Monday, May 3, 2010

Who should I invite to our wedding?

Dear ESB: 

I am getting pressure from all sides on who I should invite to our wedding. My mom is pushing to have all the family (aunts, uncles and cousins) from her side which means I would have to do the same for my dad's side and that totals quite a few guests, I am sort of OK with this because I grew up seeing most of these people more often then just holidays. I am getting pressure from his mom on who we are inviting from his side even though he has not seen them in the last 20 out of his 29 years. Would it be strange to have my extended family at our reception, and no one from his? OR is it ok to invite just some of my aunts, uncles and cousins? Is it ok to invite a person and not let them bring a guest?

I have been fretting over this for months, when all I want is a chill intimate evening with our guests.


I'm sorry you've been put in this position. Thanks, Moms.

Here's what I think: It would be strange to invite your entire extended family and not his. (Plus it would really piss his mom off.)

So don't. That's not what you want anyway. Instead of letting the moms rule and settling for a guest list that you are "sort of OK with," sit down with your guy and make a list of the people you really want to hang out with. Those are the people you should invite.

Re: plus ones. If someone is in a serious relationship, it's only fair to invite the significant other. Otherwise, you can wait until someone asks you to allow her a guest. But why make the singletons feel like assholes? You want everyone to have a good time.

(Photo via Life in Lomo)


  1. I don't know about anyone else, but there would have been schisms in both of our families if we had included some, but not all of any particular "level" of family (i.e. all the cousins/all the aunts&uncles). We just had to choose a place to cut. But we told the moms that if they really needed their great uncles there, then they had to fork over the money for it ... and they did.

  2. invite them. if they haven't seen him for the past 20 years, i can guarantee they won't come. i was in somewhat of a similar situation. i am extremely close to my extended family, but my husband... not so much. if it was up to him, we would have skipped inviting them. it didn't feel right to invite a big portion of my family and not his, so i chose to invite them anyway. low and behold, besides his immediate family, NOT ONE SINLGE PERSON from the rest of his family came. i thought that was incredibly douchey, but at least i can go to bed at night knowing i did the right thing.

  3. We had the same problem. We made a list of everyone we could possibly think of inviting and wound up with well over 200 people. It was just not realistic for us to do that financially or mentally. We kept reminding ourselves that we wanted it simple and to us, simple = smaller wedding, fewer people. So now our guest list is 80 people- grandparents, parents, siblings, handful of cousins and our friends. It's just the right size for us.

    My dad's mom was the most disappointed. She really wanted a large family gathering, but I explained to her it just wasn't in our cards. (Which basically means, we're broke. Too bad.) Plus, the idea of having to speak to and greet 230 something people did not seem like fun to me.

  4. First, figure out the main motivation behind wanting a smaller guest list.

    1. Financial - we can only afford X number of guests. Pros - people tend to understand this issue. Cons - be wary of using it as an excuse if it's not your real issue, because parents might offer to pony up extra money in order to get all the aunts invited.

    2. Emotional - we want to feel as grounded and connected to our guests as possible, which means we only want these specific people to attend (provide list). Insert phrase - this is our wedding, not a family reunion. Pros - honesty, hard to argue with. Cons - parents and relatives simply might not get this and you'll end up with hurt feelings.

    3. Logistics - our venue only has space for X number of guests. Pros - impossible to argue with. Seats are seats, after all. Cons - none, really.

  5. If you haven't seen someone in the past 2 to 5 years, why invite them? Its a wedding- not a family reunion.

    Don't make him or his mom feel as if this is a "who is closer with their fam" contest, but express ways in which you keep in contact as a way to justify the cost of their attendance (example, my guy and i have huge fams, i talk to every single aunt, uncle, cousin weekly. He talks to his maybe once a year, if that. We wouldn't hesitate to invite all of mine and just some of his).

  6. A sentence I have oft uttered to family and acquaintances whom I am not really interested in inviting to my wedding is, "I am so sorry but unfortunately, due to the economic downturn we just cannot afford to invite the numbers we would like to. Our wedding will be just a small affair"

    I just don't understand why I would want to see family I never see and vice versa. Whilst blood is very important, love is more than simple genetics.

  7. I will be inviting my cousins on my mom's side but not my dad's side. I haven't seen them in years (since my parents divorced) and I have a very loose emotional connection to them.

    While my dad has not said a negative word regarding my decision, I still have a (waning) feeling of guilt. Our guest list is limited due to several reasons, and we have chosen to go with family of the heart over family of the blood in a few cases.

    Once you make your decision and tell yourself there will be no more waffling, every day it gets easier to be confindent your choice.

