FAMILY: WHEN YOU HAVE A BIG FAMILY BUT CAN’T INVITE THEM ALL TO THE WEDDING

WHEN YOU HAVE A BIG FAMILY BUT CAN’T INVITE THEM ALL TO THE WEDDING

I have always loved coming from a big family − until it was time for my wedding. Lawdy, it became tough to sort through all of that business … the ones who should come, and the ones who shouldn’t because they always wanna be startin’ something. The one who will actually RSVP on time and then CANCEL at the last minute. (We all know that relative. There were a whopping TWO of them on my wedding day. AND THEY BOTH ORDERED THE STEAK, which was EXTRA.) And the ones who will not RSVP at all and then get crazy offended because you didn’t save a spot for them. Let’s not even bring up step-mommas and step-daddys and who has a “right” to come to your special day and who doesn’t. The issues become endless, and they are actually super important because you still want to have a family after your wedding. (Side bar: I don’t know about you, but I watched in saddened fascination as Meghan Markle’s family imploded as she got closer and closer to her I Do Date with Prince Harry. And I was secretly glad that it wasn’t the Black side of her family causing all of the wedding drama. People sometimes expect that from us. So I was glad to see they represented us well. JS!!) When you aren’t marrying a [real] prince, weddings are intimate, personal, life-changing moments, and the invitation list should be curated as such. So how do you handle your business to keep the wedding madness at bay? Communication is always key, even when there aren’t any issues with family but you don’t have the space or just can’t afford for them to attend. So here are three tips for how and when you can talk to your family about not attending YOUR wedding.
  1. Don’t beat around the bush; beat the bush – Tell them they can’t come. Be gentle but firm. I have to admit that I didn’t handle this really well when I got married 21-months ago. And as a result, I had a few relatives who boycotted my wedding. I knooow. Awwwful, right? But my rule of thumb was this: if you didn’t have or hadn’t used my personal cell phone number during the two years I was dating my husband-to-be, you were not invited. If you hadn’t seen me and my fiancé together or independently while we were dating, you weren’t invited. If you didn’t know my fiance’s name, weren’t. invited! These seemed like common sense reasons to me. But still, feathers got ruffled. And then for those who did make the list, I took things a bit further with my Plus One Rule. If I hadn’t met whoever you were dating, I was not going to use my $227 per plate reception to introduce myself to them. We could chat at another time over burgers and a brewsky. (Ha! That’s a trap because anyone who knows me knows I don’t drink! So, of course, there would be no brewsky.)  I stuck to the Plus One Rule like a dog with a bone—even with my sisters! Didn’t want them going out and dragging in a new guy just to say they had a dance partner at the weddin’. They could dance with a cousin like we’d done at all the other weddings we’d attended as single girls. My one poor sister barely made it under the wire with her boo, who she dragged out to meet me as I was strolling to the pool two days before the ceremony because she knew my final headcount was due and he was about to be ghosted from the list, like I felt he had been from her life in previous months. Meeting a stranger for the first time in a swimming suit isn’t exactly my ideal choice, but some things I just couldn’t control.  Lastly, if Al and I felt you were going to be a Negative Nelly or Nicolas or only wanted to come because of whom you thought you’d meet at our wedding, you weren’t invited. We only truly wanted well-wishers and supporters sharing in our sunshiny day. And that’s what YOU should want for your special day, too. It’s what you deserve. If you are footing the bill, no one else should get a say-so, and you certainly shouldn’t feel guilty about your choices.
So here’s what you do—after you’ve made your list and counted it twice and had to throw some dearly beloved folks to the wayside, tell them up front that they didn’t make the cut. Don’t wait until it is three weeks from the wedding. Tell them right away (like when you send save-the-date notices) so that you can spend your time worrying about all the other fifty-million things you need to worry about. Tell them with love, but tell them. I didn’t do this. So do what I say, not what I did. You’ll thank me later. The Offbeat Bride gives more great tips on just saying NO and moving on from the NO. I’ll tell you now to be on the lookout for sneaky people − those who pop over to see your mom the moment they hear you’re getting married, even though they haven’t seen her in ages. Suddenly she’s advocating on their behalf. Watch out, and don’t say I didn’t warn you about them. They will add nothing to your day.
  1. Get strategic – Everyone knows weddings can get pricey. Why not share your budget, and let your third cousin know that his butt is going to cost you $227. It is hard to put money ahead of feelings and love of family, but he’ll have to understand that you still love him, but he just can’t come unless he’d like to give you $227 (+$15 more if he orders the beef). Hmm, not a bad idea! Who needs a wedding present? Need help with your budget or want to show him some real numbers? Try the wedding calculator at www.costofwedding.com. My calculator was smoking from overuse by the wedding day. But I’m happy to report that we used cash to purchase all items, or we paid-in-full all credit card balances for those cards we used for reward points before the wedding day. This cash-only basis also helped me stay focused on who came and who didn’t. So I avoided being haunted by Ghosts of Wedding Guests Past I might have faced had I been paying on credit cards months afterwards.
  2. Change can be a good thing – If you’ve gotten to the point where you and your fiancé are at your wit’s end trying to take people off the list but just can’t, can you be open to change? Instead of a sit-down dinner or even a buffet (which is cheaper), can you do a cake and champagne toast instead? If being with your family is THE number one thing for you guys, then get creative with how the day will go. Nobody’s really gonna talk about you if you don’t serve a full dinner of chicken cordon bleu and haricots vert. They’ll talk about you more if Aunt Mary was invited to your wedding and Aunt Lisa wasn’t. (You know some relatives can get really nasty when you piss them off!) Here’s an idea: Elope and then have a post-wedding party. Another not bad idea. Check it out on Bridal Tribe Magazine.
There is a lot of guilt that can get thrown at you during this time. MOST of it comes from your family. If ever there was a time to prove you know how to stick to your guns and toe the line on things that are near and dear to you, this life experience will for real for real put you to the test. Whew, lawdy! I wish you luck and hope you have a really nice, peaceful honeymoon planned!
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