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Hello ladies and gents!  Welcome back to our next installment of Southern Etiquette!  Today’s question comes from Intern Sydney, whose cousin is planning a wedding for next year.  Here’s the problem:  Sydney’s family is… boisterous.  Not in a bad way, and not in a way that most people would consider excessive.  They love to have fun, they love to dance, and they love to drink (you know, within reason).  The fiancé’s family?  Not so much.  They’re a much more conservative bunch, and almost to the man they don’t partake in beverages of the alcoholic variety.  Sydney knows her family will be surprised, confused, and possibly even upset if they arrive to find a less than “happening” party, but her cousin also, of course, doesn’t want to make her fiancé’s family uncomfortable. 

As always, I defer to Emily Post.  Though I couldn’t find anything that exactly corresponded to this situation, I did find this:

“You will provide beverages, but you don’t have to serve alcohol if you don’t want to or you have religious or moral reasons not to  Some couples and their families don’t drink alcohol themselves but do provide alcoholic drinks for their guests.  Others restrict alcohol to wine, wine and beer, or just champagne for toasting.  Budget is always a consideration, but these days, people are also limiting or eliminating liquor for health and safety reasons.”

My two cents?  I think it’s important that the bride and groom are on the same page.  If they don’t feel comfortable explaining to the bride’s side that the groom’s side doesn’t want to drink, then I think it’s fine to say they chose to cut out alcohol because of the expense.  Either way, communication before the wedding arrives is key.

So what do you think?  Any tips for family member discussions before the big day, or for managing expectations before and at the wedding?  Is a compromise possible here, or should one family win out?  Have any of you had to deal with a similar issue?  

As always, if you have an etiquette conundrum, please send it my way!  We’d love to hash it out on the blog. That’s emily at iloveswmag dot com.

Images in header c/o Millie Holloman

Written with love by Katharine
  1. avatar Larry Hammack reply

    Another tough one at first glance, but you hit the nail on the head… better for them to be in agreement and not serve alcoholic beverages at the reception, citing budget. The party folks can always go on to an after party… quite a trend now for bridal receptions.

  2. avatar Christin reply

    My fiance’s family doesn’t drink, but my loud, Italian family definitely does. We are having beer and wine at our reception. My thought is that if someone doesn’t want to drink, then they shouldn’t. But if one side of the family drinks, then alcoholic beverages should be provided for those who would like to partake. Just my two cents :)

  3. avatar Mallory reply

    I think that if you spend too much time considering whether your event will upset or hurt people’s feelings, you’re never going to create a day that reflects you and your to-be-spouse or truly and fully celebrate the beginning of your married life together. That said, sheer disregard for discomfort is inconsiderate. If Sydney’s cousin is going to be embarrassed about her family in front of her fiance’s family (which is, truly, what I read from this situation), that has more to do with Sydney’s feelings/insecurities than with her family. I disagree with Larry and agree with Christin that providing the choice will allow the drinkers to do so and the non-drinkers to decline. I guarantee these adults who do not drink have been in situations before where alcohol has been available and were perfectly fine with their own choice to choose non-alcoholic beverages. I think talking about your budget and what you can and cannot afford as an explanation for what you do or do not have at your wedding is extraordinarily tacky.

  4. avatar Carmen reply

    I’m on the side of serving alcohol. Taking alcohol off the menu is merely satisfying one half of the guest list is leaving you open to negative feelings from the alcoholic drinkers. If the concern is that the alcohol consumption will result in embarrassing or uncomfortable moments, perhaps consider offering limited choices during cocktail hour and dinner, and having a cash bar for the remainder of the night. That also helps to cut back over consumption!I think it’s most important that you make choices that reflect your values so that you are happy and comfortable with everything. If that means no alcohol then that’s the right decision but if it’s merely to appease a select group of people then you are on the wrong path. Unfortunately you will never make everyone happy so focus on making sure you’re happy first and the rest should fall into place.

