Wedding Customs & Traditions Forum

HELP!! Breaking family tradition without stepping on any toes!!

Alright, so I need some advice from all of you!

Typically, weddings in my family are very large (ie. 300-400 people), and everyone is invited to every aspect of the wedding. My ideal wedding, however, is small and intimate. And I simply don't have enough money to accommodate that many people. If I start picking and choosing who to invite and who not to invite, it could really create some hard feelings.

So I've been trying to think of ways to compromise; I want the feeling of a small wedding, but don't want anyone to feel left out. And I want to stay under budget.

So far, I've thought that I would keep the ceremony and the meal to a very limited number of only the most immediate family, closest friends, and people who are travelling long distances, then everyone else would be invited for after dinner cocktails, dessert, and toasts/speeches/other reception activities/dance.

What are your opinions? Do you think this will insult people who are used to going to the ceremony and being fed? Are desserts enough to accommodate them? Am I straying too far from tradition?

Re: HELP!! Breaking family tradition without stepping on any toes!!

  • bethsmilesbethsmiles Denver, CO member
    10000 Comments Sixth Anniversary 500 Love Its First Answer
    Either have a large wedding or have a small wedding. Its rude to only invite some people to the ceremony and part of the reception.

    A better compromise might be to have a smaller 100-200 person wedding.

    If you decide to have a small wedding then make clear how you are deciding who comes. If you decide to invite some cousins you need to invite all cousins. If you invite some aunts and uncles you need to invite them all. And if you make an age cut off (as in no one under 18) then you need to stick to it with no exceptions.


  • Small and intimate seems like the direction you wish -- head that way, keep the guest list the same for each event and get started on your married life in a way that suits your style and budget!
  • A tiered reception is rude, period. Look at it this way, to the friends/family that you are only inviting to the second part of your reception, you are essentially telling them "hey, come celebrate my day (and bring me a present!), but you are not good enough for me to invite you to the ceremony, or feed you dinner!" It's not going to go over well. 

    I understand your concern with your guest list. I come from a good French Catholic family and FI comes from a good Polish Catholic family. We limited our guest list to our parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and first cousins. We still have almost 200 people with that. We have asked our parents and grandparents to spread the word when other family asks about it, and to explain that we have to limit our guest list due to budget constraints. We also made effort to find a reception venue that worked within our budget, and we were fortunate enough to find one that came in at $24 a person, tax and tip included. We are also only providing beer and wine, which significantly reduces the alcohol tab. If a more affordable dinner option is not available in your area, why not just have a cake and punch reception in the mid-afternoon? Or a brunch reception in the late morning (much more affordable?). 


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  • I agree that a tiered reception is not the best idea and there will be guests that are offended. I would take the advice of those who posted above me and cut down the list as a whole.

    We will be having a small/intimate wedding, at first I was worried that my family would really push back, but they understand who we are as a couple and that it was important to us to have our wedding our way. His mother was a little difficult to convince, but after the two of them discussing it, she has come to terms with it.

    Check out intimateweddings.com for ideas and to see what other brides who had intimate weddings say about their events.
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  • Please don't do it. It is very rude to your guests and tells them, "sorry, but you aren't good enough to come to the nice reception, but you are invited to this one." It also makes you look very gift grabby.
  • I think that I'd feel worse about being invited to the "second tier" reception than I would about not being invited at all.

    Not being invited at all to a smaller wedding I'd get, because the guest list was small.  Being told to show up after we feed the guests we care more about would be a slap in the face.

    I'm sure it's not the message you'd INTEND to send people, but it's the message they'd receive.


    "Trix, it's what they/our parents wanted. Why so judgemental? And why is your wedding date over a year and a half ago? And why do you not have a groom's name? And why have you posted over 12,000 posts? And why do you always say mean things to brides?" palegirl146
  • Yeah this is definitely a worse idea than just limiting the guest list. You really don't think Uncle Joe and Aunt Sally are going to be more offended that they didn't get to come to the whole wedding while Uncle Jimmy and Aunt Sue did? Think about it.

    You can either:
    Have a smaller guest list. The easiest/least offensive way to do this is to be consistent. Don't invite some aunts and uncles and not all, for example. Dependng on your family dynamic, it might actually be easier for you to have a super small wedding than a medium sized one (you could invite just your immediate families and grandparents a few very close friends)

    OR

    Invite everyone but have a cheaper reception. You don't have to have a Saturday night dinner dance. You could have a Saturday brunch, or a Sunday afternoon reception. Usually a brunch will save you lots because people don't drink that much and the food is cheaper.

