Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.

BINTEL BRIEFI don’t like my friend’s boyfriend. Do I have to invite him to my wedding? 

Bintel says: You’re the bride, but remember that all actions have consequences

A Bintel Brief, Yiddish for a bundle of letters, has been solving reader dilemmas since 1906. Send yours via email, social media or this form.

Dear Bintel, 

My partner and I are in the midst of planning our upcoming nuptials and that, of course, means coming up with a guest list. Our plan is to have a rather intimate wedding with those who mean the most to us, as we think this will be more fun and a way to save money. 

On the list is one of my good friends, who is in a semi-rocky relationship with a guy we’d rather not invite.

For starters, I’m not a fan of how he treats her (or her dog). In the two years they’ve been together, while I’ve seen her, I have only interacted with him a handful of times, the last of which was over a year ago. So they don’t always socialize together. My fiancé has also never met him — or her, for that matter.

Not inviting her is not an option. But we’d like to give his seat to someone we really want to be there rather than this person we hardly know and do not like. 

I know that according to social norms, if someone is in a long-term relationship, you’re supposed to invite them as a couple. Do we have to?

Signed,
Baffled Bride


Dear Baffled,

Wedding guest lists are famously a source of stress: Kids or no kids? Who merits a plus-one? What manner of misbehavior results in being axed? So know you’re not alone.

Social norms, as you put it, are always evolving, and generally vary by community, so I don’t think there’s a clear etiquette answer for you. And, at the end of the day, it’s your wedding, and you can choose to invite who you want. 

But remember: You also aren’t operating in a vacuum, and your decision will have an impact on your relationship with your friend. 

The Torah includes a prohibition on onaat devarim, or wronging others. While the text focuses on monetary abuse, the sages expand it into a wide-ranging examination of interpersonal obligation: what we owe those with whom we are in community. And one of the biggest prohibitions is on publicly embarrassing others. The Talmud says it is worse than committing adultery and even compares it to murder. Regardless of whether you have a good excuse, the rabbis warn, it’s still forbidden to hurt or embarrass someone.

The Talmud uses a wide variety of examples, but I think the most relevant to your dilemma is not reminding someone about past transgressions, even if you think by doing so you will help them; besides, highlighting the boyfriend’s mistakes is probably not going to help your friend.

It would be one thing if you were not inviting anyone’s partners in order to keep numbers down. But cutting out only this friend’s boyfriend will feel personal to her. And, let’s be honest — it is personal.

You may not like your friend’s choice, but it’s her choice. She’s an adult, and even if you disapprove of the relationship, it’s disrespectful to pass judgment on it in such a public way. Other guests would likely notice his absence, putting her in the awkward situation of having to explain your decision. Or she might be hurt enough to choose not to attend, which could damage or destroy a long-time friendship.

So, instead of leaving him out, why not try to turn things around? Try to interact with him more before your wedding. Maybe have the two of them over for Shabbat or ask for a double date. Bonus: Your fiancé will finally get to meet your friend. (You cite barely seeing the boyfriend as proof he’s unimportant, but your good friend has never met your soon-to-be husband!)

And ask your friend more about what makes their relationship good; people often use time with their close friends to kvetch, but there are usually positive traits that they’re not bothering to detail. Maybe if you can understand his good side, you’ll feel better about having him at your wedding.

Jewish tradition also places a high value on the couple’s joy at their wedding, so certainly, you can make whatever decisions you want. You just can’t expect them to be consequence-free.

So here’s my question for you: Might your guilt over insulting your friend — or the possibility of her skipping your happy day — be just as distracting as this man’s presence? I’m not so sure that axing him from your guest list will bring you joy in the end.

Beg to differ? Send your advice for Baffled Bride to [email protected], or submit a question of your own via this anonymous form.


YOUR TURN

A few weeks ago, Shocked at Shul asked Bintel what to do about the fact that she keeps running into multiple ex-boyfriends at her synagogue. Bintel advised her not to leave her synagogue, or try to control her exes’ religious journeys; she’ll most likely find peace by simply letting things be and leaning into her welcoming community.

A reader wrote in to add this: “I imagine you were also thinking — I certainly was — that Shocked needs to grow up. Of course, that would be counterproductive (and not a nice thing to say). Nevertheless, I might have noted that Shocked was obviously distressed over this, and that counseling might help her gain a different perspective on the situation.”

A message from our editor-in-chief Jodi Rudoren

We're building on 127 years of independent journalism to help you develop deeper connections to what it means to be Jewish today.

With so much at stake for the Jewish people right now — war, rising antisemitism, a high-stakes U.S. presidential election — American Jews depend on the Forward's perspective, integrity and courage.

—  Jodi Rudoren, Editor-in-Chief 

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.