With people working longer hours, in less stable jobs, the question of which coworkers to invite to the wedding has become one of the most stressful issues in putting together the guest list.
On the one hand, people who work together day in, day out, do talk about personal issues, including wedding plans. The man or woman at the next desk may know as much about your upcoming marriage as your mother or your best friend from college-possibly more. And there's nothing like collaborating successfully on a difficult project to create a bond between people.
On the other hand, work friendships may or may not be maintained when you change jobs. You've probably never met your coworkers' spouses outside the office holiday party and the office picnic. And for every coworker you really like, there are probably three who are mere acquaintances and one whom no one wants to invite anywhere.
To further complicate issues, the old patterns of supervisor- subordinate are breaking down. The person you directly report to may be someone you see three times a year, while you work most closely with another person who isn't in your department at all. And let us not forget that most weddings do not have unlimited space or unlimited budget. When you have to choose between Bob or Jane from the office or Cousin Sue, who has the stronger claim?
The current wisdom is that coworkers are invited only if they are people that you actually socialize with outside of work hours. If you or your spouse-to-be has the kind of job that involves working incredibly long hours and going home only to sleep, you might also want to include the people you would socialize with if anyone ever had time to leave the office. Work-only friends can be real friends, so do think about whether you'd be sorry if you didn't see certain coworkers at your wedding.
There is a longer-standing tradition of inviting your and your spouse-to-be's immediate supervisors. If you do, in fact, know and like your bosses, it's worth considering them as wedding guests even if you're inviting no other coworkers. But don't feel that you are compelled by this tradition to invite a supervisor who wouldn't recognize your name on an organization chart, or who makes your life miserable. So few couples make a point of following the "invite the boss" tradition that an omission will not stand out as meaning anything.
If, by the way, you've been in your current job for six months or less, it's not expected that you'll invite anyone from work at all. There's nothing wrong with choosing to invite coworkers, if you make friends quickly, but no one will be surprised if you don't.
The most awkward situation arises when you want to invite everyone in your department except one person. In nine cases out of ten, it's better to invite the additional coworker than to risk contributing to cliques and gossip in the office. The tenth case is usually one in which the unpopular coworker has been openly abusive to you or your spouse-to-be. Do remember that the fact that you've invited someone doesn't mean he or she will attend!
Unless you are inviting everyone you work with, do not pass out invitations in the office or through intra-company mail. It's rude to draw attention to the fact that some people are invited to a party and some are not. Social invitations intended for a select few should be mailed to their homes.
I am also not a fan of posting wedding invitations on company bulletin boards. An impersonal invitation to "whoever reads this and wants to show up" is not a great compliment to the prospective guests. There are still churches where invitations to the ceremony are posted for the whole congregation, and there are a few small companies at which the bulletin board approach is still accepted-but most people now assume that weddings are more selective events to which guests are invited by name.
In a way, it was easier when there were strict rules about who must be invited. Making the right choice today requires being fairly alert to office politics-or having coworkers who are laid-back about whether they do or don't get invited to social events unrelated to work. One upside of today's greater job mobility and the prevailing lack of company loyalty is that it won't spoil your career if you neglect to invite someone who thought he ought to attend.
Is there any light amidst all this stress and decision-making? Perhaps. Should coworkers get together, on their own, to throw you a "surprise" shower, you're not expected to hand out extra invitations to the wedding.