  5. avatar Amanda reply

    I had that problem (my side of the family isn’t big drinkers, for religious reasons, his side is) and was uncertain about what to do. I definitely didn’t want liquor there, nor did I really want the presence of a bar. However, my fiance and I both enjoy wine with dinner and know some people appreciate that as well. We decided we are serving wine with dinner, and a champagne toast with the cake cutting. That way, it is still elegant, without making the non-drinkers feel uncomfortable and there’s no risk about people getting too tipsy.

  6. avatar Jamie reply

    We had the similar thing happen with our upcoming wedding. Think about what you want and when you go to a wedding what you expect but most importantly how you and your fiance see your wedding and what is affordable for you. There are many options other than supplying a full bar. Just provide unlimited champagne, or a bottle or wine on each table, or have a signature drink, or host the beer and wine with a champagne toast. My fiance and I opted for the last option. Hopefully your venue will accommodate your needs and budget. Good luck!

  7. avatar Lisa Jeffries reply

    I agree with several others above saying go ahead, serve it in whatever fashion you prefer (limited offerings, full bar, whatever). To say that the side of the family who doesn’t partake has never been exposed to it, would be pretty rare. If the bride and groom are both comfortable with it, that’s what’s most important.However, I have seen two similar situations handled in equally crafty methods:1 – I have been to two country club weddings, and one restaurant reception, where the bar (that served the alcohol beverages), was a bit set apart (either in different rooms because of how the building is built, etc.). People will find it! And the ones who wanted to drink and chat instead of dance, that is a great space for them to do so without trying to talk over a DJ.2 – My best friend erred on this side because of her budget. They had an early afternoon wedding and then reserved space at a local bar (LARGE bar, because they had a huge guest list of post-partiers) and invited anyone who wanted to attend to come out after for drinks, more dancing, and post-reception shenanigans. I called ahead and worked with the bar to ensure free cover for all attendees, some VIP service and DJ recognition for the bride+groom/parents/bridal party, etc. and it was a HUGE hit. Tons of people came… drinkers and non-drinkers alike… all had a good time. Some people just stayed for a cocktail or two, some of us stayed until closing time. (This is also a good idea for a budget-conscious couple who would still like to serve a round libations for attendees at no cost to their guest. A bar or restaurant may be happy to provide say, a round of one type of drink, beer, glass of wine, or shot for 50-100-or more guests at a low, flat price that the bride+groom can arrange before hand to get tons of people in their venue at once… especially ones who might stay around and spend more money!)

  8. avatar Candice K reply

    How about a reception that almost flows backwards? Perhaps a dinner in the beginning with just your regular tea and soft drinks then a champagne toast, and then… move into the full bar and cocktails. That way, most of the non-party type people will probably be starting to pack up and head home and everyone else can get the party started without having been smashed before dinner was even served. That’s a little unconventional, but depending on your venue and the logistics, it could potentially work.

  9. avatar Sharon reply

    Although I don’t drink, I think it would be appropriate to serve alcohol at the wedding. The guests who don’t like to drink can choose not to, but if there is no alcohol, the guests who do enjoy drinking have no choice. I think it’s better to have the option than to have the choice chosen for you. Since the couple already knows that not everyone will drink, perhaps they can cut cost by choosing only to serve limited choices at the bar.

  10. avatar Kristen reply

    I think it is fine to serve alcohol at the reception. If the conservative family doesn’t want to drink, they don’t have to. They can still have just as much fun as those that are partaking in spirits. Issues only stem from one side of the family judging one another’s choices. This can be conquered by simply having the bride and groom speak to each side of the family and explaining how the other is likely to behave. People are always able to cope better when they are prepared.Plus, I’d say if the bride and groom are personally okay with drinking alcohol, then they should include it. The day is supposed to be a celebration of their love and their relationship, right? :)

  11. avatar Jenna reply

    This is exactly the situation with my upcoming June wedding. My family will drink alot, his will not. I agree with Sharon, if you choose not to drink you don’t have too but if it’s not even present at the wedding people who would enjoy a drink cannot have one. While I think it is ok to have a bar and I want all of my guests to have a great time, (not a cash bar!! I think this is very tacky and if you need to do it just limit choices to beer & wine), it is never appropriate to get smashed, even if both sides were partiers. Guests who have chosen to drink in excess should be escorted out by a sober wedding guest.

