Posts in the 'guest lists' Category

{Ask Liz} Nixing New In-Laws From The Guest List & Calculating The Cost Of A Park Wedding

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

The Wedding Advice Box is OPEN. Dive in!

Dear Liz,

My fiance and I are planning a wedding with an extremely tight budget and agreed that we would limit our guests to immediate family to cut cost. My fiance’s family is relatively small and scattered around the country, so most of them probably wouldn’t be able to make it anyway. By inviting only parents, siblings, and grandparents, I get pretty much everyone I would want to see on my wedding day, minus my step-cousin’s screaming toddler. Sounds like a great plan, right?

Not as easy as it sounds. When my mom remarried I inherited a large, unruly mob of opinionated aunts, uncles, cousins, and one particularly pushy grandmother. A few of my cousins have already asked me about the wedding date and sound like they’re planning to attend. But, I’m not planning on inviting them. I’m a people pleaser and I dread having to turn them down…so far I’ve just been non-committal, but I know that can’t last.

Do you have any advice on a tactful way to let friends and extended family know that they won’t be getting an invite?


Guilty Conscience

Hey Guilty,

Start with your mom. Tell her that because of your budget, you and your fiance are only inviting immediate family. Make it CLEAR that this includes her and her husband, but doesn’t include her new extended family. Be nice, but stay firm. She will, hopefully, spread the word. If one of your new cousins asks again, tell them the same thing, that the wedding has to be small, so you’re only inviting immediate family. Be gracious and kind, in the “We wish we could invite more people, but we can’t.” If they keep pushing, repeat it, until you can safely change the subject.


Fill ‘er up?

Dear Liz,

As a fellow broke-ass bride, I’m considering having my wedding in a state park. Though I’ll save money on venue fees, I know it will cost me more to bring in all the equipment necessities like tents, tables, lights, restrooms etc. So in the end I’m wondering – will this really save me money? If I do go this route, do you have any suggestions/advice to pull it off?


Six of One, How Many Thousand for the Other?

Dear Six,

This is a really good question, and something that my brides run into all the time. Not knowing anything about your overall budget, I can only sort of give you an idea of what it would cost here in Los Angeles. Costs here can run about 20-25% higher than the national average (example: I just gassed up at $3.78/gal, how much did YOU last pay at the pump?). So, best case scenario, with deals I’ve been able to find, for 100 guests? Everything that you would have to bring in, starting with tables and chairs, ending with the salt shakers and porta-potties, would run you close to $3,000. That’s not even including a tent, and God help you if your caterer needs to build a kitchen.   It does include delivery, though. So, figure out how much it would be for you, and add that to the park fee. Don’t forget that you have to feed everyone on what’s left of the first half of your budget, after venue fees and rentals.

How to save? First of all, the number one rule of saving money is to invite less people to your wedding. Less people = less tables, chairs, plates, cups, centerpieces, food, alcohol, you see where I’m going with this. If that’s not possible, the good news is that you get to decide what “everything” looks like. So, think higher-end paper plates and plastic-ware, as opposed to dishes and silverware. Remember to get 3 times as many plates and silverware as you have guests.  Ask the state park for rental company recommendations, they’ll have them. Food and alcohol…look for restaurants that can drop off and set up the food as opposed to a full-service catering company. That comes with its own complications, since caterers come with catering staff, which is often a necessary evil as far serving, busing, and general reception maintenance.  Comparison shop the two options and decide from there. Alcohol? Wine, beer and/or a specialty drink. Before you go for dirt cheap anything, taste it, test-drive it and look at it in person. And don’t settle for ugly. This might take some time, but most informed decisions do.

So, what’s giving you a guilty conscience about your wedding? And how did you save money on your park wedding? Let us know and ask your questions below. If you would like to find out more about me, go to

And, hey, join us for a live chat with Liz on Twitter next Wednesday, 1/23 at 11:30 am PST, and bring along your best wedding planning questions! @brokeassbride, hashtag #livewithliz.

See you at the end of the aisle,



{Ask Liz} Jumpstarting Your Wedding & A Few Words About Bridal Shower Etiquette

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

Fill these seats carefully! (Photo by Pictilio)

Dear Liz,

My brother is getting married in May and his bride-to-be has asked for my help with planning the wedding. We will have to travel about four hours to where it is taking place. There will more than likely be 50 (or less) guests in attendance, which is what they want. She doesn’t feel terrible about leaving a lot of people out on her special day especially since she knows a lot of them wouldn’t want to make the trip. I was just wondering is it acceptable to invite uninvited guests to a huge bridal shower in her honor??


Shower Struggle

Dear Struggle,

Yeah…no. You really can’t invite people to the shower who haven’t been invited to the wedding. Showers = gifts and money. So basically you’re telling them that even though they weren’t important enough to watch her get married, they can still travel X amount of hours to give her a blender. Plus, you’ll be positioning your future sister-in-law – publicly – as “the woman that didn’t invite them to her wedding”. At some point, to someone, she will have to explain why, and probably have to do so over and over again.  Trust me, someone will mention it or ask for details. Awkward. Awkward, awkward.  If you are worried about a low turnout, invite the guys, too.


Resistance is futile.

Dear Liz,

I just got engaged! Is there some type of simple check list, for starting to plan a wedding? Like…

1- Budget

2 – Guest list

3 – Dress??

I’m so overwhelmed by the whole process!


