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The No-Stress Wedding Guest List
In an ideal world, your partner and you have an unlimited wedding budget and can happily rent the nearest football stadium to house everyone who’s ever sent you a friend request on Facebook. While this is a lovely thought, file it away with your dreams of holding a live jousting tournament or getting married in Vegas by the real Elvis Presley.
Actual weddings come with tough constraints. If you’re using a venue with limited space, or if you plan on feeding your guests, you’ll feel the constraints rapidly tighten. Even simple acts, like sending wedding invitations, can quickly balloon your budget if your guest list is too large. You can’t invite everyone. So how do you make the call?
Keeping it Intimate
If you’re holding a small reception, it’s easy to inadvertently hurt your friends’ feelings by discussing your wedding planning in great detail. Keep the wedding talk to a minimum (including online chatter) where friends who aren’t invited might overhear.
To narrow down your guest list, first make an “ideal” list of every friend, family member, and acquaintance you’d like to invite. Your partner should do the same. Compare the total number of people to the maximum number your budget will allow; now you have a goal in sight.
One easy way to narrow your list is to quiz your partner on basic facts about his or her invitees. You may be surprised at the amount of time that has gone by since you last communicated with your “close” high school or college buddies. If you can’t name your friend’s current job, partner’s name, or even the city of residence, it may be a sign that they don’t make the cut.
Try to remember the last time you saw your friends in person, spoke to them on the phone, or had a meaningful conversation (including them in mass emails doesn’t count). If a year or more has passed, you may want to get back in touch with them to reminisce about old times, but they’re probably off the list for your wedding.
If you and your partner have an uneven wedding guest list, it’s time to have a frank discussion. Maybe you have a large family; does that mean your partner gets to invite more friends? Only you can decide what makes sense in your situation, but consider factors like whether one of you is contributing more to the wedding, whether the pomp and circumstance of the wedding mean more to one of you, and whether the mix of people will mesh well together at the reception.
As crass as it sounds, the ultimate decision goes to the people funding the wedding. If the bride’s family is shelling out their life savings to fund the ultimate celebration for their baby girl, it’s only fair that they invite everyone from Great-Aunt Sophia to Great-Great-Aunt Matilda to witness it. If the bride and groom feel like their own guest space is being limited, they have the choice to fund additional invitees out of their own pockets.
Don’t forget that your budget can stretch as far as you’d like it to. If being surrounded by a large number of guests is the most important part of your celebration, skip the frills and emphasize community togetherness instead. You can find a large public open space (such as a park or beach) for your reception and opt for a classy potluck dinner or afternoon hors d’oeuvres instead of serving a full meal. Your wedding reception can be virtually free to host, but if you’re not treating your party to extras like catering or favors, be sure to emphasize that you don’t expect gifts in return.
In some cases, the family (or families) funding the wedding has very strict ideas about what a wedding celebration should look like. If you find yourself in disagreement with your parents or in-laws about how many guests should be invited and how lavish the celebration should be, it’s best to gracefully acquiesce and host an additional, more casual, and inclusive celebration later.
Should Exes Come?
If you have an ex who’s become a close friend over the years, it seems only natural to include him or her in your wedding celebration. After all, you can’t hold your friend’s past against him or her when other friends are being invited to share your special day. However, if your friends, family, or spouse-to-be are uncomfortable with the mix, it’s time to make some hard decisions.
The bottom line when inviting any guest is: if the couple absolutely can’t agree on an invite, the guest should not be invited. However close a guest might be to one half of the couple, a wedding is about the couple’s shared wishes on that day. That being said, though, if your partner and you can’t reach a compromise about a guest that means a great deal to one of you, it may be a sign that you have more important things to discuss than your guest list.
If you do invite an ex, be sure everyone feels comfortable by following a set of common-sense rules: Don’t dance with your ex. Don’t rehash old private jokes in front of your current partner. When introducing your ex to other guests, don’t dwell on the fact that you used to be together. Invite your ex to bring a friend or date so he or she won’t feel awkward.
Having an ex at your wedding can be a positive experience, especially if you have children together. The children will have a trusted guardian at the wedding, which will give you the flexibility to fully experience your special day. If you’re the kind of person who can maintain a friendly relationship with an ex-partner, it speaks well of your maturity, honesty, and loyalty–which also bodes well for your current relationship.
Telling People They Aren’t Invited
Luckily for you, this dilemma has a ready-made solution, and it’s called a wedding announcement. The key when designing wedding announcements is to emphasize that you’re announcing an event. You’re merely letting your recipients know that a wedding is happening. While wedding announcements are often sent after the wedding, they can also be sent beforehand as a way of heading off awkward questions. Be as cheerful as you like in the announcement, but be firm in your wording that no further invitation is forthcoming. One way to avoid potential awkwardness is to have your parents send the announcements. That way, it looks like your parents are bursting at the seams to tell everybody, but it doesn’t look like you’re bragging to people who aren’t included.
The major pitfall to avoid in wedding announcements is to look like you’re fishing for presents. There are few things tackier than telling someone, “You’re not invited, but we’ll take your gift anyway.” Be sure to include wording along the lines of, “We regret that our venue was not big enough to include all of our friends. The best gift we could possibly receive is to see you in the near future to celebrate our happiness together.”
However you choose to narrow your guest list, it’s essential that you and your partner agree upon the final decision. You don’t want to begin wedding planning while harboring feelings of resentment. Treat your space limitations like a challenging puzzle to solve together.
The wonderful part about gaining a partner to stand by you through life’s challenges is that you no longer have to face difficult decisions without support. If you work together, you won’t have to defend your tough choices alone. Keep in mind that you’re working toward a common goal: a beautiful wedding day.
And if it gets to be too much, you can always elope!