Southern Weddings reserves the right to delete comments which contain profanity or personal attacks or seek to promote a business unrelated to the post.  And remember: a good attitude is like kudzu – it spreads.  We love hearing your kind thoughts!

Reply to:

Hey y’all!  We’re back with another installment of Southern Etiquette.  This time, a reader, Christina (who, by the way, LOVE LOVE LOVES SW mag – her words, not mine – yes!), sent in a conundrum that I’m guessing many of you are puzzling over.  Christina writes:

“Recently I’ve seen weddings where the couple is trying to save money and therefore if you and your significant other aren’t married, you can’t bring them as a +1.  It seems a bit awkward to have to ask, but some invites are tough to distinguish who is invited.  Any thoughts on this?”

Why yes, Christina, I do have some thoughts to share on this subject, as I’m sure our readers do, as well.  But first, as always, I defer to Ms. Post:

“The spouses, fiances/fiancees, and live-in partners of guests must be included, even if you don’t know them.  But you get to decide if you want single, unattached guests to bring dates.” (Etiquette, 17th Edition, page 572)

Well, that’s pretty clear, and I don’t think many of us would dispute her there. 

But what if your friend from college has been dating her current boyfriend (not fiancé) for a year and a half?  The more budget-minded among you might be tempted to cut said boyfriend off the list in the name of saving $$$, but I (and this is just my opinion now) would urge you not to.  Have you ever been to a wedding without a date?  I have, and it wasn’t that fun.  Since so many activities at a wedding seem to revolve around coupledom – particularly dancing – I think allowing a “plus one” for as many guests as possible (especially those who have a steady partner) is a courtesy that’s worth stretching the budget for.

But tell me – what do you all think?  Are “plus ones” a splurge-worthy necessity or an unacceptable budget buster?

Images in header c/o Millie Holloman

lara Written with love by Lara Casey
  1. avatar Ashley reply

    Emily, I agree with you. Even though going stag to a wedding may sometimes have its advantages (i.e. single hot groomsman), I would still feel offended if I didn’t at least get the option to bring a date.

  2. avatar Daisy reply

    When I got married this fall our guest list was tight due to space constraints. We decided that anyone who was single when the invites went out did not get invited with an "and guest" unless they were in the wedding party. We were having a destination wedding & the thought of someone feeling the pressure to try and find a friend or romantic interest to invite for a weekend away seemed like a lot to ask. We did have a few people call and ask if they could bring someone- but it turned out that both times they had a new boyfriend/girlfriend we didn’t know about, and that was fine. We were just trying to keep people from inviting the person they met at the hotel bar the night before! In the end it was great- we had a nice crowd of single friends who got to mingle, as well as some groups of friends who took the opportunity to rent some suites & have a fun weekend of catching up. Don’t feel obligated to give every person an "and guest" – but at the same time, create a bright line rule so it doesn’t look like you are trying to exclude your cousin’s annoying on-again-off-again boyfriend. For us it was that our single friends came single.

  3. avatar brooke @ claremont road reply

    I agree with you — at our wedding, anyone who was in a relationship (even if we had never met the significant other or they had only been together for a few months) got invited with their SO. However, I had a few single friends who had actually told me they’d rather come alone and have fun with friends rather than "babysit" a date, so we (and they) were okay with us not including "and guest" on their invitations.

  4. avatar Stacey reply

    I think your tip is good about a long-term boyfriend. I have been dating my boyfriend for 3 years until we got engaged this past May. I don’t like going to weddings unless he and I both could go. Also the second part to her question was how do you know who is invited to the wedding. On the outer envelope you will see one name ie. Mr. John Doe. on the inner envelope you will see the names of all the guests invited. ie. John, Jane and family or the kids names listed. If the kids aren’t invited then it will just say John and Jane. If the guest is allowed a plus 1 then it will say John and guest.

