Monday, March 15, 2010

DEAR ESB: How can I keep the guest list under 50?


I am getting married this October, here on the eastside of LA. My boy and I are keeping it small, low-key, and somewhat cheap. We are trying to keep the guest list to under 50 people. The question is, how do you choose who not to invite? If I do not like my cousins, do I have to invite them? Do I have to invite high-school friends who I do like, and who invited me to their weddings, but who I do not talk to very often? Do I have to invite people I hang out with here in LA who are buddies but not besties? I have no idea where to draw the line and how best not to offend people.

Also, since most people live on the east coast which might already discourage them from attending due to the cost of flying, hotels, etc., do you think it is tacky to send an invite, but let them know I do not expect them to attend? Is there a graceful way to do this?

-Cypress Park Bride

*****

Dear CPB,

I LOVE THIS QUESTION. 50 is the perfect number (and I'm not just saying that because we had 50 people at our wedding).

Here's the trick: Only invite the people you really want to hang out with. If you don't like your cousins, don't invite them. If you don't see those high school friends very often and you don't feel like making fucking small talk at your wedding, don't invite them. Don't worry about reciprocating every wedding invitation you've ever received. All you have to say to anyone who asks is "We're keeping it really small."

Repeat after me: "We're keeping it really small." No apologies necessary.

There is no graceful way to send an wedding invitation to someone while simultaneously conveying the message that you don't really want them to come.

xoxo,
ESB

(Still image from The Lost Things via mint)

30 comments:

  1. LOVE this entry. This is exactly what we are doing.... these are the words I need. Thank you. currently at 60 - that is including like 10 childern. (who are really just like half people anyway.)

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  2. Great advice. "We're keeping it really small" has become my new favorite sentence, I use it all the time.

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  3. I thought 50 was a HUGE #, when I set it as our goal, and now I'm realizing it's really, really small. It's crazy how fast that invite list can grow.

    (p.s. I don't like my cousins, so I'm not inviting them.)

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  4. Really need this post today. Can anyone also address how to not include a plus 1 for guests. We are trying to keep it small so we can't let everyone bring a date, even if we know they are dating someone. We only want to offer a plus 1 if we are close with both people in the couple. How do you deny a plus 1?

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  5. is she saying that she doesn't really want the east coasters to come, or that she wants them to know that she'd like them to be there but understands that it could be hard for them to do so? if it's the latter, one could tackle that with language that's sort of the opposite of "regrets only."

    we had a destination wedding in the UK and wanted people to know that 1) we'd be bloody thrilled and flattered if they came out and at the same time 2) wouldn't lose sleep over their not having like $1000 to shell out for someone else's wedding (the exchange rate was even more awful in '06 than it is now). that translated at the bottom of the invite as "if you'd like to join us, call or e-mail us at blahblahblah" - so they could take that extra step if they liked. it seemed to do the trick.

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  6. dang. it's too late for us; mothers and mother in laws have already got their hands on our guest list.

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  7. I love this entry! Just do what matters to you. Amen!

    We have huge families to contend with: ten aunts & uncles for me, with their respective families, the vast majority of whom I really like, and seven on his side, about half of whom he really likes. And then our beloved friends!

    Anyway, this is just to say that I am envious. Enjoy your totally lovely, intimate wedding!

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  8. i wish i had sent this question 9 months ago.

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  9. ESB, that was the *perfect* reply.

    Whether you're having a 200 person wedding, or a 50 person wedding, you have to draw the line somewhere... and it's tough.

    It's your wedding - make sure the people there are the people you want to share your day with!

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  10. Easy... Think of the 5-10 people who if you were having a huge invite everyone that you, your parents, you dog has ever met kind of shin-dig that you would ask to be your bridal party. Those 5-10 people are the people you ask to you wedding along with your partners 5-10 people and their guest/partners you have 20-30 people. Add in you imitate families (aunts/uncles/ crazy cousins are optional) along with letting your parents invited one or two of their closest friends. We got married on Labor Day Monday and invited around 70 people and ended up with about 55 people there (two of my cousins families could not make it as it was the day before school started - about 10 of our NO’s) my experience was to expect a higher turn out that the wedding books say because presumably you are ONLY inviting people who really care about you and so will make a greater effort to be there.

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  11. Totally agreeing on the advice to ask yourself: who do I want to hang out with/celebrate my wedding with all night? That seems like it will at least handle the first round of eliminations.

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  12. We started with an empty guest list. We added people that we would be really sad to get married without. We stopped when we were out of people we really love. That brought us to 40 people. It was easy.

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  13. Perfect advice ESB. @Anonymous - for those you don't want to give a plus one, only put the person's name on the envelope and on their rsvp card (if you are sending one). If you are giving a +1, put their name "& guest." That should take care of it.

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  14. "we're keeping it really small." Perfect. many thanks.

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  15. Excellent advice! It seems as though guest lists are often the most fraught over element of planning a wedding, as it can sometimes feel as though you're forced into ranking the importance and/or likeability of all of the people in your life on a scale of 1-10.

    Very few people have the luxury of inviting every single person they'd like, be it for budgetary reasons, space restrictions, or a simple desire to have a small and intimate celebration.

    We grappled with this a lot as my husband's mom comes from a family of 12 (most of whom I'd never met and he hadn't seen in 5 or more years), and she very much wanted our wedding to serve as a family reunion.

