Friday, January 16, 2009

Getting Ready for a Wedding: The List

Yes, it's Elizabeth Taylor crying over the guest list in Father of the Bride

Did I mention in an earlier post that there are ups and downs in planning every wedding? I’m sure I did, and I’m back to tell you that one of the “downs” may very well be putting together the guest list.

Everyone has a stake in the guest list, and sometimes the interests of one party do not completely coincide with the interests of others: The bride and the groom naturally want their families at the wedding, but the bride’s idea of which family members must be invited may not agree with her mother’s and/or her father’s. Her parents, for example, are likely to have uncles, aunts, cousins and second cousins who feature much more prominently on the list of loved ones who should be in attendance than the bride may ever imagine. The bride’s mother is very likely to have old friends that she hopes to be included—the bride, and certainly the groom, may know little or nothing about the relationship between these friends and the mother-of-the-bride, though it is not unlikely to have included many intimate exchanges on the trials,
tribulations, and rewards of parenting these young people for decades leading up to the Big Day. The bride’s father may be eager to include his closest connections from school, business, or church—the retired pastor who baptized the bride-to-be (but with whom she has had little contact since childhood) for example, or the partner who paved the way for her acceptance to the college of her choice—and these individuals may not rank as high on the bride’s list. Together, the bride and groom may be thinking of the “party hearty” atmosphere they want to create at the reception, and wish to invite dozens of their contemporaries. Add to this the need to incorporate the wishes of the in-laws, and the assembly of a final guest list that makes everyone happy may be a formidable challenge indeed.

The conventional wisdom is a good starting point: Decide on the number of guests you can afford and work from there. If the bride’s family is financing the wedding, this number is set at their discretion, according to their budget, and the couple’s preferences as to the size of the crowd they wish to host. The bride’s family then decides on the specific number of guests from this total that may be accommodated from the groom’s family, and requests a guest list with titles, names, and addresses from the mother of the groom. If the groom’s family steps forward with an offer of financial participation, and a request that more guests be accommodated from their side of the family, the bride’s family is free, though not obligated, to expand the list at their request. Most guest lists break down into thirds: one-third for the bride’s family, one-third for the groom’s family, and a third for the bride and groom’s contemporaries.

There are protocols once the final number has been agreed upon: For example, if the bride or groom’s family invites one of the bride or groom’s aunts and uncles, it is considered polite to invite all of the maternal and paternal aunts and uncles. This tradition does not hold down the generational line, however: a bride or groom may invite one or more of his/her maternal/paternal cousins, without insult to other cousins who are not included.

Once the list is assembled, the mother-of-the-bride is responsible for ensuring that everyone on the groom’s family’s list is sent an invitation. She receives and collates the responses, and keeps the groom and his family up to date on who will attend. These responsibilities may fall to the bride, if she is organizing the wedding on her own. For the bride and groom, and new in-laws, the process of working on the guest list and keeping tabs on responses offers a welcome opportunity to get to know the wider family circle.

Professional wedding planners agree that approximately 70-75 percent of wedding invitations extended will be accepted. So, if you are shooting for a celebration with 100 guests, it is probably safe to assemble a list of 130 invitees. Some couples put together an A list, and a B list of guests; when they receive a decline from the A list, they mail an invitation from the B list. This is considered to be a risky practice: A guest on the B list may by chance ascertain his lower designation, and be insulted. The preferred practice is to invite everyone you truly wish to include in the celebration—up to 130 percent of the total that you would like to attend. The numbers are likely to settle just about where you want them.

1 comment:

Linda said...

That's a great pix. What fun.