We’ve all heard the advice: enjoy your first few days of engaged bliss, and then, when you’re ready to take on wedding planning, the first thing you should do is talk budget.
Now, I’m here to tell you this is fabulous advice (heck, I talked about that with my parents a little before John and I got engaged… Curiosity got the better of me one day when I had a feeling a wedding might be in the next couple years!), but I’d like to give you even better advice. Don’t just have a budget talk; have a numbers talk.
A “numbers talk” includes budget, but it isn’t limited to just money, because for me, budget has not been the trickiest part of wedding planning. The real thorn in my side has been the guest list.
Now, you should know I’m a total planner, so I wanted to get down to business ASAP. However, I didn’t want to freak our families out a few days after our engagement by sitting them down, and asking them to help create an estimate guest count. I also wasn’t worried about just families; I was worried about John. He is not a huge fan of awkward conversations, and a conversation where you’re essentially asking your parents how much they’d be comfortable contributing and how many people they’re thinking of inviting versus how many you’re hoping to invite is, well, awkward.
Now, in hindsight, I say embrace the awkward, because ultimately, it will save you a lot of stress, guilt, and frustration. You’ll go into venue-shopping with a clear idea of capacity requirements, and you won’t want to cry when you think about how much more the catering (and bartending, and linens...) will cost than you anticipated. Let me tell you how I can say all this with confidence...
Like I said, I didn't want to force awkward on everyone, so I decided, “No need to freak everyone out! I will just create a ballpark guest-list myself!” (Can anyone else tell how terrible of an idea this is already? Yeah? I thought so.)
In my mind, the guest list was great. It included all of my family, all of John’s family (plus a handful or two of question marks where great-aunts and second cousins would naturally go), plenty of family-friend spots, and John’s and my closest friends. The list was right around 150. So, when John and I found out our dream-venue maxed out at 200 people? That’s fine! We aren’t expecting any more than 140 people to actually come! Our favorite venue was the perfect size, so we signed the contract immediately!
I later realized I was way wrong. I asked for a guest list from John’s family, and went through my family’s address book. I told my parents I was being “cut-throat,” and my poor, selfless parents just nodded and let me decide which of our family-friends made the cut, even though they were the ones footing the bill. I was determined this celebration would be about John and me, and it only made sense to invite people who would be in our future. Will they be on our Christmas card list? Nope? Well then, they're off the list.
Now, when I received the guest list from John’s family, I realized how selfish I had been- John and I couldn’t just decide who was important enough to invite to our wedding. Our family's opinions mattered too. After understanding my embarrassing mistake, I went back to my parents, and apologized. I had been overly aggressive when I was trying to keep the guest list small, and I didn’t even consider whom my parents wanted to invite.
Ultimately, when all was said and done, our guest list was a little over two hundred people. Yikes. I had sorely underestimated our guest count, because I shied away from a numbers talk with our families.
Now, obviously there are people who won’t come, but a lot of my guests are family (both of my parents come from bigger families) and a lot of John’s guests are family-friends who live nearby, which means lots of people will come. And we are so, so excited about that and very blessed to have so many loved ones! We are also very thankful we are right at our venue's limit and not way above it!
Whew. That was a lot, but I just wanted to give y’all our story, so you’d understand why it’s important to have a numbers talk! Now here is a short list of how to have a productive numbers talk:
1. Come in with grateful heart. No matter what your parents can contribute, they should have some say in your wedding. I don’t care if they’re renting out Disney World or cannot contribute financially. Either way, they have supported you since you were born, and they will give crucial emotional support leading up to the big day. If you go in with no expectations, you will be delighted with whatever comes!
2. Come in with an open mind. Know that what you think is a reasonable guest list and what your parents think is a reasonable guest list might be two totally different things.
3. Have the same talk with both families. Don’t do what I did and be super strict on one side and not even address the other! If you are truly going in with no expectations, no one should feel offended that you brought this up; it's just part of wedding talk!
4. Do what makes you happy. Yes, I've been saying to be flexible and open-minded, and while I had to learn to do all this, I never gave up my vision for what John and I wanted: an intimate, casual yet classic, Southern wedding about the marriage. Thanks to my mother’s great advise she’s given me for a long time, I’m a firm believer a wedding should be what you and your groom want. So if you are set on a certain venue that you know has a capacity constraint, or you are dying for a small, intimate wedding, go for it! However, make sure you’re clear about this during your numbers talk so everyone is on the same page with how many guests to invite!
Is anyone still with me? I know it's a long post, but I promise, doing this will make you the happiest bride-to-be in all the land! I also promise my future wedding posts won't be nearly as wordy or boring! Next up: music.