judgement from others on every decision you make as a parent…and then your kids get old enough to have kids and it starts with the above questions about them.

        I’m tired. Can’t we just all agree to focus on ourselves? People will share stuff if they want to, otherwise it’s not your business.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I am here to say that no one ever asks me if I’m having kids. It seems the trick is to give us really obviously non-maternal vibes.

          1. Anon today...and tomorrow*

            Something about me must scream motherhood then because I was still in my wedding dress and hadn’t even cut the cake when those questions started.

          2. sometimeswhy*


            I have adult children who I don’t talk about at work*. I have pretty regular, mandatory interactions with a group of women who are at my same professional level and approximately the same age (though I think they assume I’m younger than I am). Their small talk is largely about their children, who are all young. They’ve never once asked me about mine or when/if I plan to have any.

            Though I did have a consultant randomly mention that they knew someone they thought I’d get along with if I was in the market for a young man which almost caught me off guard since it’s been so long since anyone went fishing but got, “I am not in the market for one of those. Now about that high-gloss glaze…” instead.

            *I don’t talk about my personal life at all at work if I can avoid it. I have reasons. They are good ones.

          3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Ugh! Can you give lessons? I don’t think I give out maternal vibes at all (so much so that one of my good friends incorrectly tells everyone I hate children), and people are constantly asking about my reproductive preferences, which I find absolutely bizarre.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              The real answer is that I think it’s regional. I also never got asked when I was going to get married (and I didn’t get married until I was 40). Of course, maybe that’s because I also seem repugnantly unlovable, but I think it’s actually related to being an area where it’s normal to delay marriage/children or not marry/have kids at all.

              I don’t know though — now I’m realizing I need to check with friends who also live around here about whether people hassle them. If I’m the only one not getting hassled, I’m going to be really interested in what might be going on.

            2. Rookie Manager*

              I would love those lessons! A few years ago when it seems I couldn’t go 3 days without my reproductive plans being questioned I had a facebook rant. I suggested that my partner never got asked about future kids and felt left out so please refer any and all questions to him. It didn’t stop the badgering but it slowed it down significantly. Since then two people (in 4 years!) have asked him.

              Unfortunately I’ve met lots of new people in that time and the questions are building again. I’d really like it to stop.

    4. Parenthetically*

      “when you find ‘the one’ you’ll get excited about the details”

      WAT. “What a strange thing to say. Now how about that sportsteam/work project/blatant subject change?”

    5. Mike C.*

      How do you get them to stop? Call out their anti-social behavior directly and publicly.

      “My wedding plans are none of your concern. Your judgement of my personal life and continued gossip are completely uncalled for and this topic is now off limits.” No ifs, ands or buts and any response that does not contain a heart-felt apology for their terrible behavior should be met with, “I said this topic was off limits”.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        You know, though, that 95% of people aren’t going to be willing to say that, right? So while the sentiment is reasonable, I don’t think it’s going to be usable advice for most people.

        1. KellyK*

          Exactly, and it’s going to make things really uncomfortable really fast. It’s a good response to have in your back pocket in case someone steamrolls over a more polite attempt to change the subject, but it’s not ideal to start with.

          1. Mike C.*

            When folks talk about “making things uncomfortable”, I believe that the lack of comfort stated with the public speculation about the relationship and other overly personal questions, not with someone addressing the issue directly.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Absolutely it did. But that doesn’t change the fact that it’s still in her best interest not to throw bombs of her own into the relationship with a coworker.

        2. Mike C.*

          Sure, I understand this, and was in the middle of writing a response to my post addressing this. Don’t laugh, but I used to fall into that camp as well. You beat me to the response, so let’s take the next step.

          People are only unwilling to say such things until they change their minds. As you and others reading this realize, morals and etiquette aren’t written in stone, they go through cycles of general agreement and debate. Explicitly, I disagree with the common advice that says in uncomfortable situations, we must utilize canned lines that never address the issue at hand. I don’t disagree with the idea that this is a tool, but rather that this is the only tool.

