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Deciding on the wedding guest list

Previous: where to stay in Naarden Vesting

Probably one of the toughest tasks in planning a wedding is making up the guest list. The marrying couple must decide jointly whom to invite and whom to exclude. These decisions are driven not only want but also by obligation. You may feel obliged to invite someone, particularly family members or spouses of your immediate family, but you would rather not if you can. Similarly, you may want to invite someone but under the circumstances it's wiser not to. On the receiving end, your invitees may feel an obligation to accept though they may not want to. You must not take it personally, for they will have their reasons.

Another criterion for your decision is the size and kind of wedding you've already decided to have. Should you choose a small and intimate wedding, you will have to refrain from the urge to tell everyone and accidentally lead some to invite themselves. Should you choose a medium sized wedding, it might involve some strategic thinking to get to that size. If you want a big wedding, you will need to give a lot of notice to allow people to re-arrange their schedules.

Deciding on the guest list takes you down memory lane. Take out your address book to help you along the path. Not everyone will come to mind immediately. It's an opportunity to renew old acquaintenance as well as open doors to new friendships. Your guests will get to know who you are through your family members and other wedding guests.

Let's start from the top --- those people that must be invited. Family: your parents, your children, your brothers and sisters. These are the immediate family. Should there be step-families, it gets more complicated.

Should you invite your ex-spouse? This is a sensitive area. From what I've read on the Internet so far, experts advise not to invite ex-spouses for they make other guests uncomfortable even if the marrying couple don't mind. Marriage and divorce are not solitary commitments: when you marry someone, you marry the entire package. When you divorce some, you let go of not only the person but his family too.

Next: your witnesses and close friends who have come afar. This is not to say that close friends that live nearby are to be excluded. But there is a pecking order. How difficult it is to get to the wedding does make a difference. If your guest rearranges his schedule and flies half-way around the world to attend your wedding, you are obliged to treat him like family and not exclude him from any part of the wedding programme.

While making up the wedding list, you might recall those weddings you've attended. Should you reciprocate and invite those now married couples? I can think of many friends whose weddings I've attended, and at the time, told myself I'd reciprocate. Where are they now? Would they come to your wedding or would a post-wedding announcement do?

Do you invite your current close friends, past close friends, or future close friends? This is where you think about friendship --- how is it different from acquaintance? Can you invite one person without the other, if both belong to the same group? Fairness and equality come to mind. You want to be fair, but this is your wedding.

What about colleagues? Classmates? Neighbours? People you say hello to everyday?

The criteria for inviting guests who are not immediate family include whether or not that person will make you feel comfortable, i.e. not make a scene or be tactless, and not that of obligation. I have many friends that are fine on a one-to-one basis but not in a group situation. They are the type that prefer the solitude and focus of a sit-down conversation rather than the gaiety of a large party. The danger of inviting such friends is that they will feel alienated among strangers.

After you have listed everyone you ought to invite and everyone you want to invite, put a probability next to each name. How likely is the person going to come? Some people say they will come but never show up. Some people don't say anything but show up. This is where RSVP (respondez si vous plait) comes in. You must confirm with each person. Your budget determines how many people you can definitely invite and show up.

Making up the wedding guest list is somewhat like booking hotel rooms. Occasionally you have to overbook.

Next: wedding logistics

15 September 2005 Thursday

Related links:
analyticalQ weddings
Deciding for your wedding
8 September 2005
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Anne Ku at Ilp in May 2001
Anne Ku

writes about her travels, conversations, thoughts, events, music, and anything else that is interesting enough to fill a web page. See her publication list for more.
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