Telling Wedding Guests to Pay Their Own Way

Toast to a wedding vow renewal
How Do We Tell Guests To Pay Their Own Way?

Q: My husband and I will be renewing our wedding vows for our 20th anniversary on the beach at sunset on Waikiki. It will be Hawaiian casual attire (Hawaiian shirts and sarongs). Hopefully, some of our friends who live on the island will attend our vow renewal. We would like to go out to dinner after the renewal of our vows with our friends, but are not having a reception. Everyone will order off the menu and pay for their own dinner.The question is, how do you tell people that will be the case? I will probably hand-write invitations after we arrive on the island and set up the details. I’ll need to include the dinner details in the invitation. Your help with wording would be appreciated. Thank you.

~  MaryAnn


First, congratulations on your upcoming 20th anniversary! Now on to your question. This is a tricky situation; it is hard for me to advise you on the proper etiquette for handling this issue in terms of wording the invitations since having guests pay their own way at an event such as this would not be considered socially correct in the first place. If a group of your friends were to invite you out to celebrate your anniversary, they would be expected to pay, not just for themselves, but for your portion as well. However, when you are inviting guests to celebrate your anniversary with you, typically the expectation is that you intend to host the celebration.

I’m afraid that there is simply no wording suggestion I can offer for the invitations which will conform to the standards of proper etiquette or social correctness. The best way to handle the matter would be to issue the invitations to dinner in a less formal manner, by word of mouth, in the weeks preceding the occasion. When you do this you can make the circumstances clear. You may say something along the lines of, “John and I will be going out for dinner following our renewal of vows. We’d love it if you and some of our other friends would join us, although I’m afraid we do not have it in our budget to pick up the tab for those who will be joining us”.

This is a polite way of clearly communicating the circumstances of your invitation, and in this day and age you can ‘get away’ with this form of invitation. However, as stated previously, to extend invitations to a celebration in honor of such an occasion, expecting guests to pay their own way, is not a practice which would be deemed ‘socially correct’.

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