Thursday, May 19, 2011

Big Family Blues

Dear ESB,

My shacking up (of 18 months) boyfriend (of 6 years) and I have been going around in circles about having a wedding for about a year. For ourselves, we don't care one way or the other about having a celebration. It is important to my parents because they are quite religious and important to his parents because his sister eloped and this is their one and only chance to have a big, fancy party. We have agreed these are compelling enough reasons to have a reception. We plan to go to the JOP in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico.

The problem becomes who to invite. We would prefer something small (50 or so folks) and (relatively) inexpensive. I have a large family (30 first cousins, not including their spouses, children, and step-children). We are quite close with some cousins from both sides and we have lived with a few of them, making a hard and fast no-extended-family-rule impractical. My parents have indicated that this would need to be an everyone or no one occasion.

Our circular conversation goes something like this:

I guess we should have a wedding with our families and a few close friends.
Yes, that's a great idea. I bet we could do it for under $5,000 if we are careful and have a small guest list.
Whoops! I have a million cousins, some of whom have helped us out in major ways and who we care about a lot.
We can't have a wedding because we can't invite so many people.
It would be really nice to mark our relationship somehow.
Repeat, ad nauseum.

Once this decision is made, the rest should fall into place. So... what's the answer?


Are your parents paying for the wedding?

IF NO --> Why are you letting them tell you who to invite?

IF YES --> Why don't you scrape up the $$ to pay for it yourselves? Then you can keep it small and (OMIGOD) invite only the cousins you're close to.

Collage by Colette Saint Yves via curiouser & curiouser via Bailey B via Kristin Kane

We get a lot of variations on this one, don't we?


  1. I wonder if we get so many variations on this one cause it's HARD not to invite those other cousins? Hard and awkward? So hard and awkward that some of us just fold and invite them anyway?

  2. My husband and I had this same problem because our families are large, and we had a budget. My parents really wanted to throw a great party because I am the only daughter and they assume they won't have as much say in their son's wedding some day, so this was their chance to "do things the Simeone way". Thankfully, they paid for most of it. So no problem there. Except that by inviting all our extended family, we had to leave a few friends off the list who we wished could have been there. But those friends understood that it was a budget/large family issue and were very gracious about it.

    It's my opinion that if your parents want to have a say in how this party goes down, they need to contribute to make it happen, either monetarily or by getting crafty and DIYing a lot of stuff to keep costs low. It's not fair for them to insist on this huge party but to not help make it possible. You and your man should sit both sets of parents down and explain your budget, and show them what that would cover (be clear about how many people you could feed and party-up with that amount of money), then leave it up to them whether or not they want to help fill in the blank, basically. if it's really super important to them for ALL the relatives to be there, they will figure it out.

  3. Well, it's also pretty standard miss-manners-type etiquette that you invite people kinda by category. Like if you invite one cousin, but not her sister, then the sister will probably know about it and might be miffed or disappointed or confused about why she didn't get an invite. I don't think it's "folding" to invite all of your first cousins (and their spouses/partners! but you can freely exclude their kids). So, it all depends on how your cousins are and if they will or won't care. It also depends on how much you care about potentially offending them.

    Now, one possibility is this: invite them all but have an early afternoon cake and punch kinda party. That should be affordable.

    Or: make a rule that says, immediate family plus bestest friends, plus extended family we have lived with only. In that case, do call your close cousins and let them know that this is the rule, so that when they talk to their siblings they aren't like "did you get your invitation to their wedding? maybe it got lost in the mail" and instead are like "yeah, they're having a small thing and since we put them up for all those months we made the cut".

  4. it really does come down to who's paying. my mom gave me a huge list of her church friends and family members I haven't seen since I was a baby. since we were paying, I got to say no (but then again, I didn't really care about their feelings either, since I don't even know them)

    it does sort of sound like you WANT to invite everyone though, because some of the cousins are very important to you and you don't want to leave the others out. if that's the case, you'll make it work. wait a while to save up the cash, if you have to

  5. We paid for it entirely ourselves and we only invited the cousins we are close to (the ones that both of us know). The cousins we didn't invite were the ones we haven't seen since we were kids or only see at funerals.

    Our rule was we would only invite people to our wedding that know us both as a couple (ie have met both of us). No one was upset or said a thing about it. This rule applied to "dates" too.

  6. of course, i'm a total bitch and didn't care that our rule excluded one guy from bringing his wife. he was ecstatic (although i'm sure she wasn't).

  7. You're in NM - invite everyone and do cheap food, like trays of enchiladas, which are still delish. It sounds like you don't care too much about the reception or the details so make them work to fit your situation.

  8. Like @Nikki said, it sounds like you want to invite all of your cousins because they're important to you. So invite them and have a backyard BBQ or a champagne and cake reception.

    I'm in the same boat, my fiance has a huge family (his mom is one of 8 kids, his dad is one of 7 kids and he has over 40 first cousins that he's close to) so what are we doing? Renting out a restaurant, inviting everyone, playing music off my iPod and drinking craft beer. Screw fancy decorations or expensive shoes, I'll remember who was at my wedding and not what my centerpieces looked like in 10 years.

  9. If you're having the party to oblige your parent's wish for a family party, then why start stressing about who you must exclude to make it fancy? My most favourite wedding inspiration, they did pot luck... found it! Thank you google.

  10. Im with everyone else who suggested the backyard/bbq shindigs. (Nancy + Ethan's wedding was beyond beautiful).

  11. As another note, the WIC will tell you the best way to save money is to cut your guest list. NO. If you have people that are important to you that it would pain you to exclude, this is NOT the best way. The best way is to ex out shit that the WIC insists you need to have a "nice" wedding.

    If you have a situation where you have family/friends you care about and want there and family/friends you are more ambivalent about but feel bad about not including, do an off-day, such as a Friday or Sunday (or even a Monday or Thursday). Of course, some people won't be able to come if you do this, but that's kind of the point. Inevitably, sometimes, people you really care about won't be able to come, but that could happen even if you have it on the eminintely convenient Saturday. In most cases, what happens is if you do a Friday/Sunday:
    - the party itself is cheaper
    - the vendors are cheaper
    - people you are ambivalent about, well, the feeling is mutual and they say, "I would have gone if it was more convenient but now I am going to pass."

    You get a less expensive party, no one's feelings are hurt. Done.

    (We did a Friday night semi-destination (everyone had to travel, but no one had to travel far), and our 150 guest list netted 80 attendees. It workes swimmingly.)

    Sure, there may be some people that bitch, but there are always some people that bitch, no matter what you do. Haters gonna hate, you can't worry about them.