Ethics Quiz And Poll: The Wuhan Wedding

Yes, that’s a real wedding invitation that has “gone viral” on social media.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day is…

Is this a fair, responsible and respectful way to handle this situation?

The reactions on twitter have broken down neatly into two categories.

Here is an example of what I will call Reaction A:

This is a no-brainer. Take my name off your list, don’t expect a wedding gift, don’t send me X-mas cards & lose my email address & cell phone #. Don’t call, don’t write, no need to keep in touch. Don’t want to see wedding pics or any future kid pics. I won’t follow you on Insta.

And here is Reaction B...

I am completely in favor of handling the guest list in this way. Group A will be close family and BFFs, those who “must” be invited. Groups B and C will be those who would be expected to be there if there weren’t capacity restrictions but aren’t in Group A. They’ll understand.

I must state up-front that I tend strongly to Reaction A, especially since my wife and I were once dis-invited from a wedding in the most insulting manner imaginable, and I’m still ticked off about it. We had even held a celebratory dinner for the couple. At least that snub was handled in a (very awkward) phone call and not like this.

If one has to unexpectedly reduce a wedding guest list, you had better follow through with a damn great party for the disinvitees. In fact, the couple that dinged us promised they would do exactly that…and we never heard from them again.

There is a third option, which I will call Reaction C. Treating the invitees like different grades of beef is offensive, and asking people to “check the wedding website” is presumptuous. Explain the problem, call up the dings, be appropriately apologetic, and make amends later. Reaction C holds that what the invitation intends isn’t so bad,  it’s how the invitation communicates it.

Now the poll:

Now I’m annoyed about that wedding ding all over again, and am seriously considering unfriending the bride….

25 thoughts on “Ethics Quiz And Poll: The Wuhan Wedding

  1. I chose C, but I wanted to include a bit of A as well because the wording of the invitation is highly offensive. If I were in group B or C, I would inform the couple immediately that I would not be able to attend, and I would wish them well. After that, I doubt I would initiate any correspondence with them, but there are other factors I would have to take into account, including the length and nature of my and my spouse’s relationship with them and, ultimately, whether or not we wanted to maintain a friendship with them. It could be a forgivable error on their part, or it could be signature significance.

  2. How about reaction d? Cancel the ceremony, go to the courthouse and then out to dinner with your family, and have a reception 6 months from now or outside or someway you don’t have to, as you say, grade people like beef?

    I hate weddings, I’ll be honest. Brides to be have to realize that almost no one wants to be at your wedding, save maybe your mother, wants to be there. Your dads boss? Has a thousand things he’d rather do on a Saturday in June. I don’t mind bringing a gift, but I do mind being told after bringing a gift and devoting 3 hours of my valuable time, that I have to pay 8 dollars for a Jack on the rocks. And that rubber chicken you serve doesn’t mitigate that – I just have to stop at McDonald’s on the way home.

    So if I received the invite, I’d be thrilled because I could decline, regardless of my group, guilt free. But I would be miffed to be on B or C.

    • Most offensive is the third breakdown–both groups B and C are delisted from the guest list, but there’s an overt implication that if you’re C-listed and RSVPed in an open slot, you may be booted a second time by a later B-list RSVP.

      This doesn’t explain the restrictions–if these “capacity restrictions” are due to poor planning, cheapskating, or negligence on the part of the hosts, then the response should be different then, say increased pandemic restrictions by the venue’s political subdivision.

      I really like the idea of divorcing the ceremony from the party, and creating “Reception A, B, C” or maybe better “Reception Formal”, “Reception Informal”, and “Child Friendly Reception” to accommodate all guests, perhaps allowing those with scheduling conflicts to choose a better time.

      • I think it is clear that there venue cut its capacity to meet state or local covid restrictions. This likely occurred long after the reservation and save-the-dates were sent, which was certainly more than four months ago. Otherwise this isn’t a quiz; it’d be rude.

  3. I’ll say it’s closest to C, but no need to be offended. If the hall’s listed occupancy is 200, they’ll look the other way at 220. Now the same hall will only hold 50, and there will be guests taking pictures and reporting you if you stretch it to 55. So you have to improvise to get right to 50 without going over.

  4. Reaction C, because A is probably overdoing it. Normally I would think this was very rude and an attempt to maximize the gifts for the minimum of efforts. This is a unique situation, and I get that, but the best bet is to have a small courthouse ceremony now and the bigger event later, when all of this passes. As it is, the couple have created no end of awkwardness by letting their friends know where they stand, and they shouldn’t be surprised if later doing so works to their detriment. That goes especially for the C-listers. Friends are not baseball players, to be pulled from the bench as needed, and never to play if no slot opens up, and if you treat them like that, expect it not to go well. You can tell yourself that people will understand, or people will get over it, but it’s presumptuous to expect them to do so.

  5. Recognizing that I’m probably somewhere on the autistic spectrum, my take on this might be a little different, but I find these events odious. Doubly so because most marriages nolonger last five years. My response to an invite like that? A nice card in the mail with an appropriate gift, and then an afternoon on a weekend doing something I’d actually like to be doing.

