Upon hearing about a family member or close friend’s engagement, I express my sincerest elation for them. Immediately afterward, I offer a few pieces of advice, including my favorite: “Be selfish and do whatever the hell you two want.”
People normally interpret my advice as a recommendation to choose the type of wedding they want (beach vs. church, lots of flowers vs. none at all, etc.). While that’s important, being honest about the number of guests desired should be at the very top of your list.
After I got engaged, I expected that the guest list would be the hardest and most stressful part of wedding planning. After setting our max number of invitees aside (using the percentage rule), my husband (then-fiancé) and I divided that number, allowing us both to invite the same amount of people. It was important to us that we spent money on our dream wedding, which required that our guest list be smaller than we would have hoped. We got over feeling bad about that pretty quickly.
In order to keep our list under the maximum number allotted and invite those closest to us, we decided to not allow guests to bring a date unless they were married (or engaged). In most cases, we had to inform those unmarried guests, who were dating someone, that they could not bring a date (this would be further enforced by our invitation, which indicated the number of seats a guest was allocated).
However, this didn’t stop certain friends from asking me outright if they could bring a date (testing me like a toddler would his or her parent), hoping and seeking a different answer than before.
Some unmarried guests deemed it unfair and even questioned other guests’ privileges at the wedding reception. Two guests were able to bring their girlfriends after all – one had already bought an engagement ring and the other guest’s girlfriend had become a really good friend of mine right after I got engaged.
I never explained myself to those not-so-single friends who weren’t happy about the guest list number, mainly because I didn’t feel it was necessary. But inviting someone’s boo, and in most cases, the boo of the season, is not desirable for a few reasons.
For one, you, the bride or groom, don’t know this man or woman. While saying your vows, it should be in front of the people you love the most and with whom you want to celebrate this joyous occasion. If you don’t know a person, even if you’ve met them once, why invite them to a significant event in your life?
Secondly, weddings can be expensive. Let’s say that your food, open bar and cake (if all lumped into one package) is around $100 per person. For a wedding of 150 guests, your total would be $15,000, excluding decorations, vendors and other essentials. Paying for a complete stranger when you’re trying to stick to a budget is a no-no.
As for disgruntled guests, if you find yourself invited to a wedding and not able to bring a date, don’t ask to bring one — especially if you’ve been told otherwise. An exception, however, might be if you don’t know anyone else slated to attend. In that case, there might be additional space closer to the date to allow you to bring someone.
But at the end of the day, don’t be offended if your flavor of the month can’t come. At least you made the cut! And when your time comes, trust me, you will understand.
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