My 44 year old daughter is planning and paying for her own wedding. With their many friends and our large families, the guest list is at 200. She has agreed to let us invite 6 close friends… but what do I say to all our other friends who may be expecting to be invited? -Linda
As a wedding planner with over a decade in the industry, I think I can state with authority that figuring out who goes on the guest list is one of the most difficult parts of wedding planning for almost every couple!
For a variety of reasons, chief among them space constraints and budget, very few marriers can invite everyone they'd like. Much like you, they've been looking forward to their weddings for quite some time and, as you've experienced, there is almost always some disappointment when some loved ones don't make the cut.
So, how do you tell your friends you can't invite them?
Before we talk about what to do, I'd like to encourage you to process those feelings. It is disappointing and it's perfectly normal to be sad about it! You have probably imagined what your daughter's wedding might be like for many years and it's ok (healthy, even) to grieve the loss of that particular wedding vision.
Once you're feeling better, then you can reach out to your friends.
In this case, I truly believe that honesty is the best policy. That's not to say that you have to be brutal! The truth can and should come from a place of loving-kindness.
I'd recommend you tell the folks you would have liked to invite and exactly what you've told us: that you really wish you could share the celebration with them, but between your daughter and her partner's friends and large families, you've reached capacity for the wedding.
Then, I suggest you find some alternate ways to celebrate with your friends… and let them know that you hope they'll be able to join you.
Here are some possibilities for dealing with friends who are disappointed you can't invite them to the wedding:
Would your daughter and her partner be open to setting up a live stream of the ceremony and perhaps taking a few moments to speak to them directly through video afterward? We can thank COVID weddings for the gift of this new trend – which I personally believe is here to stay and is an excellent, low-cost way to overcome the hurdles of venues that are too small, budgets that can't stretch and further, and guests who can't travel from far away.
- If you're already thinking of planning a wedding shower for your daughter, invite them as honored guests. Some of them might even be interested in helping you plan or decorate for it.
If you're concerned about “gift grab” etiquette, remember that you can have a gift-free shower! “Shower the bride with love! No gifts, please.” Or you can have a free gift shower and request that, in lieu of gifts, they bring a favorite recipe or their best marriage tip. Celebratory gatherings do not have to include the purchasing, giving, and/or receipt of physical items.
- One more option that I've seen work really well for my clients is a second reception. This is especially successful if most of the friends you want to invite live in the same area. A more intimate event a few weeks after the wedding is a great way to include your nearest and dearest and, as a bonus, without thebigger guest list and packed timeline of a wedding day, your daughter and her new spouse will have more time to spend one-on-one with you and your friends.