Planning a Green Frugal Wedding – Guests

Wedding Guests | Source: marioanima on FlickrSo let’s see…so far I have written about invitations, food and picking the venue. Who knew there was so much effort to put into a wedding? If there is one thing I have learned so far, it’s that trying to plan a wedding while also trying to complete a graduate degree is not for the faint of heart. I understand just a little bit more now how a wedding planner can be well worth the cost.

If there’s one avenue where you can really cut down your costs, it’s the guest list. That seems pretty intuitive actually, so much so that I debated whether it was even worth writing about. At most weddings, there is a fixed cost associated with every guest that attends – food, dishes, venue, all these things are related to the number of guests that you have. So that begs the question – do you really want to invite your dad’s cousin’s nephew’s boyfriend who winds up getting drunk at the open bar?

Who Should I Invite?

The age-old question – who should I invite? In some cases, this will be dictated by culture or family obligations, and you may have little choice in who to invite. In other cases, you may have complete freedom. I have been to weddings where I’d never met the couple before and knew less than 5 people in a room of 300. I’ve also been to smaller intimate weddings where everybody knows your name. At the end of the day, I think that many couples use their wedding as a way of demonstrating to their friends and family how popular they are or how many people they know. It can also be used as a way of demonstrating affluence to others. This is all great, but it can quickly lead to an inflated wedding budget. As a bride or groom, the more people there are at the wedding, the less time you can spend with each of them. When the guest list gets into the hundreds, you may be lucky if you see any individual person outside of your immediate family for more than a few minutes.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, I’ve heard of people choosing to use the dinner method – if you haven’t had dinner with the person in the last year, then they don’t get an invite. A smaller, intimate wedding can have a lot of advantages, but can also result in hurt feelings for people who don’t make the cut. In order to keep our wedding small (around 80 guests), we have not invited some friends and family that we don’t often see. In some cases, we have not invited family members even though they invited us to their weddings. In our defence, their weddings were large, 200-300 guest affairs and if they’d had small weddings, we might not have made the guest list.

Who Gets a +1?

This is an issue that we’ve be struggling with in our own wedding planning – who gets a +1 and who doesn’t? And how do you respond to those who ask you for a +1 after they receive an invite that doesn’t include one? Is there any kind of etiquette around this?

My internet research has shown that there are a WIDE variety of opinions on how these situations should be handled. In one corner, there is the ‘no ring, no+1’ group who advocate that +1’s should only be given to people who are married or in long-term, committed relationships. In the other corner, there is the ‘it’s a wedding, everyone should get a +1’ group who advocate that no one likes going to a wedding alone, and as a result, you shouldn’t be putting that pressure on people. If you invite them, they should get to bring a guest.

Personally, I think both of these attitudes are a little extreme, and we are deciding to fall somewhere in the middle. We have decided to give out +1’s to people when we personally know the +1 because we have spent time with them in the past (i.e. the friend or family member has made an effort to introduce their partner into our lives). If we’ve never met the person, then no invite. Typically, this weeds out the shorter term relationships and at the end of the day, we fall much closer to the ‘no ring, no +1’ group than the other side. The exception to this rule is when the friend will not know anyone else at the wedding. In that case, we are giving out a +1 on a case by case basis as it is always nice to know someone and not be stuck in a room with 100 people you’ve never met.

How do you say no to a +1 request? I think the best approach is to be honest. If you’re having a small wedding, and you want an intimate atmosphere with just friends and family, then say so. Your invited guests should understand that, and hopefully will be flattered that you consider them a good enough friend to warrant an invite. If you are denying a +1 because you don’t like the person who will be getting it, then I invite you to share your creative responses that avoid hurting that person’s feelings 😀

The Environmental Impacts of Guests

Having a smaller wedding is not only a way to save money, its also a way to save the environment. The more guests you have, and in particular, the more guests you have travelling from far away, the greater the resources required for them to get to the wedding. You can minimize this by encouraging your guests to carpool or take public transportation to the wedding venue (if possible).

If you are planning to have a lot of out of town guests, perhaps it might be wiser to have a smaller wedding in your hometown with all of your local guests, and then go out on the road yourself to visit all your long-distance friends and family, especially if many are clustered in one place. For example, I have a lot of family living in one city in Western Canada. Rather than having all of them come out to Toronto for the wedding, I am going to make a trip out there to visit all of them. This minimizes the cost and resources required for travelling, they’re all happy because they don’t have to go anywhere but still get to see me, and I get to travel which I love!

Readers, what are your thoughts on these issues? How would you feel if you were invited to a wedding and were not accorded a +1? If you had relatives getting married at a faraway place, would you be ok missing the wedding if they came to see you instead?

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12 thoughts on “Planning a Green Frugal Wedding – Guests

  1. Our +1 policy was quite close to yours. The primary invitee got a +1 for someone they had been dating 1 year or longer (or if they were engaged or married). We also gave +1s to a few people who would be traveling to the wedding and who wouldn’t know anyone, but that was only a few people and I don’t think any of them brought +1s.

    We held two wedding receptions on opposite coasts of the US because we had such spread-out guests. We wanted to celebrate with all of them and we knew no matter which coast we picked we would have people who couldn’t travel, so we just did two.

    I felt slighted that I wasn’t invited to some of my husband’s family’s weddings back when we were dating. In one particular case, we had been dating about a 1.5 years longer than the bride and groom had, so I wasn’t sure why he didn’t get a +1 for me. But it was their wedding and their decision!

    • I think that is one thing that people easily forget – at the end of the day, the wedding is about the couple and not about you. No one should ever feel entitled to a +1 as there may be all kind of extenuating circumstances surrounding the issue.
      Thanks for your comment Emily!

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