On July 17, 2015

75 or 300?

By Polly Lynn

Wedding size determines a lot: the location, the venue, food and drink choices, and (of course) the budget. Given that, it seems that knowing approximately how large your wedding is going to be must be among the first decisions a bride- and groom-to-be must make. Is it to be an intimate affair with 75 very close family and friends only or is it most important that everyone receives an invitation to share the experience and support the couple in their commitment to each other?

Jay proposed to me on June 24, making our engagement only a few weeks old, but the expectation of setting a date and choosing a venue (minimally) is already apparent — and it’s not coming from our parents, perhaps surprisingly. Naturally, once you tell someone you’re engaged they want to know details: when, where, who, how, can I help? (It now occurs to me that most engagement announcements include that information, which leads me to believe that either those couples were that far into planning before they get engaged or the announcements are not particularly timely, and the parents waited for the couple to confirm date and location before sharing the news with the local paper and community.) In any case, we have not started to plan, bucking the trend, I guess.

The size of our wedding will need to be addressed soon, however. You see, I can imagine a scenario where we have under 75 guests or another where we invite over 300 guests — not many choices can accommodate both.

What do we want?

Not in-between, which I know is most common and the most likely scenario. But with, say, 150 guests it is no longer intimate, it becomes expensive, and you still don’t get to invite everyone. How is an uninvited friend or family member not going to feel like they didn’t make your top 150 Most Important People list?

I hesitate to get my mind set on any number, until I know to what extent it is actually our choice.

One thing I’ve heard a lot from brides is: “I thought weddings were supposed to be all about us, but mid-way through the planning I realized I was misinformed; the wedding is really about throwing a party for our families and friends.”

Which raises the question: Who is the wedding really for?

I am not one of those girls who’s been planning her wedding for years and has a fairytale vision of what I want it to look like, but I do hope that the focus remains on the love shared between us, invited guests being chosen to witness our love and commitment and to celebrate what makes our bond strong.

While this may sound simplistic, it may have unpopular implications. In our case, Jay and I would like to get married in the winter as the snowy mountains define so much of our life, what we love to do and why we live here — that has helped to make our bond strong over the past six years and we’d love to share that with our closest family members and friends (many of whom have never been to Killington). But it also makes traveling more difficult for family and friends, so many have already advised us against it.

Of course we want our closest family and friends to attend our wedding, supporting us on this important day (if we didn’t, we’d elope and continue the celebration on an elaborate honeymoon), so is winter a bad choice? Here lies the challenge, pointing back to the original question: Who is the wedding for? If choices that reflect us as a couple and make the wedding uniquely personal to us are discouraged, then it seems the celebration is, as most brides have found, primarily a show for family members and friends to show their support for the couple’s union.

When understood this way, it is not surprising that most weddings seem quintessentially alike — even though all brides try to make theirs unique. Once family opinions start taking shape and directing choices, convenience and delivering what others “expect” to see at a wedding become the primary drivers. I know many brides that have been pressured to have a wedding cake, even if they both dislike it, for example. (Are cupcakes really a compromise? It’s the same food repackaged.) The betrothed couple facing four parents, who often also hold the checkbook, are easily persuaded to include such traditional elements as well as plan the celebration at a convenient time and place for all invited.

Will we face the same? Probably, and that’s fine. Truly! What I want most is honesty before we start planning. I don’t want to hear “it’s all about you and what you two want but you have to invite uncle Fred, and the Smith’s can’t travel in the winter, and you know your Grandmother is only here for the food.” In other words, “We support you making your own choices, as long as they’re ‘good choices’ for our invited guests.”

For us, right now, I can imagine two great scenarios: The first is one with just 75 of our closest family and friends in a quaint winter setting, married by candlelight in front of a fire. The second would be the opposite: we’d invite 300 people, open the floodgates to everyone we know and love, and we’d have a party by a lake in the summer with a barbecue and late-night bonfire.

I acknowledge that 75 will be tough to pull off. My parents have large families and many of our closest friends now have children of their own. It doesn’t take long to count to 75… While I’m confident that Jay and I could keep the list that short, I’m not sure our parents will go for it? Perhaps, if the alternative is 300?

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