    I often say that Funerals aren’t for the guest of honor, funerals are for the living. The dead don’t care. It’s closure. Weddings are the opposite: Weddings are about the couple, not the guest list. In my experience, the people miffed about invitation snubs are the same people miffed about the lack of an open bar. I’d love to hear the actual logic behind the demand that now that the happy couple has invited you, all of a sudden they owe you certain dispensations.

  6. I’m firmly in Reaction B territory. I finished reading the invitation with a sense that the couple were rather indelicate, but suspected no malice.
    The happy couple are certainly free to decide that they would like to hold a formal ceremony on the day of their choosing. COVID-19 got in the way, they need to pare down their guest list and they want to ensure as many people as possible can attend. I sympathise with all of that.
    I also think the ABC system logically works. Implicitly or explicitly, there obviously are guests who are more and less important at a wedding. A potential invitee would benefit from knowing their chances of attending, as they would from knowing their position on and other waitlist.
    It IS mind-boggling to me that the groupings were made explicit and that the language of the invite described all three groupings so starkly. Still, I find any objection completely a matter of not being PC enough. The couple communicated clearly and, dare I say it, completely transparently and honestly. I don’t see any ethical fault in that.

  7. Wow. It’s not like this is a new thing. Way for everyone to overreact. Many weddings have a limited amount of space. So here’s what happens where I live, they invite to the bridal shower only (Which typically now has both the bride and groom), stating they wanted extended family and friends to be part of the celebration, but their venue was limited. It’s fine. Y’all are having kittens over an event. That they thought to invite you at all means something. The no kids at wedding trend is weird to me though. That’s what makes it fun, to watch the kids. Is the way they handled it slightly tacky? I suppose. Clearly they had trouble making a decision on who could and couldn’t go. It’s not a big deal. Side note. There was a wedding this weekend (I wasn’t invited) but the groom was exposed to Covid by their co worker, so they called everyone but closest family and asked them not to come. Is that the right way to handle that?

  8. At the end of the day, it’s yet another example of our societal unwillingness to set boundaries. They didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings by them being left out so we get weirdness asking the guests to “opt out” essentially.

  9. I put C. Normally it’d be flat inexcusable to tell guests if they made the “A” list (and arrogant – like, who are you to make this important to them?) but this is a very unusual situation. It also gives an out to guests who weren’t comfortable in a large gathering. That said the delivery still sucks.

    My friends who had a June wedding went ahead with a livestreamed family-only ceremony and postponed their reception. They communicated this by simply sending a new Save the Date to non-ceremony guests, thanking us for our patience. I liked this approach. Sensible people recognize not everybody gets to be invited everywhere, but everyone should be treated with respect and tact.

    As a counterpoint to others – I love weddings. I’ve never been to truly bad one, though, just a few with silly custom ceremonies and one put on by very young people who didn’t drink. They’ve all been planned with the guests’ comfort and enjoyment in mind. Also I’m nosy and like seeing/judging the couples’ color, decoration and music choices.

    • I agree. My friend got married a few years ago, and I was in the party. Everyone was in a frazzled haze in the months ahead, and that was without covid (They even send out a last minute second round of invitations, because some space-cadet relatives RSVP’d no at the last minute).

      Now the couple in question here has everyone snapping at them no matter what they do, on top of the herding cats that is a regular wedding. Their solution to hurry priority guest to open spaces for others is not great, but understandable.

      (As it is, I’ve been on the “A-list” for two and the “B-list” for one in recent years, where I went to college with at least one spouse-to-be in the wedding. There are a few wedding I am slightly miffed that I was apparently only on the C-list for and didn’t make the cut. Most people “know” which list they are on for a wedding; what makes this couple’s list slightly rude is that the list is made explicit under exigent circumstances).

  10. I suppose I am in reaction C territory. I have a cousin back East who just had his wedding during this Wuhan virus fiasco. He had a similar problem. He and his bride had invited somewhat over 100 people to the wedding, and then asked for an adult only reception, lowering the number to the venue maximum of 100. Then the midden hit the windmill in March and we waited for restrictions to loosen for the June wedding. By the time the wedding got close, it was determined that there could be 10 people in the church and not many more than that in the reception venue. They determined that waiting was not what they wanted to do, so they kept the ceremony small. The reception was postponed. In this case, there was a mass email to all invitees, stating that they were dis-invited to the wedding because of the restrictions of the virus and a phone call would follow, but any travel arrangements should be cancelled as soon as possible for any possible return of money. Within two days, I received a phone call during which time they expressed severe disappointment that we had to be excluded. A secondary reception was arranged, and pleasantries were exchanged. This was repeated earlier this month as the secondary reception has also been postponed due to re-tightening restrictions. I have been promised free babysitting if I’ll just come to the tertiary reception next summer. I feel my cousin did about everything he could, short of cancelling the wedding and putting his entire life on hold for a virus that he isn’t sure is worth cancelling the future for. I was not offended, but unlike what was shown in this post, the disinviting was done with a modicum of decency. I understand where this bride and groom are coming from, but the approach is wrong.

