The Two-Tiered Wedding

If there is one Wediquette topic that I would like to see filed into the “faux pas” category, it’s the idea of having a two-tiered wedding. No, I am not talking about a wedding cake with two layers (layered cakes are delicious!), I am taking about having an A list and a B list when it comes to wedding guests. The A list is invited to attend all the events on the day of the wedding including the meal and speech portion of the event, while the B list is usually just invited to the ceremony and/or after dinner portion of the night. Whoever came up with this idea must really be looking to ditch some friends, because I can honesty say that I find this concept incredibly rude.

I had my first encounter with a two-tiered wedding when I was 23. I was super excited to be invited to my first wedding as an adult; a wedding that did not involve a cousin getting married or an invitation by default because my parents were attending. I bought a new dress with the little money I had from my summer job, picked out a nice gift, and headed to the church. I thought it was rather odd that the invitation stated that the wedding ceremony started at 2pm but the dance would not begin at 9pm, but hey, it was my first wedding, so I let that thought pass. The insult only set in when the person sitting next me asked if I knew how to get to the cocktail party/dinner reception location! There was no way I was sitting around all dressed up for the next 6 hours with that new information, so I left the wedding after congratulating the newly married couple in the receiving line, and went home.


In the past 20 years since that wedding, I have heard dozens of stories from friends about being a B list invitee (A list guests may not realize such a thing exists, so no comment from them). While most people honestly believe that the couple getting married means well, many also feel like the invitation is an empty gesture and they would rather not have been invited in the first place. We are all adults here; most people recognize that a wedding is not a “more the merrier” type of event so therefore would not be offended if they were not included.

Here are a few Wediquette tips to you:

  • I believe most people have two tiered weddings because it’s very expensive to serve a large number of people dinner. If you are getting married and want to include every person you know, maybe you need to think about having a cocktail party, or something low key, instead of a sit-down dinner.
  • If you are struggling with your guest list, you need to think long and hard about who you really want to attend your special day. Guest lists are traditionally made up of family and good friends, not random acquaintances like that person you met in yoga class last week or your local barista.
  • If you really want to keep your numbers down and only have key people at your wedding, don’t give guests the option to bring a date. That’s not discriminating against single people, it’s just a matter of numbers and you wanting to only invite the meaningful people in your life.
  • If you feel you have no choice but to have a tiered guest list, please tell the B list guests not to bring a gift. Can you imagine telling friends to go get their own dinner, and then showing them where the gift table is located?
  • There is no rule saying that you must accept an invitation to a wedding. If you are a B list guest, do not feel obligated to attend.

I know you may think you are being inclusive by having a tiered guest list, but try to think of how being a B list invitee will make your guests feel. My Wediquette advice to you would be to ditch the tiered wedding and opt for an event style that can easily accommodate your large guest list, or just accept that fact that you cannot include everyone, and have a smaller wedding.

*There is one caveat to the tiered wedding concept: some people choose to have a small ceremony and then throw a reception on a different day, or in a different city, or with a different guest list (or some variation of this). This is a totally different kettle of fish. If those are your plans, carry on.

Wediquette is written by Simply Sociable’s Kate Charland. You can find her at

Wediquette is written by Simply Sociable’s Kate Charland.
Kate is an Ottawa based party planning and social etiquette blogger. She is also an event planner, fundraiser, community volunteer, and neighbourhood advice giver; in addition to being a school teacher on hiatus. You can read more of her work at If you would like to contact her for wedding etiquette advice, use the “Social Questions” form on her blog.


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