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{Ask Liz} Well, We ARE Family

Got a question for Liz? Go to contact page and let us know what’s up!

So, how was YOUR family gathering on Thanksgiving?

All I’m saying is, you know, I’m just sayin’…

Dear Liz,

I’m getting married in June and need advice about a guest list dilemma.
My father has two sisters and a brother we’ll call Bill. Dad doesn’t speak to any of them unless it’s unavoidable and would prefer if none of them were invited to my wedding. I have better relations with them than he does and am definitely inviting his two sisters and their families; the problem lies with Bill’s family. My dad and Bill had a falling out about five years ago, and long before that things were tense – despite living not that far away, we stopped visiting Bill’s family 12-15 years ago. I’m 28, and I think I was in late elementary school or junior high when we last spent any amount of time together.

My sister and I have made some efforts at reconnecting with Bill’s two daughters over the past couple of years but literally haven’t seen his two sons for over a decade. This past summer one of Bill’s daughters got married; my sister and I were invited to her bridal shower (though neither of us was able to go) and my whole immediate family was invited to her wedding (which my parents and sister attended; I live across the country and couldn’t go, but sent a card, which my cousin thanked me for.) Up to this point, all of the first cousins have always been invited to each other’s weddings. I would hate to be the person that further deteriorated relations in our family by not inviting Bill’s family. On the other hand, numbers are tight (Bill’s family, all-included, makes 12), I don’t know any of them very well compared with our other guests, and none of them has thus far acknowledged my engagement – plus, my father can be difficult in a lot of social situations and I can’t imagine that having Bill’s family around would lead to him being very agreeable at the wedding. In a recent conversation with my mother it became clear that she also thinks it would make more sense not to invite them. Most of Bill’s family lives near where we’re getting married, so there’s a good chance they’d be able to come. Oh, and my mother also doesn’t think it’s OK to invite only Bill’s daughters and not his sons (and, reluctantly, I tend to agree). 


Family Fracas-ed Out

Dear Fracas,

Your Dad and Bill do not get along, but his family has obviously tried to reach out and establish a relationship with you, as part of their family. You want to invite them, but the big sticker is Bill and Dad’s feud, which is why you hope that they won’t come.  I get that you’re afraid of the tension, but here’s the thing:  If your Dad went to his niece’s wedding, then they’ve already had to deal with each other, and quite recently. They are grown, and they will get through it. And, if you invite them all, some of them will come.

That being said, if you really don’t want to deal with the possible stress on your wedding day, then don’t invite any of Bill’s family. Making his daughters choose between you and their Dad isn’t fair…sort of like how your parents making you choose between them and Bill’s daughters isn’t fair. There is room for all, or there is room for none. I’m just saying.

What do you think? Should her Dad suck it up, or should she just give it up? Let me know in the comments below!

And HEY, are you in Los Angeles? I have a great Black Friday/Small Business Saturday/Cyber Monday Wedding deal for you – $500 off Day-Of Coordination. You get me, my lovely assistant, and all the joy and peace we’re going to bring to your wedding day. But, only if you book online by Monday.  There’s some other lovely discounts to get you down the aisle too, so GO.

See you at the end of the aisle,


{Real Bride: Carrie} Location, Location: Debates on What State

I’ve got this dream wedding location in my head, and I’m hoping it’s not imaginary.

You see, we have a really small budget.  But we still really like to party.  We’re not opposed to DIY.  And we want to spend as much time with our friends and family as possible.

So, our A+, #1, ideal wedding venue would be some kind of camp, B&B, or conference center that we could take over for a whole weekend and have everyone stay in the same place!  Someplace that included a beautiful outdoor ceremony site, a kitchen we could use to self-cater, someplace for people to eat, drink, and dance, and cabins or a lodge that everyone could stumble off to after partying all night.

Courtesy of Whitney Martin Photography

I know, we dream big.  But I can’t help hoping that if the amazing Sara and Matt of 2000 Dollar Budget Wedding (a HUGE inpsiration to me!) can do it, than so can we!  So that’s the goal right now.

With that in mind, the first thing we had to do was decide which state to get married in!

Option #1: Ohio. :-( See, Zach and I are both from Ohio and so our families naturally assumed we’d be getting married there.  However, while we both agree that Ohio was a great place to grow up, we’ve since broken away and don’t intend to live there long-term again in the future.  Honestly, it’s just kind of (REALLY) boring.  However, most of Zach’s friends and extended family still live in Ohio.  AND wedding stuff is significantly cheaper there.


Option #2: California!  Although we’ve been working summer jobs in Ohio this year, the weeks are quickly ticking by and our planned move to San Diego, California is getting closer!  We both love San Diego, the sun, the waves, the perfect temperature, the proximity to Mexico!  This is where we can finally see ourselves “settling down” (which, for us, may only mean staying somewhere longer than a year, who knows) and where we’d like to get married.  It will be so much easier to plan a wedding close to where we are living.  Plus, I have a lot of friends and family scattered around the country.  When I sketched out my side of the guest list for our wedding, I realized that more than half of my people will have to get on a plane, whether the wedding is in Ohio or not!  Do I really want to make those poor people pay for a plane ticket and take time off to go to Ohio?  Heck no!  The downside to this, however, is that a lot of Zach’s extended family may not be able to afford to come to California.  The brutal-but-true upside to that downside: it would definitely help keep our numbers in check since his family is HUGE.