          I also don’t mean that my advice should be taken word for word – my diction is stark and my tone is distinct and lacks subtlety and softening language. I wrote it that way because I wanted to express the core of what I was trying to get at – setting a clear boundary, explicitly naming the terrible behavior and making it clear that it was unacceptable/stops right now.

          Advice for most/all situations? No. But I honestly believe that being direct and standing up for oneself (to the extent one is able to!) has more merit than many believe.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            But it’s less effective. There’s a much simpler way to get the outcome the OP wants, and without injecting this much negativity into the relationship. It makes no sense to take an adversarial approach when a less adversarial one will get the job done.

            You can stand up for yourself and be direct without being hostile.

            Is there any chance you come from a culture where conversation that would be rude in most of the U.S. is actually normal? I think your norms on this are really different than most people’s here, and that could be the reason.

            1. Mike C.*

              As a quick aside, I could have sworn I had seen language similar to “this topic is off limits” in this very blog written by you. I can’t find it and I could just be misremembering or worse, taking it terribly out of context.

              If we treat this as some sort of negativity calculation, I see the cost of being direct/setting boundaries as a one time cost that prevents future ongoing costs of the issue coming up again and again. Sure, a less “costly” approach is always going to be better, but in my experience the sort of people who cross these sorts of boundaries aren’t put off by tactics like distraction or deflection. Saying “wow” and hoping they catch the hint or “About this work thing…” doesn’t cut it. They’re adamant, they’re focused and they feel entitled to know about your business. So in that sense, the most costly option is one that doesn’t work at all.

              As for my own culture? One can’t really say for certain, but I was raised on the West Coast in a blue collar household, but attended a private college out of state full of folks who were, uh, well, socially unusual. My mother spent a lot of time cleaning houses while we were growing up, which meant in the summers we would join her to get it done faster. I would see these owners from time to time who were obviously wealthier than us and the way they would act with more formal manners and customs but would actually treat my mom like trash. A great deal of tone and diction used towards us was to the letter of being polite/professional (using the correct terms, rules and techniques) rather than with the spirit of politeness/professionalism (actually considering other people as human beings). Overly formalized language was used as a weapon, as a way to put people in their place.

              One such time, I was receiving similar treatment. I was cleaning a toilet or something when the owner in question dismissively asked me about what “my plans for the future were”, as if I had none, or they simply weren’t worth discussing. I told him the college I was attending and he literally code-switched in front of me. Suddenly I wasn’t “the help”, to be treated politely but like trash, but I was more of a peer, of an equal. I was worthy of his attention and even admiration. He even tried networking with me. This happened with at least three different people, and it was sickening each time. I hadn’t changed as a person, but why was I being treated differently, only because they knew what college I was attending? Given that I was facing serious imposter syndrome at my college for class and grade based reasons, this didn’t help.

              So to bring everything together, when I see advice or discussions about formalized “professionalism” and “politeness”, I’m reminded of those owners of the expensive homes in the nicer parts of town. Just because you’re using the right words and the right tones doesn’t mean you’re actually polite or professional. I know the intent of this and similar blogs aren’t being written with that intent (and I’ve learned a great deal here, believe me!) but in the back of my mind I can’t help but think, “why can’t we just talk about what’s going on right in front of us? why can’t we just be direct instead of having to always (yes, sometimes you need to suck it up and just take it, I get that) distract and pretend nothing is wrong” and so on. At some level, it feels dishonest to me. If I were causing someone harm, I would want them to tell me directly so I can stop. I would feel terrible if I didn’t catch one of million hints or miss reading between the lines and continued on my way. Even if the tone is abrasive or blunt or even somewhat rude or unprofessional.

              Mix in a little conflation of is/aught arguments and recognizing that not every tactic works in every situation (and I’m trying to be more explicit about these caveats) and I think that explains my views.

