Welcome to our new column, Wedding SOS, where we attempt to solve your most difficult wedding dilemmas.
From interferring family members and how to ask for cash gifts to top table etiquette for divorced parents, we’ve asked the experts for their advice and called on your fellow brides to help too.
Our first dilemma is: “We mentioned the wedding to lots of people when we got engaged but now we’ve worked out the budget, we can’t afford to invite them. What should we do?”
So, you’ve got lots of people expecting an invite in the post that you’re going to have to let down. We asked wedding etiquette expert Jo Bryant for her advice on what to do next.
Step One: Prioritise
Image: Kristida Photography
“It’s easy to get carried away in the whirlwind of your engagement and think you want everyone near and far to attend the wedding. The reality is that no-one’s budget will stretch to invite absolutely everyone, and when it comes to the guestlist you will have to prioritise,” says Jo.
The easiest way to do this is to create an A and B list of guests in terms of priority (although that’s easier said than done!) Send invites to your A list first, AKA the non-negotiable, must-have guests.
“You can invite the ‘B list’ promptly as you receive refusals to save filling in the gaps later,” recommends Jo.
This means some of those people who you mentioned the wedding to will still get an invite but you don’t need to exceed your guestlist at the initial invite stage.
“Remember, though, as a general rule, everyone who is invited to any engagement celebrations should also be invited to the wedding,” Jo warns.
Think carefully about whether you can afford for the work colleagues you invite on the stag/hen party to come to the wedding too. If you can’t, be upfront and explain your budget restrictions; they may still be happy to come for the pre-wedding celebrations without an invite.
READ MORE: How To Plan A Wedding For £5,000
Step Two: Politely Ditch Plus Ones
Image: Sarah Elliott Photography
One of the quickest ways to fit in more guests that you actually want at your wedding is to trim down the “plus one” invites.
If the thought of that makes you feel guilty, then take it from one of the UK’s top wedding etiquette experts: you should not feel obliged to invite plus ones for everyone, says Jo.
Generally accepted plus one etiquette goes as follows: “Both sides of engaged, longstanding and married couples should be invited, and perhaps for someone attending who doesn’t know anyone else.
“As for your friend’s brand new boyfriend, or your cousin’s girlfriend you have never met, you might have to play hardball and explain that numbers are tight!
“Similarly, it can be tricky choosing which colleagues to invite.”
You’ll find your guests to be more understanding than you expect, especially if they are married themselves! Plus ones aren’t an afterthought but usually the result of many hours of the bride and groom debating budget and friendships. A stranger could cost you £100-a-head!
If you’re finding it difficult not to feel bad, then blame it on the size limitations of your venue and say plus ones would mean you wouldn’t be able to invite all your family. That’ll normally quieten someone pretty swiftly.
READ MORE: 15 Amazing Wedding Balloons Ideas
Step Three: Work Around Your Budget
Image: Lisa Carpenter Photography
“One good solution is to choose a venue with the capacity to hold more guests later in the day,” suggests Jo.
“If the wedding ceremony venue is small, or the budget tight for the main reception, you can still include lots of extras by moving to a larger evening space and issue evening-only invitations.
“Many venues offer this kind of flexibility, and it is a budget and politically-friendly structure to the day.”
You don’t have to offend any guests that you mentioned the wedding to if they still get an invite to part of the day. Again, blaming the decision on venue size limitations can save you any embarrassment.
“If you feel awkward, you can include a note with the invitation explaining that due to the small size of the venue, for example, you are hosting a larger evening reception etc,” says Jo.
READ MORE: The Best Wedding Decor for £10 or Less
What Other Ways Are There To Reduce Our Guestlist?
Image: Jeff Oliver Photography
There are some other guests you can get rid of without too much guilt that’ll ease a tight budget.
If you can’t afford to invite a whole family then make it an adults-only wedding. You can be vague and say that due to restrictions at your venue, regrettably children aren’t able to attend (which protects you from the ire of disgruntled guests); be to the point and say that your budget doesn’t allow for younger guests; or simply make it clear on the invite that children are invited to the evening only.
It can get messy when parents are contributing financially and start demanding that their friends from last year’s cruise get an invite. Show goodwill – they are helping you pay after all – but make it clear who your priority guests are and if they want so-and-so to come then they’ll need to contribute a bit extra towards the budget.
Think about who will be stressful to be there. Got an uncle who always drinks a bit too much? Ask your parent or a close mutual friend to sensitively explain that you are worried about the stress they may cause you on your wedding day. There is a risk they could take offence, but in most instances, that person would bow out if they thought it would cause you distress or buck up their act for the wedding day, either way helping you out.
READ MORE: The Wedding Dates To Avoid In 2018, 2019 And 2020
How Do I Tell Guests They Aren’t Invited?
Image: Chris Giles Photography
Be straightforward with the information and say it in person or over the phone. That great aunt might have been very excited about coming, but hearing from you that with the distance she’d need to travel and your budget restrictions you’d rather take her out for tea instead will mean the world. Always thank people for their understanding.
If you are having a wedding website, emphasise in the FAQs section that plus ones or children are not invited.
Example wording might be: “We have worked hard to create an intimate celebration featuring the most important people to us. We ask that you respect our request for no uninvited plus ones/children. Please call or email if you have any questions. Thanks for understanding.”
Use your invites to make it clear too. Some sneaky guests might try to cram a few extra names on the RSVP slot so simply don’t let them. Get individual names printed and include a line saying “__ of 2 guest will attend” so a couple knows it’s just for them and not their three children, for example.
Remember that your wedding is a chance to celebrate your love with all of your favourite people. Don’t be swayed by politics or guilt or other people’s expectations and focus primarily on who will make you and your partner most happy.
We know this can be stressful so we asked an expert for the best tips to reduce wedding planning stress and also warned you about the 11 types of guest to expect at your wedding.