Inviting some but not all second cousins to our wedding?
May 26, 2011 4:33 PM   Subscribe

Weddings: can we invite some of my second cousins without inviting them all? And how to minimize the fallout it we don't?

We're looking at wedding venues right now, and we've found one we think we really like. If we decide to go with this venue, I'd have room to invite 15-20 out of ~50 of my second cousins. I asked, and my grandmother thinks I should invite all 50 second cousins or none of them. Is that really how it works?

I get that the family is close. Everyone except me grew up together in the NY/NJ/CT area, and they all get together in various family configurations several times per year for things.

Also, since we're getting married in AZ (where I was born and raised), it would be a nice big family vacation, meaning everyone invited would come. When my only first cousin "Gary" got married a few years ago in NM, they wound up inviting all of the second cousins, and that was their experience. I admit, it was fun, and nice to see everyone, but they had a bigger wedding than we'd like (or honestly, can afford).

On the other hand, I grew up in AZ, far away from the rest of the family. Many of these people I've met fewer than five times, so I feel like my experience with the family is a little different from Gary's, who grew up right there in NY with everyone. And while I really like everyone in the family, there are some with whom I am closer, and some I honestly wouldn't recognize if we passed each other on the street.

(Complicating things further, I'm not terribly closely related to the second cousins I would like to invite (they're my mom's cousin's kids, but I wouldn't be inviting my mom's cousin).)

So I guess, in short: Are we crazy to want to invite some of our extended families without inviting all of them? And if we do, how can we minimize/manage the fallout both of a) going against my grandmother's advice and b) some people not getting invited?
posted by joshuaconner to Human Relations (30 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
It's your wedding, invite whoever you want. Especially (but not only) because you're paying for it.
posted by 2bucksplus at 4:36 PM on May 26, 2011 [5 favorites]

Can you invite the 2nd cousins just to the reception and not to the actual ceremony?
posted by patronuscharms at 4:41 PM on May 26, 2011

"The venue is small, so we've only invited those cousins that we've had a chance to get to know well over the years." That's the answer that's worked for millions, including me.
posted by matildaben at 4:43 PM on May 26, 2011 [10 favorites]

I would figure out who would be upset if you did this, and address the issue with those people proactively. For instance, if it's Grandma, give her a call and let her know that you would love to invite all the second cousins, but can't afford to, so will only be inviting those you're close to.

Honestly, the actual cousins probably won't care if you aren't close. Anyone in your generation has a better idea of the costs of a wedding, and probably a more realistic understanding of the relationship you have. If you're inviting some second cousins, though, you should think about inviting their parents.

We invited all of my cousins to my wedding, and one of my husband's. Haven't heard a peep.
posted by freshwater at 4:45 PM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Ugh, we went through this. If you're closer to some than others, invite the ones you know well. The rest won't be offended.

Alternatively, if you aren't very close to any of them, don't invite any of them. That's really okay, too.
posted by thinkingwoman at 4:48 PM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Can you invite the 2nd cousins just to the reception and not to the actual ceremony?

That doesn't help with the money issue -- it's the reception that's expensive.

I think you can invite only some if there is a very clear line: like there are 5 you actually know and stay in touch with, and the others you've met twice. If it's not a clear line -- if you just kind of LIKE some more than others, but know them all equally (not) well -- I'm with your Grandma. And would be very strongly inclined to invite none.

Further question: what about your betrothed? How many relatives on that side? Are second cousins even in the cards?

My husband and I didn't invite ANY cousins -- we're not close as adults -- and no one cared.
posted by kestrel251 at 4:50 PM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you're close with 15 of them, then invite 15 of them. If you're not and just doing it out of a sense of obligation, then don't invite any of them. It's your wedding and you're entitled to invite anyone you like and you're entitled to not invite anyone you like as well.
posted by inturnaround at 5:09 PM on May 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

Invite the ones you're close to. It's your wedding!
posted by SisterHavana at 5:12 PM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yeah, you pretty much have to invite them all or none.

However, if you're not close with most of them, most of them will probably decline.

You can't invite them to the wedding and not the reception. That's dividing people into A-list and B-list. Especially if they're travelling, ouch.

The root of the problem is that you are fitting your wedding to the venue, rather than your venue to the wedding. If the wedding is about family, invite all your second cousins and pick a venue that could hold them all. If the wedding is about your special day, choose the venue you want and don't invite any second cousins.
posted by tel3path at 5:12 PM on May 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'm the bride!

kestrel251: Second cousins aren't an issue in my family but my first cousin/aunt/uncle, um, branch(?) is bigger than the groom's. BUT I can fit all the family I'm inviting plus my closest friends into less than 40 people (the total is still less than 50 once I factor in plus ones). I'm the oldest of my generation though, so that makes things easier -- most of my cousins are college-age and younger. The groom is the youngest, which means most of his first cousins have kids of their own, etc.

