Monday, November 19, 2012

We're Just One Small Happy Family

Does your family tree have more branches
than you know how to handle?

Yesterday, at my first-ever baby naming ceremony (congrats, Baby June!), I met a couple who explained that this upcoming weekend they would be attending their fourth wedding reception.

Of course, I immediately sought more information.

It seems that both members of this particular couple had gigantic families, about 100 people each. When combined with friends and other must-be-invited individuals, the couple’s wedding guest list neared about 400 people.

Now, the largest wedding I’ve ever heard of had a 1,200 guest list. You read that right: 1,200. It occurred in the mid-90s in Amarillo, Texas. The bride numbered her wedding gifts to keep them straight when writing thank you notes. I know because I saw all of those numbers on the bottom or side of every dish, glass and trinket in her home.

Yet, even though it contains less than four digits, a 400-person wedding falls way outside the “normal” for D.C. weddings. In HJ’s experience, most wedding invite lists approximate 150 people.

It seems that, after creating their guest list, this couple did some thinking and had very difficult conversations between themselves and with their families. The result was that they had a wedding to which they invited only their immediate family members, which totaled about 30 guests.

But…it was made known that friends or family interested in throwing a reception were more than welcome to do so and were guaranteed to have the couple in attendance. In the end, they had one wedding ceremony and four receptions.

First, yes, they received gifts at every reception (of course I asked!); yes, every reception was in a different location (two in Texas, one in Washington D.C. and the one next week in Missouri); yes, every reception had a different theme, food and favor.

Sounds awesome, right?

Apparently, it is! And mainly, the couple stated, because EVERYONE was happy.

The couple explained that a 400-person wedding was just unfathomable to them. Therefore, they did the only thing they knew how – evaded the situation altogether. By only inviting immediate family – such as siblings, grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles – they avoided:
  1. The need to explain why some family members or friends were invited and other were not;
  2. Why they drew the line on invites where they did (“No Aunt Edith wasn’t invited, but Aunt Jenny was because….well, we don’t know.”);
  3. Sending out multiple rounds of invitations;
  4. Scrimping and saving or putting themselves or their families into debt to pay for a large wedding;
  5. Planning a large wedding – a task in which they were not that interested.

All in all, the bride and groom still had their fabulous day, as well as three others!

Making the decision to have an immediate-family only wedding is not one that many couples engage in willingly or with much joy. Many times, couples feel obligated to have a large wedding and invite everyone, despite the strain it will put on their lives and wallets. Sometimes, though, it’s just the right decision.

In a similar situation, when determining if a family only wedding is the right route for you, consider:

How you will rationalize your decision. Even though it seems a no-brainer to you, others might not understand why you wouldn’t throw a big fete. Combined with the fact that talking about money isn’t always appropriate, this could make conversations about your wedding plans uncomfortable. Be prepared with a list of reasons why you decided what you did because, according to the couple I interviewed over bagels and kugel yesterday, you will be asked. (In fact, you might print that list and carry it with you).

How you will handle negative reactions. Although all of reasons for not having a large wedding listed above are more than reasonable, some family members might not respond to your decision as graciously as you’d like. Be sure that you and your future spouse can tolerate criticism, grumbling or downright disdain from upset would-be guests.

Whether you’re willing to travel to multiple receptions. I am obligated to reveal that the couple admitted they were looking forward to the end of their receptions. Because their receptions spanned a six month period, they constantly struggled to take time off work and not feel as though they were constantly away from home. If you’re not interested in all that travelling, don’t offer to do so.

How you might feel about your decision in five years. Will you be upset that you didn’t have a big wedding? Might you be sad that everyone wasn’t together at the same time? If so, perhaps a family only wedding isn’t right for you.

Overall, I encourage you to make the decision that is right for you and your future spouse. Don’t think about what your parents, friends or extended family members might say or do. The important thing is for you two to start your marriage off on the right foot, even if that foot might only be viewed by a small group of people at any given time.

This couple managed to tie the knot AND make everyone happy - no small feat in our book. Plus, the bride was able to wear her wedding dress more than once, of which I’m completely jealous.