In the Deep End

Dear Deep,

Welcome to Wedding World! First of all, bonus points for putting your dress third. That sort of practical thinking will get you far around here. Start with your guest list – his list, your list, and your parents’ lists. And, yeah, if your budget is a consideration, figure that out while you’re getting your guests together. You should reserve half of your budget for your ceremony and reception site, and your catering. A little perspective – a comparable wedding dinner at Olive Garden for 100 guests would be around $5,000. Those are also the first three things you need to pay for. Once you got that done, I give you permission to start shopping for your dress. You should probably book a photographer first, but there’s no reason to be a saint. Have fun!

Who did you invite to your bridal shower? How long did you resist shopping for your dress? Just engaged, and got questions? Let me know below! And, you can find out more about me and my slice of Wedding World at

See you at the end of the aisle,


Ask Liz About Guest Lists and Guest Blocks

I know, I know, two weeks in a row. People email me and ask stuff, stuff you might want to know, too, and I didn’t want to wait. This is not a precedent. Most likely. :-)

Only so much room...table and budget-wise. Photo courtesy of Brett Arthur Weddings

Dear Liz,

My mother is contributing to part of our wedding, so when she told us we had to invite certain friends from her college days, I obliged even though our guest count is already higher than I’d like because every guest means another $100+ in catering and I know that keeping the guest count low is one of the best ways to keep costs down.

At the time, she assured me that one of her college friends didn’t need a plus one because we’re not super-close and he and his SO are not engaged, married, or living together (which was apparently what Emily Post told my mother should be the deciding factor on whether guests get a plus one). We addressed the Save the Date just to him, but when my mother spoke to him, he hinted that he and his SO would be attending.

Now she says I should plan on both of them attending, but I feel that she should be able to politely explain that we’re on a budget and we’re also up against the space constraints of the venue so we’re not able to accommodate plus one’s for every guest. Obviously, if they both show up, we’ll graciously accommodate them, but I think there’s plenty of time to clear up this confusion and avoid guest creep. She’s offered a lump sum so my groom and I will have to absorb the cost of the extra plus one (whom we’ve never met). What’s the appropriate way to handle this?


List Locked

Dear List,

Well, there are a couple of things going here, both of which can get pretty touchy.  First of all, these are your Mom’s guests, and I get that you don’t want to put her in  position where she has to un-invite them to her daughter’s wedding. Definitely start by telling her that, and that you’re grateful for the money she’s given you.  Leading with the truth is always a good idea! But remind her that It’s $100 + (be VERY specific about the cost) if he brings his SO. And then stop talking and let her reply.

Do NOT go into how you may have cut your own guest list to accommodate both your budget and the venue. Do NOT go into how you don’t understand why she didn’t ask you if it was okay first, or just tell him “No” in the first place. It’s done, and that’s only going to put her on the defensive.

If she does ask about the money that she already gave you, tell  her that you’ve already it used for whatever you’ve already used it for. Again, be specific. And calm. If you haven’t used all of the money yet, tell her what you were going to use it for.

She will probably do one of two things, or maybe both. She will say that she will give you the money for the extra guest, or say that another $100 or so isn’t a big deal. Since, again, you don’t want to put her in an awkward situation, you should give her the option of paying for the SO, if she wants.

But here’s the second thing: you’re worried about this extra guest, sure, but you’re really worried about the next extra guest. So, however it is that she responds, remind her that the venue capacity is X, and right now you stand at Y. You (use “We” since you’re all in this together) can’t invite any more people after this, especially at $200+ a couple. Ask her if she can agree  to draw the line with this couple. Ask, not tell.

And remember – don’t get angry, just be calm and clear. Good luck.


Such a simple building to be so filled with questions, you know?

Dear Liz,

I’m SUPER confused about his whole hotel block thing. First, we live in the middle of the Texas Hill Country. Our families are coming for a week to 10 days before the wedding to help, and a lot of our guests are from out of town. I’m happy to find a block of rooms at one of the two hotels in the 20 minute drive radius from us but… how do I do that? What’s the budget for something like that? Do I have to pay a deposit for the rooms? What if I reserve ten rooms and only 2 people book? Am I stuck covering the remaining rooms? Or do I just list a bunch of hotels on our website and let people handle reserving them themselves?


Room Blocked

Dear Blocked,

Call each hotel and ask for their sales or catering department. Not reservations. They are the ones who deal with larger bookings. I talk about this in my book, but what you want is called a “complimentary” block of rooms. They might have another term for it, but basically, you tell them you need 10 rooms for your guests, or however many, and they give you a discounted rate, and a deadline for when they need to be booked. Rooms in your block that are not booked lose the discounted rate after the deadline, but you’re not responsible for paying for them. Usually you have to sign a contract to that effect.
There is also a second type called a “closed” block. It starts out the same – you reserve 10 rooms,  they give you a discount and  a deadline to book them, BUT if a certain percentage of rooms isn’t booked, you have to pay for them. So, say you reserve 10 rooms, your contract says that you’re responsible for 80 percent of them, but by the time your deadline comes around only 7 have been booked? You have to pay for the 8th room.

The complimentary block is preferable, obviously, but if you do have to sign a contract for a closed block, stick to the minimum number of rooms that they will let you reserve, and start keeping track a couple of weeks after you send out the invites. And you can always add more rooms to either block later on. Subtracting isn’t as easy, though. And, with either block type,  ask how many days out it’s  good for. In other words, some of your guests are coming the day before the weddings, your families for over a week. Make sure that the rates they give you apply to all of those days.

So, are you having problems with your parent’s growing guest list? Any questions about securing a hotel block? Let us all know in the comments below!

See you at the end of the aisle,