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I was with you up until you said there wouldn't be enough chairs for everyone to have a seat.
Then you lost me. Sorry, but politeness requires that there has to be a seat for everyone at the ceremony and the reception. No exceptions. This is one of the few things that are required.
Re: How do I pull off elopement announcements & invites for a casual cocktail/apps party, weeks apart?You can elope and have a celebration afterwards, but I would skip the surprise. Coupled with elopements, where you're not inviting your guests to the underlying event that you're celebrating, I think you'll be especially opening yourself up to judgment -- especially because people are more willing to take time out of their lives for actual weddings, but skip parties that are meant to be "casual" when they aren't aware of the reason for them. If they find out later that they skipped your wedding celebration because you didn't announce it when inviting them, they're not going to be happy.
I think that if you want to invite anyone to celebrate your marriage, at the very least you owe them the courtesy of explaining that in your invitation.
Beyond that, I personally would give a little more notice than 3 weeks, but that's me.
It's entirely up to you what your name is and whether or not you change the order of the names or hyphenate them. Your mother may not like it, but ultimately it's not up to her.
If you want to become Mrs. Husband'sFirst Husband'sLast, then that's your name. Or if you want to be Mrs. Nicola Mother'sLast Husband'sLast. Or any other combination.
My own last name is my father's last name. It's been an annoying joke all my life. But my grandmother, mother, and SIL all chose to be "Mrs. Lastname" when they married into our family. And in fact, it's been my last name so long that if I ever marry, it would be hard for me to change my name, both personally and professionally. So I probably would keep my name, at least professionally, if I ever do marry.
I would sit down with your parents and FI and say, "I understand that you issued these invitations on the spur of the moment because you were excited. However, we now have to come up with the additional funds and space to accommodate them. We are no longer in a position to accommodate any extra guests.
If you run into old friends or acquaintances who are not invited but indicate that they want to come, we need you, regardless of how excited you are, not to issue any verbal invitations to them. That means that we need you to respond to anyone who does this, "We're so sorry, but unfortunately we aren't able to extend invitations to everyone we would have liked to invite."
Aside from differences of opinion over what "modest" constitutes, putting the synagogue's dress code in your invitations will clarify that you personally aren't requesting that your guests dress a certain way. That would help the information go down better with any guests who would otherwise be offended by a dress code.