We’re in the very earliest stages of wedding planning, trying to come up with a guest list so that we have approximate numbers in mind when we look into venues, etc. How can - or should - we balance a seriously lopsided family tree with our desire to have our friends there (and not go bankrupt/remain engaged forever)? Details inside.
We both have very small immediate families. We’ve agreed that there are several groups of close friends without whom a celebration of our marriage would not feel right, either. A gathering of all of these people, plus our immediate families, would total about 50 people.
Things become more complicated when we start talking about our extended families. My fiancé’s extended family is tiny, and all live near where we’ll be getting married (MN). Even if we invited them all, and they all came (which his parents think is unlikely), that would be about 15 people – not something that would alter the the group described above too dramatically. However, my dad is one of nine children, all of whom are married and have multiple adult children, some of whom are now married with children of their own. There are over 50 people on this side of my family alone. Inviting all of them would make for a much larger, not to mention a more expensive, celebration. (We are paying for the wedding on our own; my dad has been struggling to make ends meet for years and really can’t offer any help. FWIW, my relationship with him is not great, but his family doesn't know that.)
I'm close to a couple of my aunts and cousins, but I only see the rest of these family members once every few years. However, they all live near one another in the area where I grew up – some in the same housing development – and vacation together, get together multiple times a month for birthdays, holidays, etc. Most of them send me Christmas cards. They’re so close-knit that it seems like it would cause hurt feelings and confusion if only four or five of them were invited. My dad announced my engagement to them, so the cat’s out of the bag there, and I’ve received “congratulations and YAY FAMILY WEDDING”-type messages from several of them that indicate that they expect to be invited.
We’re having a hard time figuring out whether, and where, to draw lines here. On the one hand, I don’t feel especially close to most of these people and am unlikely to see them again on any sort of regular basis in the future. Most of them have never met my fiancé. Inviting them would literally double some of our expenses, and prolong our engagement, as we've been saving up for whatever we end up doing from scratch while taking care of student loans, living expenses, etc.
On the other hand, I do value my relationships with a few of them, and it seems strange – and potentially hurtful – to invite some but not others, or to invite friends but not invite some/all of my family members (especially those with whom I have a relationship). It feels similar to this
dilemma, but different in that these are closer relatives – my dad’s siblings – so things feel more fraught.
Would it be awful of us to invite some of my family members and not others?
… invite my fiancé’s extended family, but not mine?
… not invite our extended families at all?
If we stick to close friends and immediate families only, how could we explain it? (Resorting to “wanted to keep it small” seems bound to fail once folks learn – as they inevitably would, via my dad – that approximately 50 people not related to us were in attendance.)