    OR you could go with a Saturday night party, but start it late enough that you don't have to serve dinner. You could do an 8 PM ceremony followed by desserts and light hors d'oerves and dancing. I think this could be a fun and romantic choice, if you're not stuck on dinner, and an 8 pm start allows for people to eat dinner before.

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  • redheadfsuredheadfsu member
    2500 Comments
    edited December 2010

    Tiered receptions are tacky & rude.


    You want & can only afford a small wedding. So have a small wedding. Or have a large wedding on a budget. One or the other. Anything tiered is horrible.

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  • i understand your wanting to find a way to have the size of wedding you can personally afford and want to have vs. what the family tradition is, therefore your thoughts about a tiered reception.  i agree with the pp's about only inviting those you can afford to have at both parts of the event.

    we had a similar problem with our wedding (and still managed to have 220 guests!), and worked hard to keep our list as small as possible.  we chose strict boundaries about who to invite and not invite and stuck to them for the most part.  we were also asked by individual family members to make exceptions to our rules - you probably will be asked similar questions. 

    my suggestion is that you spread the word ahead of time that you are limiting the guest list (and you may also want to give the criteria so people know), and when you asked by individuals to make exceptions that you take it on a case by case basis.  we made several exceptions, which made me upset, but i am glad we did it.  in every case we knew EXACTLY why we were making those exceptions so we could explain ourselves to anyone who asked. 

    finally - your family may traditionally have 300-400 at weddings, but you will probably be pleasantly surprised with how understanding people are when you choose to limit your guest list.  everyone understands that budgets are limited these days.  don't be afraid to make it a shorter list than your family is used to.

    good luck!
  • Weddings make people crazy, no matter what you do, guests are pretty much guaranteed to be crazy. But if you are polite and good hostess at least there won't be any GOOD reason for them to be upset, so just keep the wedding small and don't do a tiered reception.
  • Don't do it! Have the small wedding you want and can afford. Never resort to the "well you aren't good enough to see us get married or for me to pay to feed you, but you can bring a gift to this party after all the good stuff is over." idea. It's bound to hurt feelings.
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  • Ahh! I'm so confused...

    I definitely didn't mean to come off as tacky or rude...I really don't like the idea either, but I think the reason that I had gone in that direction in the first place is because it kind of happens anyway...because the extended family and community is so close knit, people who aren't invited usually end up showing up anyways for the party. Sometimes they even bring friends that don't necessarily even know the couple...that to me is rude...but I figured that they would show up anyways, so I might as well give them an invitation so they can at least RSVP and I can be sure to have enough space for them.

    I know a lot of you have said that they would be more insulted than they would if they weren't invited at all...but honestly I don't think so...maybe its just my family, but they will want to be included even if it is just for part of it.

    I agree with those of you who said to keep my guest list cuts consistent...all or none...but the difference between inviting my first relatives (ie aunts, uncles, cousins) and not inviting them is a difference of about 200 people!! That is a lot of people who are going to feel left out!! Plus, there are definitely some who I am very close with and would want there, but wouldn't want to be unfair to the others. I really don't know which direction to go!! I almost think that I'm going to have to have a big wedding even though its not my ideal just to be fair to everyone. Like many of you have said, I can't invite a favourite aunt and not invite any of the others.

    I really like the idea of cutting out the dinner altogether and opting instead for just appetizers and dessert and starting it later in the evening in order to be able to afford to invite everyone, but I'm not sure how practical it would be considering all of the events will be taking place in the country...I don't think they would want to leave the location to go eat then come back again later.

    I'd love to hear more opinions and ideas!
  • Ya...I know how you feel, I feel like my wedding has become a circus with the amount of people and it will be 150 max.

    With an evening reception would you be able to move the ceremony to just before or have it in the same area? Then again.... the inconvienience of a journey to the wedding/recption sight might make party crashers not so eager to attend without an invite.
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  • Elope in Las Vegas. Seriously.
  • Thanks for the advice everyone...I think I've kind of got everything (well, the basics at least) figured out.

    Although eloping in Vegas does sound very tempting at the moment...  ;-)
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