  5. avatar Jessica B. reply

    I completely agree with you, Emily! Well said. :]

  6. avatar Heather reply

    I agree with Ms. Post and Emily, if they have a significant other, the SO should be invited as well. However, to save money, like all have stated above me, it is completely fine for you to give the invitation to a single friend without a plus one. If they do call and ask you if they can bring their SO, that you may not have known about, then at least they are being polite in asking you and not just showing up with someone, as people do that, and you may want to take that into account for the budget. Going to a wedding alone is not very fun, unless there are going to be a lot of single people there. :)

  7. avatar Christina Solomon reply

    First: Thank you Emily for featuring my question.Ashley I felt like you expressed you might – offended. I had (and am still with the same guy) a serious relationship and wasn’t given the option. This has happened twice now – once to a wedding I was invited to and now to a wedding he was invited to. We have been together more than two years and live together. I understand budgets but it just doesn’t seem in the spirit of weddings. The destination wedding limitations seemed very fair and would be respected. You don’t want just randoms at the wedding but my situation isn’t that at all. I can’t wait to read the additional comments and potential experiences to help me understand.

  8. avatar Charity reply

    I agree with Emily about it being awkward to have to say no to a +1 but at the same time, that brand-new significant other to the person who changes "partners" quite frequently isn’t always welcome. I guess using your own discretion can be the key. I generally go by the invitation–look at the front–who it is addressed to is usually who is invited to the wedding.

  9. avatar Sarah reply

    I agree with you one hundred percent, Emily. In the grand scheme of things, a couple of "and guests" shouldn’t make or break a budget and/or your ability to accomodate your guests. I am getting married in May and before I booked anything, I made my guest list and gave everyone (including my uncle who has been single my entire life) the opportunity to bring a friend or significant other. I think that it is important when hosting any event to be gracious and think of your guests feelings. If budget or space is that limited, a host may need reevaluate the guest list. As a guest, I don’t think that it is appropriate to request to bring a date. It will be indicated on the invitation and at that point, ultimately, the recipiants decision whether to attend.

  10. avatar Lacey reply

    I’m so glad you brought this up! I’m currently in the middle of receiving RSVPs for my wedding (coming up in just four short weeks!) and I’m hearing a lot of buzz around this issue. I did inner/outer envelopes and took each guest into consideration when deciding whether or not to include an ‘and guest.’ We decided to include +1 guests for people who were in long term relationships, married, engaged, living together, etc. and of course a guest for each member of our wedding party if they choose to bring someone. My fiance and I both have friends who are dating around, but not seeing someone regularly, so we didn’t include a +1 for them. One friend who lives in another state called my fiance and asked if it would be ok to bring his girlfriend, which is of course completely fine! We didn’t know he was seeing someone! I would love to be able to extend the invitation for everyone to bring someone, but space keeps us from being able to do that. I don’t think somone should be excluded or taken off of the invite list because I don’t have room for them to bring a date. We’ll have lots of single people, so they’ll be able to mingle! We’re having an upbeat reception, so everyone will mostly be dancing on their own anyway, until the obligatory slow dance, but hey, we’re hoping people will partner up! The big debate for us was co-workers, co-workers of parents and their SOs. I read a ton of blogs and posts on this issue and there was no clear-cut answer one way or the other. I chose to discreetly hand-deliver (with the inner envelope addressed only to the first name) a couple of invitations to just my closests comrades, and my parents’ closest friends at work with their first name only. Those folks are also friends so I told them who else I invited from the office so they could come together. I’m now receiving RSVPs back, and rude comments from one women who works with my Mother, that they are bringing their SOs. It’s not many people, so it’s not a huge deal, but I’m just wondering what everyone here might think?

  11. avatar Stacy Reeves reply

    Personally, I would give every non-married guest a plus one. It seems unfair to invite someone to a party at which you will likely only speak to them for a few minutes, but not allow them to bring a guest to keep them company for the other three hours and fifty-five minutes. The only time where this might be okay, to me, is if I was inviting a group of single friends and intending to put them all at the same table.

