Service of Office Friends: Who Is Invited to Special Occasions?

April 28th, 2018

Categories: Friends, Friendship, Office, Rejection, Wedding, Work


I met some of my oldest friends at or through work. And while the article that inspired this post focused on weddings, there are many special occasions—50th birthday parties, 25th wedding anniversaries, a child’s momentous event–that might create the same dilemma: which office friends to invite when faced with constraints of a budgetary nature or of space?

The title of Sue Shellenbarger’s Wall Street Journal story “The Dreaded Wedding Decision: Which Co-Workers to Invite?” covers a lot. You spend more time on the job, shoulder to shoulder with colleagues, more than with most family and friends. It’s natural to share event plans and glitches or address family kerfuffles with these folks as you munch lunch. But who gets cut from the list: Cousin Frank and his nasty wife–which will cause a rift with your aunt and uncle and create stress for your parents–or Frieda and Fred in accounting?


According to Shellenbarger, the reaction of one groom with 18 office friends and space for only three: “Just because you’re really cool with and close to a friend at work doesn’t mean you’re going to be cool and close in your personal life.” When a bride’s work friend told her she couldn’t wait to attend her wedding, she said: “I’m really sorry, but we have kind of a strict guest list. I hope there are no hard feelings.” There weren’t.

One bride in her story opted for fewer flowers and a less expensive dress so she could invite all 15 of her co-workers. A wedding expert shared the obvious point that you should invite the entire group if you’re inviting most of a small team of co-workers. As for inviting the boss, another expert suggested to think twice if she/he is buttoned up and your family is wild and loves to party.


“Couples agonize over which co-workers to include and how to cushion the hurt among those they leave out. Balancing your needs without damaging important relationships requires nuance.”

One couple who worked in different departments at the same airport invited 30 guests and kept mum about their wedding. When they returned to work the bride was bombarded by co-workers with questions as to why they weren’t invited. To smooth things out she promised to invite to a housewarming party one person who would no longer speak with her.

Shellenbarger reported on a survey by The Knot of 13,000 couples which showed that guest lists shrank last year by 13 people to 136, as couples are increasingly passing on spacious banquet halls in favor of smaller venues like historic mansions or barns.

Social media postings spill the beans at work even if you don’t: Shellenbarger reported that nine out of 10 couples post engagement pictures.

Have you been in this situation or observed others who were? What is the best way to handle the stomach-wrenching dilemma if you can’t, or don’t want to, invite the entire office gang? Do you have other issues to consider if you are a manager?


Tags: ,

8 Responses to “Service of Office Friends: Who Is Invited to Special Occasions?”

  1. Hank Goldman Said:

    This is probably one of the most difficult questions you have come up with… Not just for office situations, but for friends, family, acquaintances,… When do you draw the line?


    I have no answer whatsoever, other than: boy is it tough!

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I know. How does, “Sorry, we don’t have room for you” sound? Or “There are 25 or 50 or 135 others who come before you.” By not inviting someone that’s what you imply. Jeepers.

  3. Protius Said:

    You touch upon a very sensitive subject. I think whom you decide to invite depends entirely upon your individual circumstances.

    In my case, and it was more than fifty years ago when I first married, I wanted very badly to elope to avoid inevitable future familial conflicts. Unfortunately, parental persuasion became such, that
    my poor bride and I, instead, lived through a horrible day of hypocritical dither, miserable at being surrounded by people whom we had no interest in knowing and had even less interest in knowing us.

    When the marriage eventually failed, more than a decade later, the party most responsible for the big wedding with trimmings, deep into a lonely old age, had the satisfaction of being able to smirk, “I could have told you so.”

  4. Lucrezia Said:

    Most of my working life has been in small offices, so there have been no social dilemmas. No “gang” no problem!

  5. Martha Takayama Said:

    I realise this is a difficult dilemma, but there are many factors to consider when making these outside of work events. In most of my work experience, I have maintained a distance between personal and family life and between my work and my social life outside of work. When I first was working teaching it readily became apparent that being a single woman did make for many social invitations from young married work friends. When working in a large government agency related where no else did the same kind of work (interpreting/translating) on a full time basis that I did, I was careful to keep most of my social and personal life separate. In that agency I made one very dear friend because of common interests, similarities in life experiences, and a shared sense of humour. I married late and had a tiny wedding. That special friend was an important inclusion. Also perhaps I do not find it so troubling because growing up my siblings and I were often the generation not invited to pre-nuptual events and weddings. I guess at least on my mother’s side of the family these were for “grownups”. I am not fond of endless girl versions of bachelor parties nor do I love “technicolor” rites of passage as I used to refer to some of the family events I was invited to. Sometimes the material stipulations for honoring an event can be sufficient, and don’t require a boring party to legitimise them. Lastly should either expanded guest lists or inclusions present stress, emotional or material for the celebrants or the guests, it can be best to minimise the activities surrounding the event.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I think that many men can live without the folderol surrounding a wedding and for many women, it’s fun and exciting. If you wanted to elope, you should have eloped.

    I didn’t want to. I looked forward to my wedding though I wouldn’t describe it as going along smoothly which happens at many such events!

    Some 50 years ago, at the time you describe, it was one of the few celebrations where the woman in the family was the center of attention. After that, the spotlight would fall on her children and her husband especially should his career take off. Women had the “joy” of keeping an attractive home or of making wonderful meals but apart from winning a tennis trophy at the club, or a badge from a volunteer organization, they had few, if any, other opportunities for acclaim.

    Today, women can excel in the workplace. For some, a wedding remains the place to show off how much money they have–even if they don’t. From what I understand, plenty is needed these days even for moderate sized occasions.

  7. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Makes sense! Though as Hank points out, for those with big families, there may still be occasions where friends, neighbors and cousins the host might want to include simply cannot be added, so the dilemma continues to exist.

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:


    You reminded me of a work colleague at my first job out of college who got married a few months before me. She and her husband paid for all festivities and the honeymoon. I remember our first lunch when she returned a Mrs. She cried because she had not enjoyed any of it–the debt they’d accrued had spoiled it all and she fretted throughout the honeymoon and continued to feel sick with worry. I had not worked there very long and did not expect to be invited to her wedding nor did I invite her to mine. But we had the event in common and were comfortable chatting about it–no stress on that front.

    From the other side of the financial spectrum, there was a college friend, who married at about the same time. Her reception was at the Pierre. I was there along with 699++ other guests. She and the groom had met only a few tables’ worth of them. Both their fathers were wealthy businessmen and they chose the celebration to show off. It was some fancy event! But the bride and groom said they hated it.

Leave a Reply

Clicky Web Analytics