California, here we come!

Option #3: The Arizona back-up plan.  Before we left on our long Latin American odyssey trip, Zach and I were living in northern Arizona.  See, his parents bought a house out there that they are planning to move to when they retire.  But, they haven’t retired yet!  So we got to live there for a year and house-sit for them!  During that year, we really grew to love the area.  The house is within an hour of the Grand Canyon, Sedona’s red rocks, mountain climbing, swimming holes, and tons of other awesome stuff!  Plus, the house is pretty big and we could definitely clear a section of the yard for the ceremony.  The problem here would be that we’d still be long-distance planning, we’d have to rent all the tables and chairs, and people would have to stay in hotels that are at least 15 minutes away from the house.  But it’s a good backup plan because we know it won’t book up and it’s still an awesome vacation spot.

Arizona: a retiree's paradise

What do you think, people?  We’re clearly leaning towards having the wedding in California, and hoping to find a great venue there.  If you were in our situation, what state would you choose?

Ask Liz About Guest List Management

Hi Liz,

My wedding is in September, and I’ve been struggling with my guest list for at least 6 months now – I didn’t send out  Save the Dates simply because I couldn’t get it together in time. The main issue is that my venue has a 50 person cap if I want a sit down meal.  I’m happy with having a small wedding, but it means there are old college roommates and friends from my 20s that I simply can’t invite.  We thought of having a separate event the day after the wedding, but that basically means planning two weddings at once. Do you have any solutions for how I can include and celebrate with folks who are emotionally important to me but won’t be invited to the wedding? And once they get here, how do we acknowledge/handle out of town friends? We don’t own a house, or else I’d go the BBQ route!

Gobstopped at the Guest List

Dear Gobstopped,

I can’t decide whether to start tackling this from the “good news” standpoint, or the “wedding planner with a stopwatch and a bucket of water” standpoint. Coin toss…bucket of water wins: If you don’t have enough room to invite your college roommates and friends from your 20s, then you can’t invite them.  Sucks, but you can’t do it. The rule, such as it is, is that you don’t have to invite anyone you haven’t seen or talked to in over a year. Start slashing, over a glass of wine if you have to. And try and get those invites out next month, my stopwatch is ticking. Oh, and practice saying this so you’ll have it ready if anyone asks, “It’s small wedding – the venue that we love only accommodates 50 people. And there was his list, too, so that limited mine even more.” Not just short and simple, but true. And they’ll get it – they weren’t invited, but then again, a lot of people weren’t.

Now for the good news, such as it is: Typically, you get about a 15% attrition rate – in other words, 15% of the guests you invite are not going to be able to make it, for whatever reason. That even goes up a little if you have more out-of-towners. So, you can send invitations to say, 60 – 65 people and you should still end up at your limit.

You can also stagger your invites – send half or so out to those whoabsolutelypositively MUST be invited, like family and your best friends and wedding party.  Then depending on how many actually accept within a couple of weeks, send out more. Everyone gets the same RSVP date, but you just need to give yourself a deadline to send out the second set.

As for those who didn’t make the cut, take a cue from my friends who’ve eloped – Send out wedding announcements afterward, either formal or by email. If you want to do formal ones, order them at the same time as your invites, and then send them out at the same time you mail your thank you cards. That’s like, 3 birds with one stone. Love it.

Out of town friends? If they’re not going to the rehearsal dinner or there isn’t going to be a rehearsal dinner, then find a bar you love with a great happy hour and invite them to hang out for a couple of drinks. If you can, buy the first round.

That being said…

Wow, these can get you coming and going, right?

Hi Liz!
I’m wondering what on Earth happens when more people show up than you are allowed to accommodate. I’m not overly worried about it – we only invited about 10 more people than the 150 we’re allotted, and of course some won’t be able to come. But I have this nagging feeling like: wait, what if they
do all come? Most of our guests are local, so we’ll probably have a lower “No” rate than usual. It’s most likely I’m fretting over nothing at all! But have you heard tales of venues that are very strict about capacity, and weddings that are over that capacity?


Space Worrier

Dear Space,

Most venues have capacity rules, but odds are that you’ll be fine – it’s that whole 15% attrition thing I was talking about above. But give your venue a call and ask if they would be able to accommodate 10 extra guests,  if it comes down to it. Find out what that would look like logistically and cost-wise. Forewarned is forearmed, and it will make you feel better. I have coordinated weddings where more guests showed up than expected (RSVPs looks like an approximation to some people), and from my experience, venues and caterers generally make more food than is ordered and you can usually squeeze another table in there somewhere. But definitely, definitely ask.

So, are any of you going through these dilemmas, or does anyone have any more advice to give? Let me know in the comments!

See you at the end of the aisle,