  12. avatar Emily L. reply

    Hmm. I am struggling with this right now. Most of the cases are cut and dry (unlike the "inviting children" issue which has turned into a two-headed monster) but what do I do about a friend who has an on-again-off-again boyfriend (whom I really dislike) but has already mentioned bringing him to the wedding?

  13. avatar Larry Hammack reply

    Seems like Emily, Ms. Post and most of the responses are in agreement…same advice I give to our brides… the guest list is one of the biggest headaches the bride & groom will have, but ultimately, good taste must prevail. Guests with SO at time of invitations, yes they should be included….. simple as that. Happy New Year everyone!!

  14. avatar Lauren reply

    I think it definitely depends on the person/situation. I know for sure that a lot of people don’t know about proper etiquette and that the people the invitation is addressed is who is invited to the wedding. For my wedding, we invited the person’s significant other if they had been dating for a while, and if my husband or I had met said significant other. It worked out just fine…we still had a few add their own guests, but everything worked out great!

  15. avatar Lauren reply

    What a great topic! I’m also trying to consider circles of friends regarding the guest list for my upcoming wedding. For example, single friends that might not know many other people at the wedding are being given a guest, regardless of their relationship status. I’ve been to weddings when I was single at which I didn’t know many people and would have loved having a "friend date" there with me to make the experience more familiar and fun. On the other hand, single friends who would know a good deal of the other guests might not be given the And Guest option if budget/space constraints apply. Another consideration was whether or not we’d spent time with our unmarried/unengaged friends’ significant others. If our friends made the effort to allow us to spend time with their SO, we knew they were important enough to our friends (and therefore to us) to should be included. I hope this helps!

  16. avatar Katie S. reply

    Now that I am engaged and making all of these tough decisions (no more hypotheticals!), I am finding that my opinions on most matters are rather cut and dry…and controversial! It is my personal opinion that if someone is in a serious relationship (whether dating, engaged, married, etc), then their significant other should be invited. Having had this happen to me and my fiance in the past, it can be offensive to be invited to a wedding as a single person when you are, in fact, in a serious relationship. The only exception to this rule, I think, is if you are having a very small wedding and are working with a tight budget and you simply can’t afford your friends’ significant others. In this case, my opinion is that you should talk to your friend(s) one-on-one and explain how much it means to you that she attend your wedding, but that unfortunately you are having a very small and intimate affair due to cost, which is why you hope she understands that you cannot include her significant other. Just make sure you’re consistent with friends on this rule!However, I also feel very strongly that truly single people should not get a plus one. I just don’t understand the logic behind inviting a single friend with a plus one, in which case she will need to go out and find a date (a new prospect she meets at the bar a few weeks before the wedding? a friendly coworker? an old fling?) and drag this person to my wedding. Most likely, the date will have absolutely now idea who the bride and groom even are, so then my parents/we will end up paying for a person to come to the most special day of our lives that does not even know us. It seems illogical to me.While these opinions may be controversial, it’s best if everyone keeps in mind what a wedding is really about – celebrating two people’s love for each other, while being surrounded by the people that mean the most to them!

Southern Weddings reserves the right to delete comments which contain profanity or personal attacks or seek to promote a business unrelated to the post.  And remember: a good attitude is like kudzu – it spreads.  We love hearing your kind thoughts!

Reply to:

Hello lovely ladies (and gents!).  We’re back with another installment of Etiquette with Emily.  First, I just have to say y’all are fantastic!  When I asked for your thoughts two weeks ago on my engagement party guest list conundrum, you delivered like no other – over 35 responses!  The consensus seemed to be that the best option was to hold a more generic holiday party, but to let people know (if they ask!) that Kate + Cormac will be in attendance.  This way, they’ll get to celebrate with friends and family, but without the pressure of save-the-dates hanging over their heads all night.  Thanks again for all of your great input – I loved reading your thoughts!

But on to this week.  Today’s question comes from our very own Katharine!  Like our last question, it, too, concerns guest lists (aren’t they difficult?), but this time, it’s the list for the actual wedding she’s wondering about. 

