Photo Credit: Rafael Barquero on Unsplash
So, we’ve talked - at length - about the influence of guest list size on your overall wedding budget, and essentially, it’s very straightforward: the more people who come, the bigger the bill ends up being. Now, granted, when you have sets of parents who might be contributing to the financial funds to fit the affair, you do have to afford them some freedom with the guest list. Everything should feel as balanced as possible, though, and if you’re feeling weird about anyone who they’re hoping will bear witness to your special day, then you need to talk about it.
For my wedding 5 years ago, we determined very early on that 150 or so guests was a comfortable number for us. We ended up with closer to 170, on the day itself, but we accounted for the extra people (a mix of parents’ friends, extended family, etc.) without too much of a headache and life went on. I credit our staying close to initial estimates to having that number so adamantly worked out in our heads as soon as we got engaged. Because when you tell people - like your parents - we’d like to have X people at our wedding, they’ll already start imagining what that’ll mean for their celebration entourage. Who they can invite and who they’ll likely need to nix.
That’s in most cases, of course, and the best case scenario - really - but we get it, families can be weird, they can be dramatic, and sometimes they just need to be reeled in. That’s why we’ve talked amongst ourselves to come up with some key ways to deal with parents who want to invite ALL their friends to your wedding.
Lead with ‘here’s what we’d love’
Look, we get it, it can be a pretty automatic reaction to get on the defensive about your wedding day being “yours” and not wanting to budge on things, because it’s your wedding and you should get to call the shots. But we’re not going to tell you that it’s smart to jump into things that way; it’s your day, for sure, but it’s also kind of their day, too. If they want to show off your love and invite fam and friends to revel in the happiness of the day, they should be able to (within reason). Instead of you going in that direction, we like the idea of leading with your vision for the day. Perhaps telling them that you’ve had your mind made up on a smaller, more intimate day, and you’d really like to keep it to the people you know and love the most. This way, you’re setting parameters instead of “making things personal” and that tends to go over better with the rents.
Stick with specific numbers
Now, in my case, for that 150 figure - we assumed that we (my husband and I) would have 50 invitees, my in-laws would have 50 invitees, and my parents would have 50 invitees (split up 25 - 25, since my parents are divorced). And we didn’t make conscious stipulations about family versus friends, either; if a person fell into that 50, regardless of their status as a family member or friend, then it was what it was! Parents don’t love being told what they can and can’t do, by their kids no less, but they can get down with a code of conduct, especially if they know that all of the respective parties have the same # of invitees and no one gets special concessions/considerations. It’s petty, totally, but it’s parents… We know how they think.
Oh, and unless you have a very particular person in mind who you’d prefer be left off the guest list entirely, then let your parents pick their peeps. As long as they keep to their number, what does it matter?
Have a huddle before the save the dates go out
When mom and dad start telling their nearest and dearest about your nuptials, things can go too far too soon. That’s why we suggest having a nice and calm conversation with your parents before they start broadcasting the news of your wedding to everyone they know. Loose lips sink ships? Is that how it goes? Yah, it applies here, too. So, you’ll want to make it clear to them that they can talk about your wedding, when it might be, and where it might be happening, but with the caveat that not everyone is going to be invited. Verbal invites to the vow show won't guarantee that a save the date or invite will be coming, so they should temper who they’re talking to and only tempt the people they know they’ll be extending an invite to with the details. Otherwise, they can deal with the fallout - the disappointment of sharing a little too much with a friend who might be hurt if he/she doesn’t eventually get a bid to the biggest party of the year.
Trade friends for friends… when the declines come in
We loved this idea!! One of our own said that when she was planning her own wedding last year, she and her now husband told their parents that extra friends of theirs could come only if some of their own friends had to decline the invitation. Pretty good compromise, right? You’ll just want to be sure your fam doesn’t make any premature promises before those NOs show up in the mailbox - so this tactic is a little trickier. No one wants to be invited to a wedding SUPER last minute just as much as no one wants to send “second string” invites so late in the game, but if missing “A-listers” can make way for priority B-listers (provided they’re never told they wouldn’t be invited), then it’s a great thing.
See if they’d be open to a ‘pay for play’ scenario
Okay, so that might sound a little bold - but you can understand where we’re coming from when we say that if your parents are open and willing to contribute more money towards additional guest list adds (by way of friends who you might be ambivalent about having, but they feel need to be included), then it’s only fair to let them have ‘em. This is actually something that my dad offered for my sister’s wedding last year. He covered a huge portion of both mine and my sister’s weddings, but at the time of my wedding, he was happy and content with everyone he had invited - he didn’t regret leaving anyone out. When it came time for my sister’s wedding, he wanted to invite a large contingent of his first cousins (who he had grown up with and who he considered as much friends as they were family), so he told my sister that he’d be happy to cover the cost of 15 or so more guests. Obvi you don’t want your parents to feel like you’re “charging” them to invite guests to your wedding, but if they do want to go above and beyond the number you’re comfortable with/and have talked about from the beginning, then they could probably get behind this arrangement.
And if worse comes to worst, maybe just institute a no-kids policy… that tends to eliminate a good deal of people from the guest list. As does choosing a band or DJ that you know won’t be all that loved by the older adult crowd. Your parents might not want to subject their more formal friends to excessively loud music that isn’t too much their taste… But those are just some opinions!