Some things to note: the groom's mother's extended family actually is close; the groom's mother is really pushing for us to change venues (and even locales -- like, another state/country) to accommodate a larger guest list; grandma is in her 90's and very proud of her large extended family and we don't want to offend her; on the other hand we don't want to sacrifice quality for quantity.

Finally, we do have room for more of the groom's mother's family in our favorite venue, but definitely not all of them. I love the "B list" concept, but I don't feel like we can "B list" people coming from so far away, they'll need more time to plan....
posted by explcurve at 5:24 PM on May 26, 2011

I have a family like this and I think you have to bite the bullet and invite everyone.

If you invite one first cousin, invite all the first cousins.
If you invite one second cousin, invite all the second cousins.

You can draw the line at different classes (all or no second-cousins-once-removed) and if you made a special dispensation for someone with whom you are particularly close I think most people would understand. But if you invite 15-20 and don't invite the remaining 35 I really think you're only buying yourself trouble.
posted by gerryblog at 5:37 PM on May 26, 2011

Response by poster: if you're not close with most of them, most of them will probably decline.

Probably true with most families. With my family, pretty positive that would not be the case.
posted by joshuaconner at 5:41 PM on May 26, 2011

(Complicating things further, I'm not terribly closely related to the second cousins I would like to invite (they're my mom's cousin's kids, but I wouldn't be inviting my mom's cousin).)

When we invited people to our wedding parents were always ranked higher than children. If you invite the kids you should probably invite the parents too.

I should add that we really just did what our parents told us too. I'd be hesitant to go against the orders of whoever your direct superior in the hierarchy is. That's always been my strategy for navigating large-family-insanity and it's never steered me wrong.
posted by gerryblog at 5:42 PM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm currently planning my wedding and both my fiancée and I will be inviting some first cousins and not others. Hell, we're both leaving out some aunts and uncles. This is due, in part, to us renting a small ceremony/reception venue, but the large part of it is that we just don't want some of our cousins/aunts and uncles there. There will be fallout that comes with this decision, and there has been pressure to invite everyone, but we know that our wedding will be more enjoyable this way.
posted by Homo economicus at 5:42 PM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Have the wedding you can afford, which means you decide who you want there and THEN and only THEN pick the venue.

If this family is as close as you say you are going to wind up offending someone if you pick and choose which cousins to invite. In your shoes I would either invite all or none.

Now then. If the only reason your wedding is going to be on the smaller side is financial, would that side of the family consider chipping in on expenses in order for the whole gang to show up?
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:07 PM on May 26, 2011

Best answer: I think you'd better get a bigger venue and expect to have to invite and host everyone. Think of it this way: how much drama is it going to cause for the rest of your life if 20 second cousins don't get invited? It may not matter if they are close to YOU or not, but if Cousin A is invited and Cousin B isn't, there may be drama and hurt feelings aplenty, especially when the invited cousins go on about the wedding and then find out the other ones can't come too. Which they will because they are all close to each other.

I mean, it's gonna depend on your own family dynamics and if you care or not if they are ticked at you, but wedding drama kinda never goes away. It might be worth it mentally to not have to hear from Grandma or your mom or whoever that you deliberately left out members of your beloved family.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:07 PM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: To those who are suggesting get a bigger venue, we're trying! We want to stay in Northern Arizona, and all of the venues we've looked at are either too small or cost-prohibitive (i.e. Sedona).
posted by joshuaconner at 6:20 PM on May 26, 2011

Response by poster: Or non-workable for some other reason, like not allowing alcohol or dancing.
posted by joshuaconner at 6:23 PM on May 26, 2011

The way to minimize fallout is to be clear and confident about your choices.

