We’ve had numerous discussions with brides and grooms lately on how to deal with what they can afford vs. what their parents want. The most common issue is that they’re paying for the wedding themselves, but their parents have a guests list that FAR exceeds what the couple can afford to pay for. One bride we talked with yesterday, Becky (congratulations!), has a relatively small budget her and her fiance put together for their wedding, but their parents (a total of 4 sets) have a guest list was at 200 people SO FAR.
We feel for Becky and brides like her. Sue and I want everyone to have a great wedding – even if we’re not hired to be a part of it. We understand that dealing with family dynamics can take something like your wedding, that should be fun and exciting, and make it seem almost unpleasant. Our recommendation for brides struggling with this sort of thing is to plan your wedding on paper, and figure out what you can afford. Put down your budget for everything. Start with the ‘fixed cost’ items like venue (just the room costs – not food), photographer and entertainment. Then take your ‘per person’ costs items, invitations, rentals, food, cake, and beverage – and figure out how many people you can afford to feed based upon your menu and other choices. Remember to leave a percentage of your budget for unexpected costs that might sneak up on you.
The idea is to come up with the number of guests you can AFFORD to have at your wedding given your existing budget.
So you’ve done this…. now what?
Take your TOTAL BUDGET* and divide it by the number of people you came up with. This is a per person cost for your wedding. If you’re wondering how your wedding stacks up – Megan K with Megan K Events recommends setting aside $150 per person for a ‘typical’ wedding budget. Some can cost much less (as low as $10 per person) – some can cost much more ($1000 or more) – it all depends on your choices and how much is hired vs. Do-It-Yourself.
Now is the tough part. Reality check. Your parents want to invite FAR more people than this and they refuse to pay for anything. This is where I recommend you stop reading, and go watch the Godfather. You see, it’s not personal, it’s business. Figure out your personal guest list of friends, take them off the top, and then take what’s left and split them between the two families (or 4 if both sets of parents are divorced). If you can afford 100, and want to invite 20 friends, then with 4 sets of parents, each gets to INVITE 20 people. If they want to invite more, they can. But each person they INVITE requires them to cut you a check for the per person amount. BEFORE they’re invited. Remember if they’re inviting Person+Guests or married couples to attend then that’s two people.
Here are the basic ground rules we recommend:
1. Be fair. Give each parent, or family the same number of guests to invite. No playing favorites.
2. If they want to play games, or come up with ‘conditions’ cut them off. It’s per person INVITED. PERIOD. If someone RSVP’s that they won’t be attending, they can invite someone else. The ‘They won’t eat’ card doesn’t work here. That’s just rude. Don’t play ‘games’ and stand your ground.
3. If they want to send invitations to people who they know won’t be able to attend, offer to send them a
‘save the date’ card (Heather, with L’Evento Event Resource Boutique is right – you shouldn’t send save the date cards to those you won’t be sending invitations), or ‘wedding announcement’ instead of an invitation. But they should be warned – sometimes people can surprise you and they can, and will, show up for a wedding when you thought they might not. And letting them know about a wedding and not sending them an invitation can offend some people.
4. Don’t let them scare you. So one parent has 300 business associates they want to attend. Consider letting them – but see below.
5. Being able to afford it has nothing to do with it. If one parent is on a fixed income and just squeaking buy, but another is well-to-do – it’s the unfortunate game of economics. You have to be fair across the board to prevent even more drama.
6. Limit the total per parent. Base this on the total size of the venue. If your venue can handle 200 people, limit your parents to the total amount that will fit. An inexpensive VFW location is great until you’re at capacity and have to move to a much larger venue that’s FAR more expensive. Don’t put yourself in that situation by limiting the total number of guests.
Remember, it all comes down to understanding what you can afford, the type of wedding atmosphere you want, and then standing your ground. I’d love to drive a Maserati – but I can’t afford it. Sue and I had planned a HUGE wedding celebration – and due to it being postponed due to a family member being in the hospital, we ended up doing something MUCH smaller later. We plan to do a big blowout at our 10 year anniversary.
It’s unfortunate brides and grooms are put in this situation. We wish family drama like this didn’t happen. But we’re seeing it more and more. In the end, it comes down to this. Stand your ground and remember it’s not personal. Limiting your guest list is a very quick way to keep your wedding costs under control and you can afford what you can afford. Plan your wedding, focus on the positive, and let the negative ‘family drama’ be put aside. Putting a price on their demands – telling them you can’t afford that is the ADULT thing to do. Remind them of that.
And what happens if you have a little extra money left over? Consider upgrading a vendor, a package, or serve a little better food. Or…. use it on your honeymoon. Or… do the adult thing. Start saving for your retirement.
Do you have any methods you’ve used to ‘reign in’ parents’ desires? Let us know if this works for you, or if you have other methods you’ve used to make your wedding a success! And as always – if you have questions, we’ll help you find the answers!
First Day Entertainment is a wedding entertainment company providing a DJ and Master of Ceremonies for weddings throughout Pensacola, Mobile, Destin, the Emerald Coast, and beyond. They specialize in creative entertainment for discerning couples – coupling cultural, religious, and personal tastes into your wedding entertainment.
* – If you’re wondering why you won’t take just the ‘per person’ costs, there are some things that carry no costs until you hit a certain amount. For example, every 8-10 people you need to add a table. Doesn’t matter if you put 1 or 8 people at the table – at a certain point you add the table. This helps to deal with issues like this and provides a little ‘wiggle room’ if you missed something.