Q: Help! My mother-in-law, who I genuinely adore and have a great relationship with, wants my fiancé and me to invite her entire family to our rehearsal dinner.
We have already gone to great lengths to be sure everyone was invited to the wedding (200 people!) and are having two additional events that weekend that are open to everyone. My fiancé and I wanted to have a more intimate rehearsal dinner, a casual picnic at a lodge with lawn games, and a food truck, but still had the guest list at 80 so that we could include all of her siblings, their children, and grandchildren.
I come from a small, dysfunctional family and most of my guests are close friends and not family. The rehearsal dinner ratio is already 50 from the groom’s side and 30 from mine. I am okay with that and understand he has a big family and really wants to include the people who are invited. But if we go along with his mom’s hopes, there will be 100 people at a “casual picnic” and only 30 of them will be my family and friends. I don’t feel like it needs to be an even match, but I also don’t want to feel like I am attending their family reunion. It’s supposed to be about my fiancé and me as a couple, not them as a family.
I realized yesterday that his mom is under a lot of pressure from her own mom, who doesn’t want her siblings and their children and grandchildren to be offended because they are being excluded. “Everyone else” in the family had an open rehearsal dinner. We are one of the last of his cousins to get married, so by now everyone has a spouse and some have multiple children. It’s just a lot MORE people than I think she understands. We are also getting married in California which is more expensive than some of the southeastern states they live in.
Fiancé is on the same page as me and has been very supportive. But now his mom is talking about paying thousands of dollars for an additional event space rental so that these other family members have somewhere to go the night before the wedding, with the intention of us stopping by after the rehearsal dinner to say hi. It seems ridiculous to me. His parents gifted us several thousand dollars for the wedding, and even though there were “no strings attached” when it was given to us, I feel obligated to consider their wishes when spending money on wedding plans. I also really do want them to be happy and feel good about the wedding, and don’t want to embarrass his mom in front of her family.
Sigh. What do I do?!
A: You probably already know what I’m going to start out by saying… but I’ll say it anyway. This is your wedding, and you and your fiancé are very much allowed to handle things in whatever way makes you feel best. That includes hosting different events throughout your wedding weekend with different guest lists and boundaries. I’ll also point out that you are far from alone in this feeling. It’s really hard to feel confident in any wedding choices when there are so darn many opinions (and often funds) involved.
Now, my personal opinion… I don’t want to sound overly harsh here, so forgive me… What is the difference between 80 people and 100 people? I mean… is that 20 extra people going to make-or-break the more intimate vibe you’re aiming for? It’s still half of the number you’re expecting for the wedding day itself, so I imagine it will still feel a bit cozier. I’ll be honest, that for me 80 guests doesn’t exactly feel ‘intimate’… like, that’s not the word I’d choose. So adding some more seems like it’s maybe not a big deal. But I also honor that for you, and in comparison to 200 people, it’s certainly more intimate.
Also, as someone who is also from a small dysfunctional family and married into a larger more cohesive family unit… when it comes to life (and wedding stuff), it has been my choice to lean into the family I’ve chosen and gained. I totally understand your perspective, and I know that the feeling of imbalance in numbers can be odd, but I would just suggest that you try to see the good parts of marrying into a family that wants to gather around you both in celebration. Try to let go of the desire to ‘even the scales’ when it comes to the number of family/guests that will be with you that weekend at any given moment. As long as you and your fiancé each have the people that matter most to you with you, that’s what really matters. And as you said, it would feel pretty crummy to make your new MIL feel bad or spend a bunch of money hosting family separately.
Wedding planning is full of hard choices and difficult conversations. In the end, it’s you and your fiancé who need to feel good about where you land, so take the time to check in with each other and make choices that work for you two.
What do you think, APW? Would you invite the extra folks to the party? Would you stick with your plan and let your Mother-In-Law do whatever she wants separately? How do you handle these conversations and struggles when it comes to trying to please everyone without trying to please everyone?