Personally, unless you're very close to the 15-20 second cousins, I'd opt to invite none just to maintain family peace. That said, it's your wedding, your venue, and you can invite whoever you want. I had a small venue. I invited a second cousin, grandparents, and some step-relatives because I actually spend time with them, and did not invite cousins, aunts, and uncles because I haven't seen them in years. I don't feel bad about it. To my knowledge, no one in my family cared (or, if they did, no one hassled me about it). I took the approach of saying, "This is what I'm doing. I hear your concerns but this isn't something I'm going to change," and leaving it at that.
posted by Meg_Murry at 6:45 PM on May 26, 2011

Response by poster: It's really 4 second cousins, but that's ~20 people when you count spouses and kids.
posted by joshuaconner at 6:47 PM on May 26, 2011

I was thinking less about the total number of second cousins you'd invite and more about the sense I'm getting that this would create family drama in a way that would make you uncomfortable. If you prioritize avoiding family drama: don't invite any second cousins. If you prioritize including people you're close to: invite the four second cousins. It's totally your call which priority you choose, you just have to choose one.
posted by Meg_Murry at 7:07 PM on May 26, 2011

Invite the second cousins with whom you interact at least somewhat regularly. The ones you haven't heard from in 5 years can be treated differently. If you wouldn't recognize them on the street, would you want to foot the bill for them to share such a special moment with you and your fiancée? They probably wouldn't care whether or not you invited them if you're practically strangers.
posted by sunnychef88 at 7:45 PM on May 26, 2011

Best answer: You really will make people upset if you invite cousins but not their parents or what have you. Everyone really wants to go to a Big Family Party. So let them go to a Big Family Party, that doesn't have to be immediately after your wedding.

We had two receptions--one, small one in our city with immediate family and local friends, and then a larger family-reunion type reception months later in my partners' hometown for neighbors, uncles, cousins, and the like. There's no way we could invite his big sprawling family to a venue in NYC without bankruptcy. It worked out really well and no one was offended.

So, two receptions is my suggestion.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:01 PM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

We just invited the ones we like. If anybody was offended, they haven't brought it up to me. ("It's not that I don't like's that I don't 40-dollars-a-plate like you.")
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 8:20 PM on May 26, 2011

Who is paying for this?

Would (humbly) soliciting the close family who expect a big wedding for additional funding work?

Honestly, I can't see any other way to work this. You need the money to satisfy their urgent request and expectation - so ask for it!

(Congratulations on your upcoming nuptials, btw!)
posted by jbenben at 9:01 PM on May 26, 2011

My mom's family is like yours. For our wedding, we did the tier system -- all the first cousins, no second cousins. Picking and choosing from among the tiers would have caused hurt feelings and possibly even boycotts from family members loyal to the excluded ones, etc. I liked the tier system because we were following an impersonal rule (stopping at first cousins) that preserved our desire for a more limited guest list without making people feel like there was some personal reason they were put on the "outs" list. I think people understand that pretty well and don't feel hurt.
posted by palliser at 9:10 PM on May 26, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks to everyone for the feedback (and don't be afraid to keep chiming in); it was really good to hear lots of perspectives. While my family isn't terribly dramatic, it seems like it might be better to err on the side of caution with this. (As jenfullmoon pointed out, wedding drama is forever.)

So we're going to look at some other. larger wedding venues, and failing that, it sounds like a big dinner in NYC (maybe on our way to our honeymoon!) for everyone might be our best bet.
posted by joshuaconner at 11:08 PM on May 26, 2011

Well fear of "drama" is how it affects you, and "offended" is not something anyone is likely to bring up to you. So if you rely on the social contract, you can do exactly what you want, and no-one will say anything.

I wasn't invited to my first cousin's wedding, nor was my mother, though the event seemed significant enough to both of us for my mother to send a gift to her niece even though we haven't seen much of each other.

It wasn't a question of being "offended" so much as having it quietly made clear that I wasn't worth the paper an invitation would be written on in this context. Which I accept, because, you know, it is what it is. An opportunity to get to know that side of the family better... wasn't taken, and it kind of reminds me that I'm relatively alone in the world, but clearly that isn't my cousin's problem nor would I have considered creating "drama" by confronting her with my being "offended" which I'm sure she would never ever have dreamed I might be anyway since, see above, we aren't close - obviously.
posted by tel3path at 12:33 AM on May 27, 2011

The big dinner in NYC afterwards sounds like a good plan: better than stretching your funds to a larger venue to invite people you barely even know.

(Side note/ slight derail: watch what date you choose! One of my cousins and his bride decided to hold their wedding one year TO THE DAY after the bride's grandfather was found dead. The wedding was informal, on the property of friends --- so no problem with reserved venue dates or anything --- and the wedding date was selected well AFTER the grandfather's death; they could have EASILY made it the weekend before or even the day after, instead of forcing her family to choose between respect for the family patriarch or attending the wedding.)
posted by easily confused at 4:14 AM on May 27, 2011

It's really 4 second cousins, but that's ~20 people when you count spouses and kids.

You most certainly do not have to invite the kids.
posted by inturnaround at 5:10 AM on May 27, 2011

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