Welcome to another article in our series about headcount and guest lists! If you’ve been following along, you probably read my previous article where I mentioned divvying up part of your guest list among parents. Well, in today’s article I’m diving deep into this issue.
A generally accepted rule is for the guest list to be determined by whoever is paying for the wedding And traditionally, the bride’s parents pay for the wedding … but that’s super outdated.
Currently, many American couples are choosing to delay marriage. By the time they choose to get married, they’re generally financially stable enough to pay for their own wedding. So it’s pretty rare for parents to pay for the wedding – whether it’s the bride’s parents or the groom’s parents, or both sets of parents. But even though parents rarely pay for weddings anymore, they may still feel entitled to invite guests.
So the bottom line is no matter who’s paying for the wedding – guest list disagreements may arise. Below, I’ve outlined a couple of possible scenarios and some possible solutions. I hope it helps!
If you’re paying for the wedding but you have pushy parents …
If you and/or your partner are paying for the wedding, you guys should get to call the shots as a team. It’s only fair, right? Well, your parents may not see it that way …
I’ve come across this scenario many times: parents feel entitled to decision-making power when it comes to the guest list, even if they’re not helping to pay for any wedding expenses. Some parents can be pretty overbearing and may want to invite all their coworkers or distant family members that you forgot you had!
This is a tricky scenario because it may force you to set boundaries with each of your parents. If it gets to this point, you’re not just creating your wedding guest list, you’re managing family relationships and boundaries. Here’s an example to help me explain …
As I was creating my guest list, my mom wanted me to invite a large number of guests that weren’t even remotely on my radar. I complied, but her list kept growing out of control and eventually, I had to set boundaries. It was difficult for me to tell my mother “no” and it was difficult for her to hear me say “no” to her.
At that point, it became less about the guest list and more about managing our relationship. See, in the past, I would have changed my plans to accommodate her, but this was different. I couldn’t just ask my fiance to shrink his guest list so that we could accommodate my mom’s wishes – I had to be fair to him. So I had to say “no” to my mom…not gonna lie, having those discussions with my mom was really difficult!
I think setting these boundaries with parents is just a necessary part of preparing for marriage and starting a new life with your future spouse.
So that’s what I mean by managing relationships and setting boundaries with regard to the guest list You can decline your parents’ requests for guests, but you can do it in a diplomatic way, letting them down gently.
If your parents are paying for wedding expenses, but you want some decision-making power …
If your parents are paying for most of the wedding, I personally believe they should be able to have some decision-making power that is fair and reasonable.
But, I also think it’s important to discuss this stuff UPFRONT and come to an agreement before the wedding planning begins. Again … having an open and honest conversation about financial contributions and expectations is super important. (I have a background in counseling … can you tell?!)
If your parents are contributing any amount of financial support towards the wedding, I think it’s important to find out if there are any “strings attached” to their contribution. If the conditions of their contribution aren’t clear – it’s important to ask and find out if there are indeed any strings attached. It’s best to get on the same page up front so that you can avoid arguments later when you’re well into the wedding planning.
If there are strings attached to your parents’ financial contribution – dig a little deeper. Figure out exactly what’s expected of you, if you choose to accept the funds. If there are strings attached you have three options:
Accept the funds from your parents and comply with their requests
Try to negotiate – if you don’t like their conditions or you’re unable to meet their requests
Decline the financial support if you’re unwilling to accept their terms and/or if there’s no room for negotiation
The way I see it, everything is negotiable. So try to negotiate!
For example, let’s say your parents are paying for 10% of the wedding, but they want to decide 50% of the guest list. It’s pretty clear that this breakdown seems a little unreasonable. So to start the negotiation, throw out a proposal and see what they say. Or tell them you’re concerned about their request and let them propose an idea.
This will take some back-and-forth discussion – and maybe even some drama, depending on the relationship dynamics. But continue negotiating until you reach an agreement. If you’re at an impasse and you can’t get beyond it, you can choose to walk away. (Hopefully, it doesn’t come to that, but it’s an option.)
When you’re negotiating something like this – especially with family – I think it’s important to be empathetic, patient, and reasonable. Ultimately, the purpose of having these tough conversations is to make sure you’re all on the same page so that the expectations are clear and no one’s feelings are hurt later in the planning process.
I hope this was helpful in addressing your guestlist woes with your parents and future in-laws. I’m sorry that this article was such a downer – but conversations like these can be really tough!
If you have super hands-off, understanding, reasonable families – then lucky you! But if you’re like most, these kinds of issues tend to cause lots of stress and drama. So I hope this helps!