Weddings should be a joyous, memorable occasion marking the formal, legal joining of two loving souls. And yet, many weddings turn out to be expensive pains in the ass filled with dashed expectations, unnecessary drama, overpriced chicken, and maybe some open bar-induced public vomiting. Big or small, weddings should be fun! But whether your wedding is the day you’ve always dreamed about, or a nightmarish hurdle to jump through to get to the “married” part of life, one thing is for certain: someone, somehow, will be disappointed by it.
And if you’re lucky, it won’t be you! It’ll just be your grandmother’s second cousin or whatever. So let’s talk about how to guarantee your wedding goes down the way you want it to — and not the way your extended family assumes it will!
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Hello, Pajiba Advice! My fiancé and I very recently got engaged (like, in the past week) and we’re both very excited to start the next stage of our lives! Specifically, we are excited to get past the part with the wedding as soon as possible, because it seems like everyone in both our very large families who is over 50 has not gotten the update that weddings are now typically events thrown by couples in their late 20s/early 30s rather than their parents. We’d like to have a nice day with the people who are special to us and I, specifically, want to get professional photos of myself in a pretty dress but our aunts, uncles, and cousins alone number well into the double digits on both sides and we’re already getting asked if we have a date in mind from people who…. probably will not need to know the date. I know that when some of them were young weddings were massive family social events but times have moved on, prices have gone up, and neither of us really want a big wedding anyway. I’m ready for months of plastering a smile on my face and cheerfully answering “it’s just not in the budget” but any tips on how to amplify the message to spare other couples the trouble?
First off: CONGRATS! I’m happy for you! And please don’t let the early onset of wedding-planning stress cast a pall on your engagement, because you’ll have plenty of time to be stressed about the wedding later. In fact, there’s a very good chance you’ll spend too much time stressed about it! So make sure to stop and enjoy this feeling you have right now — that minty fresh just-engaged feeling. And tell your families to back the fuck off.
Of course, marriage isn’t necessary — we all know that. A loving relationship doesn’t need a religious or civil ceremony, or even a legal agreement, in order to be legitimate. It all depends on what the couple desires for themselves. And with that in mind, getting engaged and married can take countless forms depending on that same criteria: what is most meaningful TO YOU AND YOUR PARTNER. But “meaningful to you” isn’t always the same as “satisfactory to your family’s expectations” — so what are your options?
You could elope! You could go to City Hall! You could get married and tell everyone later! You could get married and then throw a chill party for friends and family later! Those are great options for a lovely wedding, and in addition to being obvious ways to sidestep the issue of the invite list entirely. But it doesn’t sound like those are the sorts of weddings you want. You do want friends and (some) family there to see you in your pretty dress at your ceremony, and that’s your right.
In fact, I’d say you’re already on the right track — so keep focusing on the things you and your partner want as a part of that big day. The food, the catering, the budget, and yes, even the guests. Those people you would like to have there to celebrate with you, and not those people you’ll probably feel obligated to invite. You can even take certain steps to make inviting 300 of your closest distant relatives impossible, like planning a destination wedding (only the people who truly love you will shell out for that shit, and half of them will only doing it grudgingly), or booking a venue that has a max capacity of roughly the number of people you want to invite anyway. Hell, you could pull a Nick and Priyanka and hold multiple weddings to make EVERYONE happy! But don’t let avoiding pressure from your relatives be your guiding principal, because ultimately your great-aunts aren’t the ones getting hitched. You are.
And as you plan, keep your cards close to your chest and continue to smile and shrug when you get pressure from your family. “Oh, we haven’t gotten there yet! We’re still reaching out to venues! We’ll figure out the list after we have the budget pinned down! You’ll know soon!” If you have siblings or parents who are sympathetic, employ them to help you deflect this nonsense too. They can be your ambassadors of “Just Chill, Grandma.”
But that only gets you so far. Eventually the time will come when you’ll have to invite your guests… and the people who aren’t invited will realize it. At that point, I think your party line should be honesty: “We couldn’t afford to invite everyone” is fine, but I get the feeling “We wanted an intimate ceremony” might be closer to the truth. And you could always fall back on “Our dream venue could only hold XX people, so our hands were tied!” Will everyone be satisfied by that answer? Probably not. Will it feel like a snub? Maybe. But let’s be real — if their opinions mattered to you that much, you’d have invited them in the first place! And also you have nothing to feel guilty about. It’s your wedding, it’s your dime, it’s your decision. If they can’t be happy for your happiness, then fuck ‘em. But don’t say that, or they might not send you a wedding gift.
(That’s assuming that this IS on your dime. If anyone is helping fund your wedding, they might want to have some influence on the proceedings. You may need to let them invite some people, but it’s still your day and you can draw the line where you want.)
Ultimately, I think you’ll just have to get comfortable with the idea that someone that expects to come to your wedding won’t be able to, and that’s just fine. Compared to getting to celebrate your love with the people that matter the most to you, that shit’s small potatoes. And again, use those chill-out ambassadors to your advantage. Let them field the gripes. In fact, are your parents supportive of your wedding plans? Then have THEM tell everyone else to shut up. Because let’s face it — if the mother and father of the bride/groom are satisfied, then nobody else has room to complain. They literally gave birth to you, and raised you, and spent a lot of money on you over the years. They’re just about the only people with wiggle room to have asks for the big day, and even then you have the right to deny them.
One of the weirdest stories I heard after my wedding was the fact that my mother-in-law’s coworker was upset she hadn’t been invited. Sure, they were friends, but still — a woman I’d never met, who wasn’t related to my husband, had expected to be invited, and been pissed at my MIL when she hadn’t. That’s not just presumptuous, that’s CRAZYPANTS. There were actual friends we couldn’t afford to invite, and some rando who didn’t know us expected to come for the free food and chance to hang out? Fuck that noise. And the thing is, I’m sure crazy rando lady wasn’t alone. I’m sure plenty of friends and family side-eyed our invites (they looked like ransom notes), or the lack of assigned seating, or the fact that officiants didn’t have the ceremony memorized (I mean, I side-eyed that too — would cue cards have killed ya?!). Everyone has opinions about weddings, and as you continue to plan you’ll surely get lots of unsolicited advice from your friends and family. Even if they get invited, they’re gonna look around and probably find things they’d do differently. We all do that! Judging other people’s weddings is fun! But it’s also meaningless, because again…
It’s not their wedding. It’s yours. So make yourself happy, because no matter how the wedding goes, you’re still one that’s gonna have to live with the fallout for years to come. Ahh, marriage!
Bonus guest list tips:
You don’t have to let your guests bring +1s! And not letting them bring Tinder dates keeps the costs down! Don’t be afraid to enforce that shit, and if someone’s like, “oh, but I really want to bring my booty-call to this” you can just drop the “Look, there’s literal family members I couldn’t afford to invite, so NO” card.
Also, one Overlord had great success hosting an intimate wedding… and live-streaming it to a larger group. So you can “invite” people, without having to give them a catered meal! Just a thought.
Header Image Source: PeopleTV (YouTube)