Tough Calls When it Comes to the Guest List

Before my fiancé and I were even engaged, we had talked about our wedding and what we both wanted. For me, as mentioned before, this is not my first walk down the aisle, but it is for him. So, while I wanted to run away for a very small intimate affair with the two of us and two people as witnesses, there was one smallish problem … My fiancés dreams. Believe it or not, he had expectations for his wedding day, too. Something I hadn’t thought about – until that moment, in the midst of me talking about this romantic getaway with just the two of us, he said to me, “Yea, but my parents wouldn’t be there. Or any of my siblings.” And it hit me. This isn’t my wedding. It’s ours. And while I was wanting a simple and private event on a beach on an island, I knew that this was about us.

Believe it or not, making plans about your wedding day are the first steps in your marriage to learning that it’s not about you alone or him. It’s about the YOU as a couple. Joint decisions and compromise start here.


John & I John Kurtz Photography

I might have done this before and lost some of the “sparkle” in my head of a wedding event initially (don’t worry, that went away as soon as the wedding planning started and I realized I was marrying the RIGHT man and the butterflies took over and I was overwhelmed with the amount of giddy excitement that existed that I had never felt before!), but my fiancé has never done this before (nor intend to do it again). This is our day, not mine.

My fiancé is the youngest of seven children and uncle to 19 nieces and nephews. The word “small” and our wedding suddenly became like cramming an elephant into a Honda Fit. We had to sit down and make some big decisions about our day, and make some compromises. The reality was that we were paying for this on our own and a big budget wedding wasn’t in the cards for us. We counted immediate family that would attend (and yes, there are immediate family members not invited), counted up our bridal party (a total of 18 including the two of us), and then counted the bridal party’s spouses and children. We hit the number of 60 really fast with just that list. We agreed that we could go up to 80 at the most and expect that between 70-75 would likely be able to make it. Then came the really hard part – inviting friends. Not just friends, but WHICH friends. This was harder than a budget – this was like planning a war strategy for the army or something. Will so-and-so be hurt that they’re not invited but so-and-so is?

We had to be firm and realistic. There was no rhyme or reason to the friends who were invited, other than the fact that the people who were invited were those that have been actively involved in our relationship over the past year and who had been a part of this. It actually took a long time to finalize our guest list because of this. We started with the bare minimum of six couples. Invites went out and we sat on it for another couple of weeks. We then decided on the last 10 people who would be invited and knew that, no matter what others felt or thought, we had to draw the line somewhere. And if we invited so-and-so, then we would also need to invite so-and-so and so-and-so and …. Well, you get it. Those who aren’t going to be there know that we have a very small budget and that our guest list is limited with us paying for this on our own and we had to be firm with that list.

The end result is this: I still have a small and intimate wedding with a guest list under 80 that is taking place in a beautiful wooded area at my mom’s house in the country, and all of my fiancé’s family will be in attendance with us. And thinking back on my initial “dream”, I realize that this was certainly the best thing to do. I have already had to face devastation with my best friend not being able to make the wedding in 2-1/2 months, so I know that when reality sat in with a destination wedding without our parents or siblings, I would have ended up heartbroken at my decision.

What about you? What compromises did you have to make when planning your wedding and your budget? How did you handle the tough issues that came up when it came to your guest list?

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