  11. I’m reminded of my own wedding. Our budget was tight enough that my wife and I decided who to invite on the basis of how insulted people would feel if we didn’t invite them.

    While the couple’s approach to this situation was clumsy, I can envision several reasons for not dealing with it differently. If they called their guests, some would be reached much more quickly than others. Friends and relatives talking to each other could cause the news to outrace the couple’s ability to give tactful notice. The mass notification,
    followed by apologetic phone calls, might be the best way to ensure everyone is informed.

  12. I mugged when I read you were still holding an offense over something that’s over.

    It does no good for you. 😕

    I think the post is funny too.

    The notice seems written by some very “in their head” type person.

    Its possible they could have been able to communicate the same thing in a much more heart felt way.

    I understand the dilemma… and the reactions, as we each see the present through the lenses of our past! That means we keep reliving the past and miss the present, unless we are mindful of that and that takes a lot of work.

    I’m sorry you were snubbed in the past. And I love your honesty so much! Partly why I read still after 4 years!!!!

    • I have one real trigger, and that’s disloyalty, ingratitude and betrayal. I’ll forgive and forget anything else. When someone whom I have helped and supported and sacrificed and suffered for and been there when they were in need kicks me in the teeth, I never get over it. This made me a successful player in Diplomacy, the cut-throat pre-WW 1 negotiation board game. When I said, “If you break your promise after I help yoy, I will devote all my energy to destroying your forces, even to the detriment of my own,” players tended to believe me. I never expect reciprocation for good deeds and generosity, but I won’t tolerate callousness and disrespect.

  13. I own a catering company and this post reminds me of why the least favorite event we do is a wedding. One of our sales people refuses to do weddings simply explaining that he isn’t suited to planning weddings because he fails to appreciate the importance of the color of the bridesmaids’ dresses. Years ago one of our sales people came in after a meeting with the bride and groom and their parents only to announce that when she got married she would never have a formal wedding because the planning brings out the worst human traits in everyone involved. Then there was the tasting we did for the bride’s parents–the mother tasted the food and the father asked for a bottle of scotch. Wedding traditions vary depending on what part of the country you live in. In the South they have “phone book” weddings where virtually everyone in town is invited, which would pose a huge problem for this bride and groom. In California we are more attuned to the entertainment approach and need to create themes for weddings as if the wedding isn’t theme enough. In reading the invitation I’m struck with the invitation’s sentence structure and organization that seems to be in keeping with all of the Covid information and directives issued from our local Health Departments. It really has a sense of “we’re all in this together” whether any of us or their guests believe it. Mostly, there is a detachment that is reminiscent of social media posts so I suspect none of their peer group friends are offended. Only the older generation would pick up on the rather cold and calculating way this is handled. Knowing the cost of weddings, I don’t fault them for trying to find a solution given that their venue deposit was probably non-refundable. Oh, and one final item, the use of “invite” in place of “invitation” makes me crazy. Does it do that for anyone else?

  14. We actually had some relatives who agonized over how to handle their wedding. Over in Massachusetts, the Church was only allowed 10 people to be present (which dwindles quickly when you count the priest, the bride, the groom, and the two witnesses), and I don’t even know what the regulations were for the reception. They waffled between rescheduling the wedding or holding it as a very small affair, and after trying to reschedule, they eventually settled on holding the wedding as scheduled, and then hold a first anniversary party next year, assuming the pandemic lockdowns have finally ended by then.

    I voted C, because the intent was to try to make room for as many people as possible, and was just presented badly. No need to get offended, and it really helps the couple out to be as understanding and gracious as possible. This year has been terrible, and there’s no need to compound the stresses.

  15. When Mrs. Zechman and I got married, we faced a similar problem but handled it in a (hopefully) better way.

    The issue was the combination of: (1) we had a venue with limited seating (partly because of the venue itself and partly because of our own economic limitations), (2) I come from a very large extended family with 30+ aunts and uncles and more than 100 cousins, and (3) the wedding was being held in Virginia while the vast majority of my extended family is 200+ miles away in central PA. So it was a given that although it was expected protocol to send an invitation to most of the family members, we knew that nearly all of them would not actually attend.

    So we started by making our list and sending out the first 100 invites, having bought 150 invitation cards.

    As the RSVP’s with the “NO” box check started coming in, we sent out additional invitations to other family and to friends and coworkers in the local area whom we expected would attend.

    Eventually we got a guest list of ~100 replies with the “YES” box checked. Not all of THEM showed up, but things happen.

    I suppose what we did was materially the same as what’s being disclosed on the invitation shown in this post, but with the significant change that none of our guests and potential guests were told outright that they were in “GROUP A” or whatnot. People just got invitations at different times.

    That seemed, at the time, the most reasonable and kind way to handle the problem, but I’m definitely interested to hear if anyone here has suggestions for what I could have done differently/better.


    P.S. One of the things that made this “scheme” work at all is that we had set a wedding date more than a year in advance so that we had the lead time to do this over the course of several weeks.

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