              1. Victorian Cowgirl*

                Thank you for your input, and I think I understand what you’re saying, and really appreciate it. I also get tired of having to choose words instead of speaking frankly. For me, I choose the wrong words and give the bullies more info to glom onto, so I’ve become formal for other reasons, which is very much a weapon as you say. (And I do believe OP is being bullied)

              2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                I can imagine recommending something like “this topic is off-limits” if less harsh approaches are tried first and don’t work. But it’s a last resort, not a place you’d go early on.

                Anyway, I think you’re (a) possibly not hearing how harsh that kind of language you suggested above sounds to most people, (b) really underestimating the impact that going harsh/hostile will have on working relationships, and the various ways that can make your life harder, and (c) not accounting for the fact that you can get the outcome you want without going so adversarial.

                I think you might be getting tripped up on “but we should be able to just say this stuff.” But that’s a bit like saying “but we should be able to walk around naked — we all have bodies!” You could make a logical argument for that! But the reality is, it’s going to get you very, very weird results because of social conventions. Same thing here.

                I want people to be effective and get good results for themselves. It’s pretty rare that going straight to adversarial or harsh will do that for them. It doesn’t matter if it *should*. It doesn’t, and moreover, most people are going to be really unwilling to try it anyway because it’s going to come across as so overly aggressive.

    6. Jadelyn*

      This is the perfect time to deploy “What a strange question to ask a coworker! [subject change]” – people are being intrusive jerks and they deserve to be made to feel awkward for their prying. Honestly I’d stop engaging at all, just “I’m surprised you’d ask that/say that” or even just “Hm. So about [something else you were discussing or trying to discuss]…” Hopefully, if they stop getting responses from you, they’ll get bored and let it go.

      1. Mike C.*

        Why take such an oblique tone? They’re just going to keep asking the question and demanding personal information from you, so why not be direct instead? Why say “strange” instead of “offensive” or “asinine” or “terrible” or “deeply personal” at the very least?

        I just feel like if they were able to take the hint or be distracted they wouldn’t keep coming back and saying/asking the same things over and over again. They’re taking advantage of the fact that they haven’t been told “no” yet.

        1. fposte*

          Because more direct adversariality is likelier to fuel gossip in a situation where the goal is to damp it down, and because it makes relationships harder with co-workers for no particular gain.

            1. Annie Moose*

              Telling your coworker the thing they just said is “weird” is pretty darn direct, in my book.

    7. all aboard the anon train*

      I’m sorry you have to deal with this. Can you just outright tell them that they’re being inappropriate? Or, if you feel comfortable doing so, that you’re dealing with family stuff that’s making you push out the date?

      A coworker once mentioned her engagement and one of our jerky coworkers asked why it took her over 10 years to get married. Her response was a dry, “because I’m a lesbian. Couldn’t just run out and get married whenever we wanted”. That shut up the coworker who asked pretty quickly.

    8. weeloo*

      Why don’t you just tell them what you’ve just told a bunch of strangers on the internet? Visas, relocations, big wedding, etc. Why the subterfuge? Being engaged for 2 years is kind of odd. And then being weird about it just fuels gossip.

      1. You Can't Read My Mind*

        So this is exactly what I used to say. I started with the whole “well we don’t know which country we want to live in yet (mine or his (and for reference we are currently living on different continents)) so we’re exploring our options and trying to find out the visa/relocation situation”, etc. To be honest, we went back and forth for a little while trying to figure that out, and when I finally decided that it made more since for me to make the move that opened up a whole new can of worms.

        Firstly, your co-worker saying they’re moving to a different country tends to spark interest in people so they keep on asking for all the details, when, how, ( “Oh my god are you getting married in a castle? You HAVE to get married in a castle!”) , whats happening to the dog, etc. Because of the dog, the international relocation is something that we are planning in detail now (because things book up a year or two in advance and getting a dog safely and humanely from continent A to continent B is not as easy as it sounds).

