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Money | A Hot Issue


We have an entire wedding budget area to talk about the complexity of money. No matter what your money views, there is no "right or wrong." This very simple award-winning game is worth the emotional awareness you'll gain. A few big "a-ha" moments may greatly help in wedding planning. Learn more

We're Going to Be One Happy Family...Or Else!


A very unique book written by a nationally respected marriage and family therapist who has worked with couples and families for over 30 years. Learn why a mother bought 25 copies for EVERYONE in her family to get everyone on the same page during the most intense, public, family event. Learn more

Wedding Discounts for Marriage Prep


Engaged couples are by their nature extremely happy. But as you know, after the honeymoon, marriage is hard work. We offer many options for marriage prep at many price-points(and wedding discounts from vendors who want to help!) Encourage your adult child to visit our website.Learn more


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Wedding Guest List Mistakes


The guest list has to be one of the most stressful parts of wedding planning. You can be a premier event planner and yet when it comes to the guest list - all bets are off. The wedding guest list is the ultimate proof that the wedding is not just about the couple! If this whole day is only about you then you would have eloped somewhere, in private. But the fact that you want others to be there for your big day means emotions, feelings, relationships and social etiquette will come knocking on your wedding planning door. Our book, Take Back Your Wedding, will open your eyes to both the complexity of the wedding but also give you confidence in tackling your stickiest dilemmas. Written from a marriage and family therapy perspective you'll get 30 years of wisdom through a wedding lens!


Mistakes early in wedding planning

around the wedding guest list


The first conversation about the guest list is a "telling" how many guests the parents can invite rather than a dialogue.


Depending on how much you trust your parents, letting them list out everyone they would ideally like to invite to the wedding gets everything out in the open. It also ensures that you have the overall "dream", even if it can't be met. Put another way, it gives you the full understanding of who they feel should be part of your wedding day so as you make your decisions you are aware of the potential firestorms when you can't let them bring 50% of their desired guest list. (This is where you have to trust your parents won't take "brainstorming" for "any name you write down will get an invitation.") If you just tell them they have X people they can invite, you may either instigate full on war, or if they are conflict avoiders, they may chose to wait until just before invitations are ordered to let you know they insist on inviting 40 more people. They may even feel if they chip in for those extra people then there should be no hard feelings (nevermind all the decisions you've made based on a total number of people!)


Deciding on a location before the guest list.


And we're not talking a ballpark guess based on some number like "national average is 150 guests so that sounds good for us." To minimize ALL drama, we suggest getting about as close to a real guest list as you can as soon as you can. You don't need to get addresses now but you do need to talk about names, children, etc. So many couples find a gorgeous location and unknowingly create world war three in the family because the location is so expensive per person or has a limit on the number of people it can hold. This means the beauty of the location is offset by intense drama that may last years into your marriage. The mistake couples get into when saying "we can't invite more people because the location can't hold more!" or "we can't invite more people because it costs $100 per person and we don't have the money" is that had you started with the LOCATION and worked backwards. You could have found a cheaper place that cost less per person. Or, had you figured out the guest list first and then chosen a location, your parents would be well warned of how the location is determined based on their exact guest list and can not be altered once the deposit is made. It shuts the door to new invitations and hurt feelings later on.


Chosing a location or time of day, or just deciding, this is going to be a kid-free wedding without getting the support and openness of parents.


It always amazes me when people have huge fights about whether kids should be invited and the final "resolution", after agreeing to not invite children, is to wait until they mail the wedding invitations 6-8 weeks before the wedding to "let it be known" by the exclusion of the childrens names on the wedding invitation, that this is a kid-free event. If you are breaking family tradition you simply can not wait until 6-8 weeks before the wedding to silently let people know they are now responsible for the $60-$200+ in babysitting fees if they can find a babysitter in that time frame. See more about deciding to invite children and mistakes on inviting children.


Not communicating with stakeholders on when and why the guest list is finalized.


It's easy to not think about your wedding decisions and how they will impact your parents, grandparents, and other key family - siblings or aunts and uncles. But hopefully they are also excited about your wedding and talking with their friends about the big day. Sometimes these friends are given daily updates on how the wedding planning is progressing. If your parent assumes she can invite her best friends, or the quilters group at church, she may go ahead and tell them the date/time and have them book it on their calendars. Or, she may simply go into more detail than she would if she knows they are not actually invited to the big day. But not clarifying the guest list early on you can accidently create a lot of drama when you find out about a lot of 'verbal invites' or socially ackward situations family is now in when they have to uninvite friends. There are some families where maybe Grandma is just a social butterfly and has never met a stranger. She goes and invites everyone she's ever met because this is her granddaughters special day! She has no idea that each guest is going to cost you $100, let alone your reception space is already maxed out for fire code reasons. Unless you clarify when there is no more room,your family, who planned weddings in a very different generation, may not realize the importance of having a guest list early. Generations before us did not have the "weddings of today" and may not understand why they can't invite everyone they know. Back in their day weddings were extremely simple - often cake and punch in the church basement where the number of people didn't really matter much!


Not considering the emotional relationships people have in their lives.


Maybe you've never met your moms college friend, but your mom has keep in touch with her friend for over 30 years and has her as an emotional bedrock even if she doesn't seen her often. Do you really want to play "who is closer to who?" and challenge every relationship your parents have? There are wiser ways to reduce the guest list than "I haven't met this person therefor they are not invited."




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Elizabeth Doherty Thomas, is a co-founder of The First Dance, along with Marriage and Family therapist father Bill Doherty. The First Dance is a 2007 Modern Bride Trendsetter award winner for taking on the complex family dynamics of wedding planning. See what engaged couples and wedding professionals are saying about our book Take Back Your wedding. Our entire website is dedicated to offering advice on working through the people stresses of wedding planning as a couple, with your families, and how to strengthen your upcoming marriage through this enormous first task of married life.