The nice thing about formal invitations is you are expected to list everyone who is invited. If someone’s name isn’t on there, they aren’t invited. This solves a lot of this “who is included?” of informal invitations.
This post generally assumes you are issuing an invite to people who are out about being poly. If your guests are in the closet, respect that and address their invites to match the way they publicly present themselves.
So let’s look at some of the problems that do come up with formal invites.
How Do You Address an Invite to a Triad, Quad, etc?
If you can fit it on the paper, you could list everyone on one invite. Or you can send separate invites to each person. If you are paying to have the invites professionally printed that ups the cost, so take finances into consideration too.
I Don’t Know Everyone’s Names!
You want to invite your poly cousin to your wedding. You know they are living with tow other people, but you don’t know the names of their poly partners. The first choice would be to call up and ask. If for some reason this isn’t an option, you can do a variation on the old +1. [Name]+1 is traditionally used for single people to tell them they can bring a guest. But there is no reason you can’t address the invite to [Cousin]+2, so they know both their partners are welcome.
I Don’t Know How Big Their Family Is!
Poly families can be confusing. So you love your sister, you want her to have everyone special in her life at your big event, but you don’t really know exactly how many that is. The three people that live with her? The boyfriend that doesn’t live with her? the partners of the people that live with her? Who do you include?
I’d go with [Sister]+family, and drop a quiet word that “family” means whoever she wants it to mean.
They Have a Huge Network and I’m On a Budget
Not everyone can afford to invite an unknown number of people to a big shindig. And if it’s a choice between including your cousins and your brother’s boyfriend’s wife who you’ve never met, I gotta admit I’d go with the cousin too. Here the old +1 standby can again be a great tool.
Figure out how many people you can afford to include from each family. Maybe you are including kids, and none of your guests has more than three kids, so you go for a max family size of 5. Your brother’s invite can be [Brother]+4. This allows your brother and his family to decide among themselves who is going and who isn’t. If there is someone in your brother’s family that you have a separate relationship with–say your brother’s boyfriend and you hit it off over Superman and have been getting together weekly to watch old Smallville reruns, send boyfriend a separate invitation so he knows you want him there as your friend, and not “just” as your brother’s boyfriend.
If you need to do this with a group relationship as opposed to a poly network, again drop a quiet word: you can’t afford to include everyone, and you hope they understand.
Ideally, we want all of our poly families to be welcome and included in our lives and with our families. But reality is a thing, and reality includes by budget limits and (in many places at least) fire codes dictating how many people can be in the building. As long as your poly friends and relatives don’t feel like they are being deliberately excluded or forced to “pass” as monogamous, they’ll understand.