    But, we stuck to our guns and had the family-of-choice centric wedding we truly wanted, inviting only our parents and 40 of our nearest and dearest friends.

    It can be hard to feel as though you're hurting someone's feelings, but with very few exceptions, people tend to understand and/or not care nearly as much as you think they might.

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  16. As someone who is currently "keeping it really small", I highly recommend choosing a location for your wedding that has it's own space limitations. We chose a inn that had a maximum capacity of 50 people and that has really helped with the push back from family that we have gotten about inviting more distant relatives. Sometimes it's easier to say "we'd love to have Great Aunt Myrtle, but there's just not room."

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  17. In my family (my father is one of 10) it is unheard of not to invite all the extended family and make weddings a family reunion...but that's TOTALLY ok with me...despite having one of two family members that I wish I could uninvite...since I love 99% of my family and weddings are the few times we all see each other.

    That said, it's your wedding and you CERTAINLY don't have to invite your high school friends that you don't like (if you don't like them why are you calling them friends?), but you CAN'T send an invite to someone and not be 100% ready for them to respond yes and totally happy that they would be able to make it. If you don't want them to come, don't send an invite.

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  18. Another way to think about it is: who do I want to/ expect to have in my life in 10 or 20 years? Close family, usually (but certainly not always). Your besties and their partners, probably. Maybe your college roomie or sports team members... but perhaps not your office mate, new boss, friend-of-a-friend, long lost high school friend, etc. We applied this question to marginals on our guest list, and it worked like a charm.

    We also had a lot of East Coasters, for a Cali wedding, on our guest list. We sent their invites early, so they'd have time to make travel arrangements, and found that a lot of them couldn't come.

    Then [warning: possibly tacky behavior ahead], we sent some additional invites to in-town friends that we hadn't been able to invite at first. It was still a month before the wedding, and several of the locals were able to join us. Hopefully, no one was the wiser... in any case, we didn't get any negative fallout. I think the East Coasters appreciated being invited, even if they weren't able to travel. Many sent lovely gifts, too :)

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  19. @ Natalia - what a wonderful, perfect solution. I love it!

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  20. We're trying to "keep it small too". One of the worst/ tackiest things I've heard through this whole process is - "I better be invited." or "Am I invited?". When did it become okay to ask these kinds of questions and why do people feel entitled or like they're owed an invitation?

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  21. Whats with all the "have to"s in the question? You don't HAVE to do anything lady! Its your wedding! And you're damn lucky you can keep it around 50, us Italians are more in the 200 range... and those are just want-tos, not have-tos

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  22. We also have a 50 person limit. We both really wanted a smaller wedding and were clear about this to family from the start so there's not been any grief (to my knowledge!). It had to be people we love and have a blast with, which naturally works out to also be people we want to spend the day with, who know us both and who I don't have to make small talk with. It hasn't hurt that the venue has a limit as well.

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  23. This is like Miss Manners level advice, ESB. I mean, like, it could be cribbed. Been hitting the books? ;)

    but really, indeed. And remember: YOUR GUESTS ARE ADULTS. Repeat that after *me.* You invite who you want to invite, and it is *their* responsibility to decide if they can afford to to attend. Don't strip the chance to attend your wedding from A) People you want there B) People who might be willing to move heaven and earth to make it there, because, well, you don't want to impose.

    A lot of heartbreak is caused by not wanting to impose, when really people desperately want to share your joy.

    And "we're keeping it really small" is always the right answer. Done.

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  24. @Meg WHO THE FUCK IS MISS MANNERS?

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  25. We're doing 36 people at our wedding. We had originally invited 40 and for awhile it looked like we would have 42 which gave me a heart attack because the room we rented holds 48 at max. Don't invite people and hope they won't come. They will. I got lucky and some people ended up changing their rsvp due to personal issues. I can breathe again at 36.

    We've told friends and family to emphasize that this is a small wedding. That other friends are not invited and that it is only immediate family and Aunts/Uncles.

    No ones feelings have been hurt so far...

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  26. YES. my goal guest list was 50, but then I remembered the mister has 6 siblings who are all married with kids. and then came the people who started saying things like "I better be invited" when um, they aren't. and then came the "you're not letting people bring dates?!?!?!" I put my foot down at 72.

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  27. totally agree. we are keeping ours to 50 and this is currently my mantra : )

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  28. perfect advice. 50 might be the perfect number. but 40 might be perfect too. i like peonies idea to start with zero. thats really smart.

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  29. We invited people from the east coast who we didn't expect to fly out, but guess what - they did! I wouldn't send any "courtesy" invites out b/c you'll be surprised how much people love going to weddings.

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  30. I've been a lurker here for a while, and I feel compelled to comment on this post, having just had our wedding a couple of weeks ago. We had over 130 people at our wedding. The invite list was 170. There wasn't a single person there that we don't love, have a history with and fully expect to have in our lives in 10-20 years. Family, friends of our parents, friends - all the guests had been with both our families through thick and thin and always been there for us. The only time I cried the whole day was standing up in front of them all and thanking them for being our friends and loving us wholeheartedly. Yes I'm lucky we didn't have to worry about numbers, but my point is invite the people you love. That's what it's all about and whether that's 50 people or 200 people it doesn't matter, I don't know anyone who's made it to 30+ years of marriage without the support of that love.

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