        Secondly, once I admitted that I was planning on moving overseas suddenly my wedding date = when You Can’t Read My Mind is leaving. People want to know if I’ve told the boss that I’m leaving (which wouldn’t be for over a year and a half) and who I think is going to apply to fill my position. Funding for my position runs out in two years so I don’t want to announce my plans so ridiculously early and then be put in a position where they cut me loose early to train someone new. Lastly, there are some individuals at work who seem to believe that my moving overseas is a personal attack on American values or something like that and I got a lot of “So what, America isn’t good enough for you then?” questions that are generally quite political in nature and not something I would touch with a ten foot pole with my family, let alone co-workers.

        So to avoid all that, I thought I’d let that die down and go the whole “there are some family dynamics at play that we are still trying to work out”. But that seems to translate to “OMG FAMILY DRAMA” and because I live in such a close-knit community of which my maternal family has been a part of for 100 years, everyone wants to know all the details.

        If I keep silent and change the topic, they call me out on it. If I say that I don’t want to discuss it at work, they think we’ve broken up. For a bit there I thought that I should just let people think that we had separated, but then people ask me what my plans are if I’m not moving, and when I’m going to start dating, why we broke up (was it because of my family) and it’s just SO exhausting. At this point I try to talk about my dog every time someone asks but that only works with some people.

        1. fposte*

          Ew. But you can go ahead and let them call you out on changing the subject–it’s not a guilty secret. “Uh-huh!” you say cheerfully and persist in asking them about their favorite subject. “If I do want to start watching Game of Thrones, where should I start?” “Is that caterer who wrecked your wedding by not cutting the crusts off still in business? Did they at least get the desserts right?” “He sounds so smart for a three-year-old!” No guarantees, but people find it really hard to resist talking about the thing they love to talk about most, whether it’s their kid or their popular culture expertise or how much they don’t let people mess with them.

    9. Student*

      If it’s an option for you, stop referring to him as your fiance, stop mentioning you’re engaged, and start referring to him as your boyfriend or significant other or whatever. The terms “fiance” and “engaged” strongly imply that the wedding planning has begun. I’ll be “that guy” and admit that I don’t consider people to be engaged unless they are planning a wedding, preferably have already set a date or at minimum are actively trying to set a date.

      What does engaged really mean, if it doesn’t mean “the short period between when we announce our intention to get married and actually pull it off”?

      I was with my SO for about 10 years before we got married. We had discussed the idea of getting married in that time, and agreed that we’d eventually get married, and what conditions were necessary before getting married would happen. That sounds like where you are. We didn’t consider ourselves engaged or declare as such to others until all conditions to get married were met and we were ready to start planning a wedding. Part of this is to avoid spinning up exactly the expectations that you have spun up. Part of it is recognition that until you have skin in the game – like a reservation, a down payment, a plan in had that you are executing – it’s really still just dating and either one of us could walk any day with no major financial or social obligations.

      From that experience, when I see couples do very long “engagements” where they are not actually planning a wedding, I tend to assume that either (1) somebody wants the attention and drama of being engaged without all of the work and downsides, or (2) somebody is desperately trying to get the other into a more firm commitment than they actually have.

      1. fposte*

        “Engaged” means “have made a decision to get married.” No plans or date required.

    10. Trillian*

      Are you up to trolling them? Give everyone a different answer, the wilder the better. Antarctica. Down a diamond mine. At CERN. And look forward to the day when you can say, yup, we did. Six months ago.

    11. KR*

      I eloped and also had to field a lot of questions from coworkers. I wasn’t that excited about a traditional wedding too. I defaulted to something along the lines of, “It’s going to be a small affair and we aren’t talking about it much. ” Or “I really don’t want to talk about this right now – I like getting a break from wedding talk!”

  18. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

    Weddings and office politics sound so complicated. I’m sort of glad I got married while I was still in grad school- I could ot have managed planning a big wedding and dealing with coworkers and such around it (especially as same-sex marriage was controversial and in the news and not yet legal in all states).

    1. EddieSherbert*

      See, my SO is in grad school and I think it makes planning things harder (to be fair, they are in a year round program – so it’s harder for them to get time off than it is for me to!).

