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Planning Retirement Online

Wedding in the family


New year, new plans. If they include a wedding and you are making the plans, it pays to be aware of the possible hazards ahead of you…. Jeanne Davis issues a few warnings and offers some solutions to tricky problems  

The wedding guests are the problem 

Of all the decisions to be made in planning for a wedding, none can cause as much bad feeling as deciding on the guest list. The task should be easy on the face of it: you simply invite your close relations and your dearest friends. But deciding who falls into these categories can give you a nervous breakdown, especially when trying to keep the head count down.

Space and place


Critical to the head count is the choice of wedding/reception site. If you are set on a small country church but plan to invite 200 people, you’ve got a problem. So figure out which will have to be sacrificed: the guests or the venue.                   

My daughter and her intended were adamant about the venue they wanted. And also about the format: a sit-down dinner and dancing afterwards. The romantic banqueting hall at the Royal Geographical Society was certainly a delightful choice, but it could only seat 100 human beings.   

It was soon obvious that this was quite impossible. My husband suggested a cocktail reception so that many more people could be included. “No,” said the couple. When it began to look as if my husband’s best friend of 50 years was one of the guests to be cut, some harsh words were exchanged in our usually happy family. At one point the groom became convinced that it was all part of a secret plot with my daughter to keep numbers down.  

But there are ways around this in the form of an ante-room. True, it means that people may be out of hearing of the speeches and toasts, but you can think creatively to get over the problem.  In our case, it was my son who suggested that we put all the swinging singles and the young marrieds together in the outer room where they could talk about their particular preoccupations while the older generation got on with its own life.  

It worked a treat. The table plans were simple to work out. We all had a rollicking time and when the speeches began the younger generation filed in and provided a most enthusiastic standing audience for the best man and groom’s performances. 

The food factor

Costs for a stand-up reception with canapés will be considerably less than a three or four course sit-down dinner, and you won’t have to deal with problems about vegetarians as long as you provide a good variety of foods. You don’t have to grapple with the seating plan either.   

But if it is to be a sit-down meal, you have various options: ask on the invitations for people to state if they have any dietary needs, or provide a vegetarian choice on the menu, or include a substantial vegetarian dish as part of the main course to accompany the fish or meat. 

A guide to pruning the lists 

·        First step is to go through your guest list and put an “A” or a “B” next to each name. The A’s are the absolute “must invites” and the B list is everyone else.

·        The next step is to cut the B list. Ask yourself these questions:  

Have I seen this person in the last 12 months?

Have I spoken with this person in the last six months?  

If you answered “no” to the questions above, these are probably candidates to consider cutting from your guest list. Still too many?  

·        Don’t invite parents’ friends, particularly if the couple don’t know them very well. (Exception to this rule. If parents are paying for all or a majority of the wedding they may be entitled to more input regarding the guest list and other areas of the planning.)        

·        Don’t invite old school or university friends that you know you’ll never see again.

·        Don’t invite second or third cousins.

·        Don’t invite business colleagues unless of course it’s your boss.

·        Don’t invite children unless they are part of the “inner” family.

·        Don’t allow single people without “significant others” to bring a date.

·        Don’t invite people just because you were invited to their wedding.


Remember, when deciding on numbers you can invite more than the limit. The general rule is that 25 per cent of the invitees will not be able to come, but they will be very pleased that you did invite them. The strategy some people use is to invite all of the As and when they start declining pick up the Bs. Yes, that too can be a headache if you are sending out late invitations, but you might explain the problem to the new names on the B list and hope they understand. After all, they might have been through it too…

Who is paying?  

Because the bride’s parents traditionally paid for the wedding, they usually determined the number of guests and told the groom’s parents how many people they were allotted. Times have changed. Now that couples are paying for some – if not all - of the expenses themselves, they usually decide how many people to invite and are likely to divide that number between their two families or allocate a certain number to each family after they have put their friends on the A list.

Can parents negotiate on this one? Yes of course. But don’t demand your ‘rights’ if you want everyone to be on speaking terms on the day of the wedding. Parents could always offer to contribute funds to pay for extra numbers. If you do this, spare a thought for the other set of parents and sound them out on the situation. It can get very delicate when, for instance, one set of parents can afford more than the other or they want more guests on their list. Like marriage, most weddings require compromise.

What if the couple is already living together  

If the couple are already living together, they may want to try a different formula to the traditional wedding feast. Dierdre decided on a three-stage wedding. Because she and her partner had been living together for four years, they didn’t need a big show.

The couple chose to go to the registry office for the wedding ceremony. No family was in attendance. But a luncheon in a restaurant followed with only 35 close relations and dearest friends invited, an event that proved relaxed and memorable. Friends of the parents, some who knew the newly marrieds since their toddler days, were invited in for the evening for drinks at the house of one set of parents’. 

There are other variations. Increasingly, there are the couples who do their weddings on Caribbean islands, with but a few friends and perhaps only close family in attendance. Later on they may have a reception back home. 

Hurt feelings 

Most likely, someone is going to feel hurt. It goes with the event and you have to make allowances for it. Don’t be too hasty with the condemnations. The hurt person usually gets over it, as do the hosts. Remember, as with marriage, most weddings require compromise.   



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