So the venue is booked, the dress has been selected, the menu has been decided, and the cake flavor has just been settled on. It feels like you’re in the homestretch, but be forewarned: there are probably a few unforeseen obstacles you might have to overcome before the big day is ready to go off “without a hitch.” As those who have already gone through birthdays or graduations, for example, may already know all too well, weddings are another opportunity for many potentially tricky family dynamics. There are divorced families, blended families, and estranged families that many will have to negotiate. For those lucky ones whose parents are still married after all these years, you’re not off the hook either. Beware the rogue wedding guests. Yes, you will most likely have at least one of your guests call or email you at some point this year asking if they can bring a date (whom you most likely have not met). Or even worse, you may have a coworker or old friend who assumes (erroneously) that he or she is invited to the wedding. Ideally, everyone gets along, but we know life doesn’t always work that way, right? So what to do? Stay ahead of the game; here are some tips for those tricky wedding situations:
* Be prepared for anything. Even if you don’t write “and Guest” on the invitations, many will assume or still ask if they can bring someone. A co-worker is hanging around your cubicle seeming way too interested in the details? They may be fishing. Have your stock response prepared: “I so wish I had room for more guests but we are at capacity for our budget and/or the space.” It’s rude for them to keep pushing past this point. With that said, you should be mindful of the whole guest list. Are all of your friends either married or engaged with the exception of one or two? Don’t assume they want to come to your wedding and get seated at the singles’ table. They don’t. Again if budget allows, invite them with a guest and let them make the choice. Even if you’ve never met his or her guest, and even if they’re not that serious, you should consider each situation from the guest’s perspective. At our wedding one of my oldest friend brought her Swedish yogi guru boyfriend who lead us all in morning yoga the day of the wedding, and shared his unique moves on the dance floor. He’s no longer in the picture, but I don’t regret having him there; he’s part of our wedding story now.
* But for those people who assume they’re invited and won’t relent, listen, it’s going to be a little awkward. Most people will read the subtext of “it’s a small wedding,” or “the venue just can’t fit everyone.” I suggest thanking them for any well wishes with a big smile and a response like “we are very excited,” or even changing the subject. Yeah, it might be a little obvious what you’re doing, but it’s obvious what they’re doing too. If he or she were truly a close friend, they’d be included, right?
* What if someone invites you to their wedding but you choose not to reciprocate? You should probably have a good reason for this one. If the weddings fall within the same year, it might be awkward to attend the other one if you’re not planning on inviting them to yours. On the other hand, if you attended their wedding five or
more years ago, and only seen each other a few times since then, it is probably more understandable if you don’t return the invite.
* The divorced parents dilemma. Nowadays weddings can be hosted by anyone, but consider a neutral location especially if either parent is sensitive about a location because it reminds him or her of the past. If budget allows, make sure each side has a few of their favorite family or friends, ideally enough to make a table. It’ll make it easier for both to have their own posse. A close friend even shared that her father always got along very well with his ex-wife’s cousin and they remained close, so she invited the cousin and sat them together, which made him very happy because it showed him that her side of the family still cared about him. It is a good idea, though, to place their tables on equal and opposite sides of the room. Some divorced parents get along, some are cordial, but it’s best to place them at a distance so they don’t stress out.
* Regarding “the steps” as one friend call them – those newly minted step-siblings, in many case adults you’ve been thrown together with later in life, if you are having a large wedding (I’d say anything over 100 guests), you really have no choice but to invite them. Yes, all of them, even if you’ve gained five new siblings all of whom are married, possibly with high-school aged children. If it feels like this would distract too much from how you imagined your big day, I’d encourage a smaller wedding.
A few final thoughts: Be wary of “credit for the invite” if there’s a guest who you think has plans, so you send them an invite anyway, they very well may change their plans. Also there will almost definitely be someone who calls the week of the wedding to share excitedly that they will be able to make it after all! As the saying goes, family is family and they’re most likely not going anywhere, so handle those choices more thoughtfully. There’s simply no avoiding some wedding-guest drama, so hopefully these possible scenarios will help you to stay ahead a few steps. On the other hand, if what I’ve outlined above has sent you into a spiral, there’s always elopement; it’s highly underrated.
Liz Mathews is a Connecticut based mother, teacher, and freelance writer who blogs on children’s books and related topics at La La La. Her work has appeared in Quality Women’s Fiction, Town and Country magazine, and Literary Mama.