Here’s the deal.  Katharine is not engaged (yet!), but she’s already looking ahead to the near future, when she will be.  (Side note: can you blame her?!  We work at a wedding magazine!)  In an ideal world, Katharine and Kyle would prefer to have a small wedding (let’s say thirty or so people).  This is not always an ideal world, however, and a small wedding is just not in the cards for these two families. 

The next problem?  Kyle’s family is, like, five times larger than Katharine’s.  For serious.  Kyle’s family also feels strongly about inviting the entire extended clan.  Katharine’s worry?  That her family will feel like guests at the Gibler family reunion.  Another complication?  Katharine’s family is pretty traditional (three cheers for Virginians!), and plans to pay for most of the festivities… festivities that will be large (and expensive!) mainly because of the groom’s extended family.

So her question: Can the available spots on the guest list be split equally between the two sides, or should Kyle’s side be given more slots since it’s larger?  Does the guest list split (or the size of the wedding) depend at all on who’s footing the bill?

Unfortunately, all Ms. Post gives us on the subject is this:

“Traditionally, the guest list was divided equally between the bride’s and groom’s families and friends, but this is no longer considered necessary.  Everyone must keep in mind whose wedding it is.  Certainly the bride and groom will seek input from their families, but it’s up to the couple to make the final choices.  If everyone is willing to be tactful and accommodating, the process should proceed without too much fuss.” (Emily Post’s Etiquette, 17th Edition, page 572)

So what do you think?  Please share!

Have an etiquette conundrum you’d like us to take a stab at?  Email me at emily [at] iloveswmag [dot] com (or click here!). 

emily Written with love by Emily
  1. avatar Meghan reply

    Hi Emily!Just my small opinion on this… If Katherine’s family plans on paying for the wedding, I believe that they should have a say on the guest list. They, in the end, hold the purse strings. Having so many guests will obviously make the events more pricey and probably out of the range of what Katherine would look for in a wedding. Not meaning to be tacky, but Kyle’s family wouldn’t be shelling out the extra money for their multitudes of guests- renting tables, chairs, linens, catering, programs, invites, wedding gifts, etc…it all adds up.They should probably set a cap of how many people their budget can comfortably fit and then discuss/decide who are the most important people to each of them. It’s their day and it’s really their decision who they want to have at their celebration with them no matter what their families tell them.

  2. avatar Larry Hammack reply

    We get asked this question a lot during floral consultations… it is a major concern. Overall considerations must be the budget for guests attending.. since Kyle’s family is so large, Katharine’s concern is valid and should be addressed. Keep the guest list equal and no one will feel they are at a reunion. Politely explain that they must stick to the budget and the budget allows X$ for guests. Another celebration can be held for Kyle’s relatives at another date. Additionally, we recommend that the bride & groom finalize the list together, without parental influence. Typically, the couple should not invite someone from work unless they truly socialize with them; same with family.. if you haven’t seen cousin George for 20 years, don’t invite. It’s time to bring back the time honored tradition of Announcements – they really do the trick. Just remember – an ANNOUNCEMENT is not an invitation.Larry HammackFoxgloves & Ivy Floral Design StudioAtlanta GA

