Yesterday, Sara over at 2000dollarwedding wrote this post in response to a reader's question about the messy +1 debaucle every couple has to deal with and our regrettable guest list experience came flashing back to me all over again.
I'm just going to come out and say it. I hate guest lists. And what I hate even more than guests lists is long guest lists. Which is what our list is slowly turning into. At first we capped it at 70, then 75, then 80 and now I'm thinking we'll end up being closer to 90. Suddenly, our small, intimate, backyard wedding is turning out to be anything but. Grr.
My main issue with the +1 issue is being directly approached by people who want to bring their own guest. I do not deal well with confrontation. I can't make eye contact, I get all blotchy, I stutter like a mad woman, and I will say anything just to avoid all of this. So obviously, the first words out of my mouth are going to be "yes, of course you can bring your boyfriend of 2 weeks, whom I've never met and his band friends to the most important day of my life". Seriously.
Thankfully, we've (and by "we", I mean me) devised (and by "devised", I mean I ripped off the idea from wedding invites I saw online) a way to proactively deal with the nasty +1 decision. For anyone dealing with the same problem, here's some options:
1) Invite people in clusters. Try to make sure that everyone you invite will know someone else on the guest list well enough to hang out with them during the reception. College friends and work colleagues are probably the best examples of this. The only people, and I mean only, we've given the +1 approval to are people who won't know anyone else at the wedding. So far, I think the only person given the go ahead is a mutual friend from highschool. We don't want him to feel really left out so a date will keep him company. An example of the other side: Mr. FP's mother suggested that his brother be able to bring a date. Um, why? His whole family will be there. With aunts, uncles and cousins that are his age to hang out with ... why would be need a date? She didn't agree and was not impressed, but we stuck with our choice. Same thing with some of my teenage and 20-something cousins, they have boyfriends/girlfriends but since their parents, aunts, uncles and cousins will be there, they won't be lonely.
2) Decide who is important to the two of you. Most people think the rule is that people in long-term relationships should be allowed to bring their partners, but if they're significant others aren't close with us, we're not adding the +1. Simple as that. A family friend of my parents just recently got married, but we've decided not to invite her husband. Are we crazy? Nope. But because their dating and marriage happened so quickly (under 9 months) we've never met him so we have no relationship with him. Even though they're married, we just don't need to have him at our wedding. I know, I know, he's important to her, and we want our guests to be happy but her parents and sister will be there and she knows 95% of my family anyway, so the cluster rule applies here too.
3) Make it clear from the beginning that there's no wiggle room. It took us forever to come up with a solution to make it clear to people that we wanted them at our wedding, not them plus their mom, sister and cousins without being rude. I think the best way to address this is when the invites go out, but it can be tricky. We dealt with it on our RSVP's because we didn't leave it open for people to squeeze in a ton of people.
Traditionally, you have M______________ on your RSVP and the guest fills in the names of those invited. But I've heard horror stories of couples who address the invite to John Smith and the card comes back with a ton of other names crammed into it like this:
Mr.__ John Smith, Mrs. John Smith, Bobby Smith, Jane Smith____.
I don't think many of our guests would be that dumb or sneaky, but I didn't want to leave us open to the possibility. So instead, we had the M______ space, but we also included "__ seat(s) have been reserved for you". Check out the photo below for the real thing.
For us, this is the least forward, yet clearest way of saying, we want you, not everyone in your family. Apparently, the same kind of thing can be done with online RSVP's (according to a comment on Sara's post): "To deal with the "penciling in a +1", we're going to do our RSVPs online. Each invitee gets a response # and when they put it into the website, it will have just the names of people invited hard-coded and they can choose their meal that way too".
Plus, either RSVP option gives you the change to deal with the problem well in advance once you receive the RSVP in the mail or online. If someone is still trying to sneak people in, we'll simply call them and let them know that we're keeping our wedding small. And by "I", I really mean Mr. FP will call them ... I can still get blotchy over the phone!
It might seem a little extreme to go to these kinds of lengths to keep out a few +1's but they add up extremely fast. When we started our list, we theoretically gave everyone who was single, out of town, not familiar with our families etc. a +1 and it brought our numbers up by almost 20 people. It was not pretty and we quickly realized we simply wouldn't be able to do it. I expect to get complaints about this from a ton of family members, in fact, we already have. But for us, it's more important to stick to the policy and fill our guest list with people who we have really great relationships with, not people we feel obligated to invite. Besides, Emily Post can kiss my ass.