For a PhD student getting married in the middle of the degree, is there an established etiquette for invited your peers and/or your adviser to the wedding?

Obviously, circumstances of the wedding affect the answer. But for the sake of argument, assume we're talking about a medium-sized affair in the US that includes extended family and friends (i.e. it's not a small, intimate affair).

For a specific example, I'm talking about a small lab of 8-10 people plus the adviser, most of whom have at least 2-3 years of working together.

The issues I think need to be considered are:

  • Does an invitation cross any boundaries?
  • Similarly, does the lack of an invitation imply some offense?
  • And lastly, is it all-or-nothing binary? That is, do you invite everyone or no one?
  • 9
    As the answers imply, this is pretty much a personal decision - but remember your partner is also involved (!) and you probably want an approximate numerical balance of attendees. So don't even think about "inviting everybody from your lab" unless (1) your partner can reasonably invite a similar number of guests, and (2) you both want to organize (and pay for) a reception of that size!
    – alephzero
    Commented Jun 9, 2016 at 21:19
  • 3
    There's a similar question over at the Workplace you might find useful: "Send wedding invitations to some co-workers but not all"
    – David K
    Commented Jun 10, 2016 at 12:00
  • If you're in a culture/context where the wedding ceremony is public then it would probably be good to invite many of them. That doesn't mean you have to invite them to the reception! Commented Jun 11, 2016 at 7:23
  • Hopefully it's not the adviser that you're getting married to :)
    – user14156
    Commented Jun 12, 2016 at 12:34

5 Answers 5


Just invite the people you would like to have come. If there are other students, post-docs, faculty, or staff that you are close enough to that you would want to have them at your wedding, then just invite them. There is no established protocol for who you should invite, and no one is likely to be offended if you invite some of your lab-mates but not all of them.

This is, fundamentally, a workplace issue, rather than an academia issue, although the laboratory workplace for a graduate student poses some unique challenges. Whether to invite your advisor is just a particular example of whether to invite your boss to the wedding.

I got married halfway through my Ph.D., and I invited a few other graduate students. I did not invite my advisor, and I know that he was not offended. When I got back from my honeymoon, he even gave me a small wedding present.

  • 3
    The small wedding present attests of its large acceptance of this situation, I think Commented Jun 10, 2016 at 9:12

I can speak only to my experience, where I got married (very) shortly after I defended, with a relatively small wedding.

  • Peers: I invited only those people who I genuinely considered friends, who I wanted to be at my wedding. This was also what happened with most people who got married and invited me (or didn't invite me). There was always only a subset of people who got invited, and no one took offense at this.
  • An invitation doesn't cross any boundaries that aren't already there. I have had advisors who I didn't have "that kind of relationship" with. On the other hand, I also had a former advisor who was very involved in my wedding. It entirely depends on the people involved.
  • A lack of invitation won't necessarily cause offense, unless the person is of the belief that they're in the "close personal friends" category and it turns out they aren't. But that's a peril for all wedding invitations, and generally people are pretty understanding.
  • It's definitely not binary.

Here's my take. I got married last summer about a month before my PhD defense. I invited 4/5 members on my committee, 0 from my cohort, about 3 from my grad program. My two PIs, because we had a good personal relationship and talked about matters other than just school frequently, and 2 of 3 other members because we regularly met outside of school for happy hours at the local pub. I also invited another professor not on my committee who was frequently at happy hour. Break down your lab/committee/fellow grad students as such:

1) As coworkers whom you have a personal relationship with

2) Coworkers who are just coworkers.

I would invite people in class (1), but not necessarily everyone in class (2). That being said, you do have the potentially awkward situation of conversation about your wedding in front of people you are not inviting if you invite some but not all of class (2).

You need to balance your concern about cost (lots of people invited) with feelings (who would be hurt if not invited?), with who YOU want to have there. If people are upset about not being invited, just cite economics - weddings can be expensive on a per-guest basis.


If these were your very best friends you wouldn't be asking, you'd have asked them anyway. If you ask one you have to invite all of them, so separate it and have an extra party.

If they all live locally you can have a separate party after work, maybe just pizza and drinks.

Or if you can only be together during work hours, bring a cake and share it at break time, or bring hot snacks or order pizzas in for lunch.

Adjust according to your budget, of course.

They will feel they need to club together and get you a small present, so have a suggestion handy for something you need. After the wedding you bring a thank you card and pin it on the notice board.


If you'd rather not invite people at your lab/research group and are worried this would be interpreted as a declaration of antagonism, bring something like a cake and drinks, to the lab, either a few days before or after the wedding. Consider even bringing your fiancee with you (e.g. perhaps just to bring a cake from the car or something like that). That way you don't have them at the wedding but you haven't snubbed them.

I'm not saying that's my recommended option - that depends on your relationships with people - but it's an option.

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