  8. Oy. If at all possible make your own guest list, just you and your guy like ESB said. I know that isn't always possible, so if it isn't you have to make it equal on both sides. Sure logically if you speak to your level 2 cousin and he doesn't speak to his it makes sense to invite just yours. But families, and often weddings, are not run on logic. They are run on feelings, and "the principle of the thing". So if you are inviting your cousins that means everyone is inviting everyone's cousins, and so on and so forth.

  9. For my wedding, I gave in to pressures from my family on who to invite. What I ended up with was alot of people I didn't know at the wedding and a much less intimate, event. If I had to do it over, I would only invite whoever I wanted and not consider what my family thought.

  10. Hey-
    So we invited David's extended family but not mine, and just ignored the pressure. Why? David sees his extended family every other minute, and I barely know mine. And that's just the way it was. Being ready to be married means you're a grown up and you can say, "No, no, no, no, no" whenever you need to. You just say it nicely. And then you cry a little bit afterward. And then you realize this sort of pain is so necessary to growing into your own full scale adult in the eyes of the community.

    And you know what? Celia is right. The people you haven't seen in ages won't come. Most of the people from my side that we did invite (I was going to invite my uncles and aunts for gods sake. Whether I know them very well or not, they are my dad's siblings, and we were not having a small wedding) Anyway, even they didn't come.

  11. There are a lot of good comments here, so I'll keep my 2 cents short.

    I agree with ESB, if his Mom may have a problem with inconsistent inviting, don't do it.

    We had this rule: all immediate family, all aunts and uncles and grandparents, no cousins.

    This worked up until my husbands Aunts and Uncles refused to come because his Grandparents would be there. So then we invited his cousins in their place. We did not then invite my cousins. So in total, the numbers on each side were balanced.

    Worked for us.

  12. But what if your parents are paying for the wedding and they are using that as leverage on the guest list!

  13. stand firm.

    (we had a giant wedding and loved it- i think there's some weird misconception floating around that huge weddings can't be meaningful or something. false. ...had to throw that out there.)

    but if you want a small wedding, throw a small wedding. no matter what either mom says.

    and @ lost lover- pay for your own wedding.

  14. i hate the "& guest" dilemma.

    there are only a couple of friends on our list that are currently single, but they also don't know anyone else at the wedding. but i kind of hate that there'll be some random stranger at my (relatively small, intimate) wedding, that my friends scrounged up for purpose of having a date.

  15. On a completely different note...
    Am I the only one who thinks that photo totally looks like the scene in Ghostbusters when Sigourney Weaver is possessed and floating above the bed?

  16. Whatever choice you make is fine. One thing I've learned from planning one of these is that nobody cares quite as much about your wedding as you do. It is for you and your fiance, so do what works for you guys.
    I attended the wedding of a cousin last year who I had not seen in 15 years. My brother and I went together wondering if it would be awkward or boring or hilarious or all 3. It was fantastic. We reconnected with some cousins that we didn't even know we were missing and it was a great experience, so you might be surprised at how great people you don't care about can be! Good luck with your decisions!

  17. I'm lucky in that we both have small families, so we weren't dealing with a huge number of variables. When my dad said he wanted me to invite his parents and siblings, from whom he is basically estranged and whom he hasn't seen in 15 years, I just went with it. If my wedding allows my dad to make a reconnection he doesn't otherwise feel comfortable making, I'm not going to stand up for my right not to invite them because they are virtually strangers. And you know what? They are SO excited. They really want to come and they feel like they know me and I am family. And I bet I won't feel like they are strangers, even though I haven't seen them in 15 years. So, my wedding may have a bit of a family reunion vibe, and sometimes that bugs me. But at the same time, I think that is something that weddings can and sometimes should be.

    So, I guess my point is that even though you may have every right to not invite someone, and would be totally justified doing that, it still might not be the best idea. You may miss something.

  18. In our situation, my entire family is a small group of people - my parents don't have very many siblings and I only have 4 cousins, all under 18. My fiance, however, has 5 brothers and sisters, all of whom are married and have children. So while my 25 people included grandparents and cousins, his didn't include anyone that wasn't immediate family. When his oldest sister (the one that raised him) balked at that, it was *he* who informed her that he doesn't care if the grandparents he really never knew feel jilted. I dodged a bullet on that one.

  19. this is what i would follow now if i could re-do my wedding...
    "will you be upset/slighted if you're not invited to any of their life events"

    if the answer is yes, they should be invited. if the answer is no, then i think you get the point.

    my dad invited his friends to our wedding, he agreed to pay for them, so i was fine with it. but looking back, it was AWKWARD having them there. they don't know me, and to make fake conversation with them was not what i wanted to be doing at my own wedding.

    stick to your guns and always remember to keep perspective!!