June 18, 2008 -- Cecilia Stoffel's co-workers aren't too happy with her.
Stoffell is getting married next month and wants her closest officemates there to celebrate the big day. They've all worked together at a bank for four years and, like so many co-workers, see each other more than their spouses. The problem is, the reception room only holds 130 guests, and the couple needs to keep numbers down since they're paying for the wedding themselves. Inviting 13 co-workers and their husbands would put them over the financial edge; and it would be a really tight fit at the reception.
Stoffel thought she came up with the ideal solution: She invited two women with their husbands, since they all socialize outside the office, and invited the other 11 sans spouses. She sent off the invitations without a warning about the solo invite. Needless to say, her colleagues were pissed. Five of the co-workers invited without their husbands declined to attend, and one shared some choice words about Stoffell with other colleagues in the office cafeteria. There were many days of the silent treatment.
Weddings are supposed to be a joyous occasion. But deciding which co-workers to invite without disappointing others is a dangerous balancing act. Upsetting a colleague can make your daily office life miserable and might even have ramifications on your career.
That's what Stoffell is contending with. "I thought people might be offended or taken aback at first but after they thought about the situation they'd look at the big picture--she wants us there," says Stoffel, who is getting married in Massachusetts on July 3. "I hoped they'd look at it as a girl's night out."
No matter what her intentions, Stoffell made a major faux pas, says Anna Post, an etiquette expert at the Emily Post Institute and author of Emily Post's Wedding Parties. One of the first rules of weddings: Always invite a guest's spouse, live-in romantic partner or fiancé. "It's a firm rule of etiquette," says Post.
When you first become engaged, tell your boss before other co-workers--it's a sign of respect. Your boss will probably ask questions, like when you plan to get married.
Answer the questions, but as with the planning process itself, don't go overboard with details. This is especially true with co-workers who won't be invited. They don't want to hear every detail about a wedding they're not even invited to. Worse yet, they might think they're being invited since you're sharing so much.
"Share your good news but not every minor detail," says Summer Krecke, deputy editor of weddingchannel.com. "If you tell colleagues about every detail or ask for their opinion on your china pattern, there's a sense that they'll be part of that experience. They'll expect to be invited."
One of the most common questions engaged couples ask when it comes to the invitation list: Should we invite our bosses? There's no formula to abide by; it's completely up to the couple. However, it can be a good idea, says Post, because an employee's relationship with his boss is important, and this could be a good way to strengthen it. If you can't stand being in your boss' presence, don't feel obligated to send an invite.
Which co-workers to invite is more challenging since there are so many of them. "People spend so much time in the office it becomes an extension of your personal life," says Krecke. If you work in a small department and are inviting so many people from the unit that the few people not invited will feel left out, invite everyone. If you work in a large office and are inviting a few of the people you're closest with, be sure to avoid wedding talk at work.
Corie Tracey is getting married in West Hartford, Conn., next month too. She's inviting a few of her closest friends from work but doesn't want to give others the wrong impression. So when anyone asks how the plans are coming, she politely answers their questions without going into too much detail.
"I try to give them a simple answer like, 'everything is going great,' " says Tracey, who does sales presentations for an insurance company in Hartford.
Also, weddings are personal, so don't hand out invitations in the office or put it in the intra-office mail. Privately ask colleagues for their home addresses, and send the invitations there.
Still, you can't please everyone. If a co-worker is upset about being left out of the wedding, explain that you value their friendship. But because you are having a small wedding you're restricted. "The bride or groom might say, 'I had to make some tough choices. I wish I could have invited you. Please don't take this as an insult. It's nothing personal,' " says Post.
As for Stoffell, she says looking back she should have explained why she didn't invite several of her co-workers' husbands. Says Stoffell: "Hindsight is 20/20, and it was my mistake."