Brace yourselves. This is a long one, but it's a necessary vent. There are Etiquette elements to this issue, Wedding Woes/911 elements...it just needs to fit somewhere.
My fiance and I are getting married mid-November, and unfortunately these issues have just come to light. Overall, it would have been best for all involved if the issues had been addressed months ago, but we have to deal with what's at-hand now.
Background: Our wedding is sort of "non-traditional," in the sense that my FI's parents are paying for a lot of it. My parents are also paying for quite a bit (certainly nothing to scoff at) and giving their time and energy, but cannot afford to contribute quite as much as the FILs, as my parents ended up having to pay for the majority of my brother's wedding two months ago (long story). My FILs actually came to us and very generously offered to pay for all of the components that they are paying for (itemized down to the cent in an Excel spreadsheet so that there would be no budget confusion). We've stuck to it.
Earlier this year, my FI casually mentioned that his parents had decided to host the rehearsal dinner at a barbecue restaurant that I had never been to but that I had heard was kind of dive-y. It's also nowhere near our church or where any of our bridal party lives. I was initially upset because the FILs hadn't consulted us at all to see if it was even something that we would want (the place itself, or barbecue food in general). We went there for lunch one day, and it was fine for what it was (quick-service BBQ), but definitely not what I had in mind for our rehearsal dinner. I tried to keep a positive attitude and see the best in it, as they had already put down the deposit to reserve the entire restaurant (again, without our input -- not a small expense). It was at that point that I learned that they were planning to invite 45 people who are coming in from out of town for the wedding.
While I traditionally have only been part of rehearsal dinners that involve the bridal party and close family (and was hoping to have a more intimate rehearsal dinner for us), I definitely understand the desire to host/thank all of these people who are spending time and money to come into town to celebrate us. So while it wasn't ideal, I was okay with that -- we are grateful for everyone who is traveling to celebrate with us.
Fast-forward a few months to last night, when my FI and I are inserting Rehearsal Dinner response cards into specific invitations from a guest list that my future MIL had provided. I realized that my FILs had never let me know how many people my parents were going to be able to add to the list. So my fiance called his parents, and they let him know that they feel that the rehearsal dinner is "the groom's party" and since they're paying for it, they did not plan to include my family. No one from my family (aside from my brother, who is in the wedding party. Otherwise he wouldn't have been included). And yet, they had just sent an updated spreadsheet of their rehearsal dinner guests, who had grown to include their in-town friends (not even family). The FIL's extended circle of friends is now invited to the rehearsal dinner, for a grand total of 75 guests, when they haven't even considered making room for my parents or my grandmother.
I'm not even asking for anywhere near the representation of my FI's family -- it's essentially going to be a second reception/family reunion for his family -- I'm literally only asking for my parents, my grandmother, and a close aunt and uncle who will be doing readings during the ceremony. While I understand and respect that my FILs are paying for the rehearsal dinner, so they should have a say in the decisions, it seems wrong and disrespectful for my family to not even be acknowledged. After all, I am half of this wedding and their son's future wife. My family will become his too, and it's not like my family is not paying for ANYTHING with the wedding -- they are making a significant contribution. And our families have always gotten along without a problem in the past. It's also uncharacteristic of my future in-laws to completely disregard peoples' feelings and opinions (or maybe it's just more characteristic of them than we realized). I can't imagine sitting at our rehearsal dinner and trying to enjoy it without any of my family there. Am I supposed to just tell them to go home after rehearsal while everyone else heads to dinner?
My FI, thank goodness, is just as upset as I am about it. No matter how much we try to logically speak with the FILs, though, they seem more like they just want to win than consider another perspective. In my ideal scenario, they can host their party for the out-of-town guests the way that they want to (because it's clearly not about us/what we want, anyway), and I'd like to go with a small group of the bridal party and close relatives for an intimate rehearsal dinner at the restaurant where we had our first date (just pizza and wine in a cool, walk-able area of the city -- I'm not trying to get super fancy. Just a step up from quick-service BBQ and a circus of 75 people). We would likely end up paying for it. My fiance doesn't seem to think that this would be able to happen (not because we can't foot the bill, even though that wouldn't be great -- but because there's no way that the FILs would let it fly). FI is going to talk to them later this week about inviting my family to give them a few days to cool down. He's hoping that talking to them without me there will allow them to explain the situation more openly.
The worst part is that all I want to do is talk to my parents about it to get their opinion about what we should do, but I know they'd just be upset and hurt, and it would probably create a pretty big divide between our two families. I don't want to do that to anyone involved. It's just not productive -- we'd have to maneuver around everyone's hard feelings forever.
This is a situation in which it seems that no one will be happy, regardless of the solutions presented. But shouldn't it matter at all that FI and I are happy? And now we're getting close enough to where we have to finalize what the plan is and send out the invitations soon, but I don't see a good resolution on the horizon.
I truly didn't see this one coming and have no idea what to do. What would you do? Has anyone ever dealt with something like this?