Guest List Status: It’s Complicated

Come on in! The wedding's fine!

Way back at the beginning, when we weren’t engaged or anything but we were talking about marriage (after my Paul made it clear that he wasn’t interested in marrying anyone for at least another two years, it seems like we talked about getting married–to each other–at least once a week), my Paul and I kind of hypothesised about what we would want a mutual wedding to look like. We didn’t exactly share a compatible vision. Paul, having in a sense “been there, done that” already, wanted something small and quick and soon without a lot of fuss and bother. I? Well, I have a lot of friends and a more or less close-knit extended family, most of whom have invested pretty heavily in my life and have hoped and prayed along with me that I would eventually find a husband. I was having a hard time figuring out who I could possibly leave out.

I suggested we could do what formerly-single staff and long-time volunteers at Then Church do sometimes, which is to extend an open invitation to the wedding ceremony itself, but make admittance to the reception by personal invitation only. I mean, I didn’t want to break the bank, either. I kind of had this dream in my head (like that of the cheap wedding dress) that we could have a pot-luck reception where everyone brought food instead of gifts. But neither of us knew anyone who had ever done that, and my Paul thought the “you can come to the wedding but not the reception” was a little rude and awkward. Which I guess it is, but I’ve also been to some of those weddings and not the receptions, and it didn’t really hurt my feelings or anything. But maybe I’m not everyone. (Oh yeah . . . I’m not!)

After tossing around multiple ideas for a few months, we finally got engaged, and by then we had decided that we were tired of waiting (so much for two years!), so we’d get married as soon as logistically possible, which was March 3rd. But when I posted a single picture on my Facebook wall of my hand with glittery diamonds on the ring finger, and got 135 “likes” and 131 comments on that post alone, I think it started to dawn on my Paul that maybe I really wasn’t making things up when I said I was having a hard time imagining a manageable guest list. I mean–I’ve traveled, and I’ve always been deeply involved in (if not employed by) churches, which, dysfunctional or not generally strive to be a spiritual family. There are at least five churches in my past or present who could “claim” me, not to mention my Paul’s church. So we agreed that, to keep things as simple as possible, we would have the small family-only ceremony he had envisioned in March, and then in June we’d have a big blow-out pot-luck bash outside somewhere, to which we could invite whomever else we wanted. “Family-only” meant his daughter, our parents, our siblings, my two grandmothers and TWCN and Smiley-Guy since they’re little (and will make a great flower girl and ring bearer). Simple parameters. Relatively easy to explain and implement. Lovely.

In hindsight, I don’t know why I thought I’d be exempt from what all other brides go through, which is other people’s authoritative opinions on who should actually be on the guest list. My father (who, having performed probably hundreds of weddings in his pastoral career, would know) says, “There’s always someone. Usually it’s the bride’s mother. Be thankful.” And I am, because my mother has not even made an attempt to touch our guest list. Huzzah for a mother who has, for years, said, “She’s an adult. She can make her own decisions.” Thanks, Mom.

Anyway, although I don’t really begrudge anyone their opinions, my mother’s forbearance does not hold true across the board. One day Pastor Ron’s wife, Mrs. Dona, who can be quite motherly, too, though I don’t know that she and my mom are much alike, sat me down and said, “You know, you are church staff. I think it would be a nice gesture to open your wedding up to the congregation. I’d love to throw a simple reception for you after the ceremony–you wouldn’t have to pay for it. But I really think it’s important for the church to have a part in this significant part of your life.”

She wasn’t wrong, but it didn’t exactly dovetail perfectly with our post-wedding plans, nor does it make it easy to define the parameters of our invites anymore. The long and the short of it now is that we are, sort of accidentally, taking the Then Church approach. The ceremony–well, I guess anyone can come to it if they really want. But we won’t be sticking around long afterwards to chat, because we have our immediate-family-only reception that afternoon, and then my Paul and I are off to Montreal. And then Now Church will throw us a post-wedding reception for us and the congregation the Sunday we get back. And then we’ll still have our reception for our extended family and other good friends in June. It’ll all work out. It just . . . seems to take a lot more explaining these days.

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12 thoughts on “Guest List Status: It’s Complicated

  1. It’s your life and heaven knows it’s been a long wait for you. Don’t stress it will all turn out just the way it’s supposed to. It’s life after the wedding that matters! Congrats to both and may you live happily ever after.

  2. Jen..I feel your pain..We got married in RI with a reception for hundreds at Barrington College…Following our honeymoon in Arizona, my mom arranged another reception in California at Marina Del Rey. I had to put on my wedding gown again, which I didn’t like in the first place and dance with Phil (niether of us knew how)..aarrrggg..My mom had offered me 10K to elope which if I had to do again probably would have..lol. I was a pretty young 22 when I had to arrange everything..so much easier when you’re older and wiser…

    • Oh man . . . sounds rough. Fortunately none of our three receptions involve dancing (at least . . . that we know of!) and I’m kind of excited about getting to wear my wedding dress three times! ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. It really will all work out!! I can totally empathise with the balancing act of including family, friends,church now & then, colleagues and deciding who comes to what etc.. I managed to offend most of my work colleagues through lack of planning at the invitation stage. David didn’t get to invite any of his Irish work colleagues because we tried to keep it simple. There were lots of little mishaps on the day and some when I look back were quite comical. However it was perfect to me….. because I was marrying the man i loved and I knew he loved me. We were making a commitment to each other before God. I wouldn’t change a thing because it wouldn’t be my lovely wedding day. I liked the honeymoon too – just a little bit ;-)…

    • Ha! Good to know! ๐Ÿ™‚

      I like your story. I’m sure we’ll inadvertently hurt someone’s feelings–but it will by no means be on purpose because all our people are so important to us. And I hope they’ll be able to tell based on how we are and treat them after all the “events” are over and we’re just ourselves together.

    • Yay! New-Cousin Wendy! Thanks for commenting. And you’re so right. But don’t get me wrong–I’m actually delighted to have as many of my friends and family as possible getting to celebrate with me. It’s just a little tough to organise realistically. And . . . maybe Paul’s not quite as enthusiastic about the prospect of THREE receptions as I am . . . ๐Ÿ˜‰ Fortunately, he’s flexible and friendly! And loves me!

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