  3. avatar Abbie reply

    This dilemma is close to my heart, as I dealt with the same situation during my wedding. J and I had decided to invite no more than 85 people and to only invite immediate family and grandparents. My family is somewhat small (I should take that back– my parents have many siblings (a total of 10), but they never expected me to invite them, as we’re not close) and his family is extremely large and close (his parents have 12 siblings). His mother was appalled that we weren’t planning to invite EVERYONE. She even emailed me a spreadsheet with 109 people on it– of just his family. We were paying for the wedding ourselves (with a small contribution from my parents), and I couldn’t imagine inviting all of those people when they totalled more than double our original guest list! I was afraid that my family of how my family would feel when I wasn’t inviting aunts/uncles/cousins from my side. I was also a little worried that my parents would resent the fact that they were giving us money only to fund his family’s attendance. We went back and forth on what we wanted to do and finally decided that we didn’t want to start our new lives together with a shadow of frustration and hurt from his family. BUT– I made him ask his parents to help at least a little bit. I say "made" because he really, really didn’t want to. Then we invited my aunts and uncles, just to ease a bit of tension on my parents’ side once they heard the news. In the end, we had about 40 people from his family and about 12 from mine. Unfortunately, we had to cut back on the number of friends we’d planned to invite, which was frustrating, but it was a way to "make the peace" straight out of the gate with his family. Without them contributing monetarily, we wouldn’t have been able to make it work with the extra guests.So… long story short… think of these points:-Does all of his family live nearby? Will they make the trek? If many won’t, then it might not be worth getting worked up about.-Can your venue hold all of the extra people if they do say yes?-Are his parents willing to contribute at least a little to ease the financial burden that your parents are taking on?-Be prepared for the consequences of either decision and decide which one you’re more willing to live with.In the end, we realized that having so many family members willing to show their support made the day that much more special.

  4. avatar Megan reply

    I actually five minutes ago was wondering this very issue while I was working on my guest list. My family is footing the bill and we need to cut some people and my fiancee’s list is about 20 people longer than mine, so naturally I think they should cut their list :)However, one solution I have heard which seems reasonable is the bride’s family, if footing the bill, can offer whatever number of guests fits within the budget. But if the groom’s family feels so strongly that additional guests should be invited, they can pay for the additional guests. That way they might also think twice about their twice-removed cousins.

  5. avatar Stacy Reeves reply

    If it were me, I would explain to both sets of parents that the budget only allows a certain number of "seats" per family, and allow the parents to choose which members of the family or which family friends they would like to fill those seats with. That way the parents feel as if they’ve had some say in the decision, but the bride and groom aren’t required to oblige their parents’ long, extended guests lists (and, if their parents would like to invite more, they understand that that will require a little contribution to the budget!).

  6. avatar Born to Be Mrs Beever reply

    Wow, I don’t have much time to read the lengthy comments above but I’ll say this about our own guest list. I came up with a list of ALL of our family and friends that I knew we would possibly want invited. It totaled 300 people…way over our budget. And our venue’s reception room can only comfortably hold 200 with a dance floor. So we cut the list to 200.But my list is 2/3 of the total invited and his is only 1/3. Mostly because I have a lot more family and a lot more friends (through church and local community involvement due to my 15 year old daughter). I am paying for the entire wedding for the most part but even if I weren’t, we wouldn’t be splitting the guest list. I simply told him that since my side of the list doubles his side, that if there were important people to him that he forgot to add or wants, then I would be the first to cut from my side of the list. For Katherine and Kyle…I think it’s important to recognize that Kyle’s family is large and therefore, he’ll obviously have a lot more guests than her side probably. But I also think they should come up with a reasonable number for the total guest list and split the percentages accordingly as far as how many guests are on Kyle’s list. If Kyle’s family or guest list starts to go over the budgeted number of guests they can accommodate, then Kyle’s family should consider contributing to the budget to help accommodate the larger number of guests. Hope that helps :)

  7. avatar KEH reply

    This is my current situation. I’d rather have a small wedding, but that wasn’t feasible. His family is massive, mine is a bit more "compact". Since Katherine’s parent’s are paying, I think it’s fair for them to give the number of seats they’re comfortable paying for and letting Katherine and Kyle split those evenly. If Katherine doesn’t use them all, by all means, Kyle can have them but the total shouldn’t exceed the number set by her parents. I wouldn’t even give them the option of paying for their "overage" because that’s not only a slap in Katherine’s family’s face, but it doesn’t address the issue of their wedding turning into a "family reunion" where she’s going to have to be introduced to many of the guests.

  8. avatar Brit reply

    I’m in a similar situation. My family is much much larger than my fiance’s. We aren’t having a small wedding, but the guest list is heavily waited in my direction (probably 60-75% is just my family and close family friends). Both of us are completely okay with it, including my fiance’s parents.This really depends on what the couple wants at the end of the day.

