Thanks, but No Thanks

Etiquette >

Everyone knows that planning a party for everyone you know is a lot of work, so chances are your loved ones will offer to pitch in. Sometimes you might appreciate their offers – maybe your best friend is a whiz with flowers and offered to create your centerpieces free of charge – but sometimes you may find that their benevolence is more harmful than helpful.

Need some graceful ways to “just say no” to unwanted assistance? Here are five expert tips that should help keep your dream wedding and your loved ones’ feelings intact.

Be Switzerland

The key to politely deflecting unwanted help is to reduce the personal aspect, says Elise Mac Adam, author of “Something New: Wedding Etiquette for Rule Breakers, Traditionalists, and Everyone In Between” (Simon Spotlight Entertainment, 2008). For example, if you are dealing with a pushy relative or future in-law, one way out is to say: “I love you so much, and I love that you have offered to help, but I have to be very careful not to alienate anyone on the other side by leaving people out. For that reason we’ve decided that we won’t involve family in the big jobs.”

This is the “it’s just politics” solution, says Mac Adam. “It also makes you look considerate while allowing you to get what you want or, rather, not get what you don’t want.”

Be Magnanimous

Perhaps your only-cooks-with-a-microwave cousin has offered to bake your cake. The solution? Tell her that you are touched by her generosity, but that you just don’t feel comfortable putting the people who are most important to you to work, says Mac Adam. Instead, you’d prefer that she enjoyed the food, took part in pictures and cut loose on the dance floor.

Play the Blame (it on the pros) Game

“I often tell my clients to blame me!” says Wendi Hroncich, a wedding planner and founder of Seattle-based Ethereal Events. “Most people don’t have a good argument against ‘I really appreciate the offer but my wedding planner thinks it’s best if ...’ And the same goes for any other wedding professionals you work with, including the caterer, DJ, photographer, etc.”

In addition, it’s unlikely that your meddling mother-in-law will maintain a lifelong relationship with any of your vendors, so it’s far better for her to be temporarily upset with them than with you.


You may not want your scatterbrained cousin to be in charge of passing out the checks to vendors like she offered, but chances are you can find another role for her. For instance, Mac Adam suggests saying something like: “It’s so nice of you to offer, but it would actually mean a lot to me if, instead, you could check up on Aunt Tessie throughout the night so that she doesn’t get lonely.”

You can also dole out “real” jobs, which, even if done incorrectly, won’t have a major impact on your event or your happiness, says Hroncich. Safer bets include guest-book attendant, gift attendant, usher and candle lighter.

Minimize Damages

If you want a loved one to feel included but you simply can’t stomach the idea of having him or her take part in the logistics of your actual big day, Hroncich suggests assigning a task that you need taken care of in the days or weeks prior, such as picking up a friend from the airport, dropping off hotel gift bags or collecting the programs from the printer. Just be sure that you have a back-up plan in case the person flakes.

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