  19. JTHMeow*

    Thank you! This was so helpful to me as I was actually mulling a lot of this over earlier this week as I start to make my list. I guess the one thing that I feel uncomfortable about is that my employees WANT to know stuff. I try to talk about it very little but they ask questions and generally are interested in the information. I am still on the fence about if I will be inviting them….it is a sticky one.

    1. Jadelyn*

      I just told my supervisor this morning and I stg the first question out of her mouth was “Are we invited?” Which, we’re a small close-knit team so yes they are invited, but it was still like “wow, okay, that went there fast!”

      1. JTHMeow*

        Yeah, that’s a little forward! Thankfully I really want to invite my boss and her daughter as she is my mentor and I appreciate her so much in my life, as well as some other co-workers as we have been working together for almost a decade. But no one would ever ask if they are invited or they haven’t asked yet!

  20. Jamey*

    Great advice as always! At my job, two people in a small team are currently engaged (and I am one of them!) Myself and my engaged coworker really enjoy chatting about wedding planning stuff since it’s on both of our minds, but we keep it between the two of us in private messages (:

  21. Cassie*

    I’ve had a several coworkers get married over the years. I don’t think they invited many people at work either – maybe just a couple of closer friends (thankfully I have not been invited to a coworker’s wedding).

    The wedding talk is usually very low-key around the office. There’s one engaged coworker that talks a lot about her fiancee and every answer to “hi, how are you?” will invariably be about the wedding planning. It’s a little tiresome, but it’ll be over soon.

  22. LiveAndLetDie*

    This issue actually got my now-husband in hot water with a former (toxic) employer. It was a small accounting firm and the partners were very into everyone’s personal lives, always invited spouses to end-of-tax-season festivities, etc, but it also meant that they felt entitled to wedding invites. Most of the employees there that got married around the same time we did had family wealth on one side or the other that meant inviting the entire firm was doable, so they got what they wanted and everyone had a great time. But my husband and I didn’t have the budget to add ~50 people (25 employees + spouses) to our wedding (ours was small, a 100 count guest list).

    He later got fired for not being a “team player,” not just for the wedding, but also because on end-of-tax-season festivities, the partners would expect folks to binge drink with them at bars. While we appreciate a drink now and then, it’s just not in either of our natures to get blackout drunk, which his bosses seemed to want everyone to “let go” and do. Like I said, toxic environment.

  23. EJ*

    I would have loved to have invited my co-workers & husband and boss & his wife to my wedding. But we wanted it small…and we could only have 50 people be in the private room of the restaurant we had it at. So with 70 family members and 20 or so friends to invite, they understood!

  24. Jill*

    Great advice all in one spot.

    I’d also add: Let it go! Is it really the end of your world if you’re not invited to one wedding??

  25. LJL*

    Ah….reminds me of when my hubby and I got married. It was small and quick; we invited only immediate family and my maid of honor and his best man. We told no one until after the wedding to avoid hurt feelings. Lo and behold, my (toxic) supervisor was hurt that I didn’t tell her, even though I told literally no one at work. So glad when I got out of there!

  26. Emily Anderson*

    I’m all for having people at your wedding that you choose. But a few years ago, a colleague had a wedding and invited 46/50 of her coworkers. I was not included. It was confusing to be one of the excludeds, because we were all quite close and often socialized together. On one hand, I fell back on my “you don’t have any right to be invited to someone else’s wedding”, but on the other hand, the wedding and reception were the talk of the building for a solid month, and it was very awkward to be the only person in the room that couldn’t go on and on about the great dancing, and how yummy the buffet was, and weren’t the flower girls cute. Often someone would ask me “What’d you think of the photo booth? Wasn’t that great?” or “Wasn’t Ann’s dress AMAZING?” and I had to reply, “Oh, I wasn’t at the wedding”, and get an awkward, confused look. Personally, if I was inviting 46/50 of my colleagues, I’d probably go ahead and invite the last 4, just to avoid the awkward.

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