  9. avatar Charity reply

    I understand the etiquette problem with this situation, however it seems that it can be resolved within the bride and groom, and the family’s may not need to be involved at all. The decision ultimately isn’t whether or not to invite the person, the decision is how that person will feel about not being invited and how much that person’s feelings matter to the bride and groom. The day is for the bride and groom~therefore, how they feel about hurt feelings or making everyone happy is the bottom line. : ) Of course, you have to consider the budget….but if you don’t know all of his huge family and he’s only seen them three times….do they all really need to be invited? Sometimes it’s practicality that counts, sometimes it’s sentimentality. These days, etiquette counts, but it’s more flexible than it used to be. There is always a tactful way of mentioning the wedding but not inviting everyone you’ve ever met ; )

  10. avatar Laurel reply

    I had a similar concern when planning my wedding. My family is paying for the entire wedding with no help from my fiance’s family, so we didn’t want to end up with more guests than we could afford to pay for, but we also didn’t want to make my fiance’s family feel like they were restricted in the number of people they could invite. I think we came up with a great solution that has worked out really well! We ended up splitting the guest list into 3rds. Our ideal number was 100 people (this is the number my family could afford to pay for), so each couple (my parents, his parents, and my fiance and I) got to invite 33 people, which my parents would pay for. If anyone wanted to invite more than 33 people, we said that would be fine, but they would need to be willing to pay for each person over the 33 that attended the wedding. I think this was a very fair way to handle the situation and it’s worked out great!

  11. avatar Corin Wallace reply

    Weddings are sticky, right? Part of the "paired" conversations my husband and I had with our parents involved the desired look, feel, budget, and environment we were going for. When in doubt, we focused on the budget we had and did not disclose numbers – rather, offered each side a number of guests they could contribute. If questions were asked, we just said that this was the wedding we wanted, and expressed how excited we were. The groom’s mother offered to pay more for more guests, but we politely declined, saying it was important to have a wedding that reflected our desires for a more intimate setting. (She did sneak in a camcorder – but that’s another story.) I love Stacy’s suggestion – the "seating" idea really worked well with us. Just be transparent, respectful, and VERY VERY paired and supportive of each other. Every one else will see that unified front, and will act accordingly.

  12. avatar Annie reply

    Oh, goodness…I would think you wrote this post about me! Here’s how I think you should ultimately work it. Split the list in half and let his family know up front that they are getting the EXACT number of people you are getting and that number is what fits in your budget. If you feel so inclined, you could offer that they can pay for their additional guests, but that it would include the cost of anything additional. Food, liquor, flowers/centerpieces, favors, invitations, etc. When you tell them it’s a X amount of dollars per person, I think they might stop complaining. (Unless you are marrying a Trump or Vanderbilt and money is no object.)Best of luck when you do get enagaged! And try your hardest to not let it stress you. The guest list will forever be my worst wedding planning memory!

  13. avatar Robin reply

    What about capping it at a relational level? For example, only extend the guest list to Aunts and Uncles or First Cousins and spouses/live in partners. The secret is to figure out among the rounds of relatives where you can truly cut. This way no one gets offended because you made a reasonable cap. If you make it an even number, one side might end up inviting second cousins and the other might not even get out of immediate family leaving the Aunts that were left out of the larger family a bit upset. Yes, this will tend to make one side have a larger guest list but then the B&G can fill in with friends of theirs. We did this for my wedding and stopped at aunts and uncles. This made my half of the guest list considerably larger (my mom is one of 5) but when we explained the cutoff (always blaming space not budget) everyone was fine with it. Don’t forget when you are making a guest list, cut it in at least thirds (if not fourths). The bride and groom should have the people they want and the parents guest list can invite the family. Too many times the guest list is divided in half between the two families and the couple ends up fighting with their parents about inviting a friend over a family member. Be VERY clear with the number allotted to each side or the level of family they are allowed to invite so someone doesn’t overstep their bounds. Even better, ask each set of parents not to extend verbal invitations!!

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