18 Big Weddings That Prove You Don’t Have to Cut Your Guest List to Be Cool


If you don't want to

by Maddie Eisenhart, Chief Revenue Officer

Maddie wedding

1. Maddie and Mike’s offseason beach wedding in Maine

A small wedding was never in the cards for Michael and me. We both come from huge families; the kinds where cousins are more like siblings, and where holidays are more like family reunions. So when our guest list topped out at just over 250 invitees (and a little more than 200 “Yes” replies on our RSVPs), neither of us was surprised. Involving our community in the wedding was a top priority from the start, so despite not huge budget, it never occurred to us that we might want to cut the guest list.

But our decision is not the one favored by the wedding industry, which you already know if you’re trying to plan a big wedding yourself. In fact, the guest list might actually be one of the few topics that mainstream wedding media and indie wedding media can agree on, even if it is for different reasons. If the mainstream wedding industry exists to sell you things, then it makes sense that the first bit of advice from WIC-approved sources would be to cut the guest list to save money (because you can still buy all the things! Just for fewer people!). On the flip side, indie wedding media has placed a premium on the “intimate” wedding, with most modern wedding blogs being devoid of images of guests altogether. (Who needs them? You have that unique dress/cliffside location!) Which doesn’t meant intimate weddings are not rad, it just means that they’re not right for all of us.

In a lot of ways, it’s the intimate equals more special messaging that’s more stressful when you’re trying to plan a wedding with a huge guest list. Because costs can be worked out in a lot of creative ways. But how can you ensure that a big wedding is still going to feel as special as those tiny weddings you see online? My favorite answer comes from Meg herself, who wrote a while back:

I’m so sick of people telling you that the way to have an affordable wedding is to cut down your guest list. I’m actually so sick of it that I wrote a book to disprove the point. Because if you ask me, Miss Manners was right all along (of course). You figure out the number of people you love who need to be at your wedding, and then you figure out what you can afford to serve them… never the other way around. I’m tired of wedding vendors telling you to cut your guest list to afford their services. I’m tired of people acting like only tiny weddings are cool weddings. I’m tired of people saying that if you want to have an intimate and emotional experience, you can only have a small number of people at your wedding. Because you know what? You should have as many people that you love as you can possibly fit at your wedding.

If you’re in the throes of planning your own big wedding, I recommend starting with this post and this one too. And then come back here for a healthy dose of weddings that were big on guests, but not short on awesome. These weddings feature a variety of budgets (some listed, some not), and tackled the big guest list question in a lot of creative ways (potluck receptions; all-in-one reception packages; pizza for dinner). We’ll be talking about creative ways to save money throughout the month, but for now, this list proves you can still have a huge wedding without sacrificing a cool or special wedding in the process.

Editor’s note: We define “big” as anything with a guest list of (roughly) 150 or more. Mostly because that’s when you start getting sized out of the cute indie venues and into hair-pulling Google searches for “large capacity wedding venue.”

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2. A Buenos Aires Wedding With An All-Night Dance Party

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3. A Brooklyn Rooftop Pizza Party Wedding

4. A Beach Club Wedding In California

5. An Illinois State Park Wedding Covered In Sequins

6. A Jacksonville, Florida Episcopal Church Wedding With A Couture Potluck Reception

7. A Self-Catered Michigan Community Barbecue Wedding

8. A Seattle Block Party Wedding

9. Ruchi & Dave’s NorCal Hinjew Wedding

10. A Kid-Friendly Wedding In Tennessee

11. Kate & Bear’s Jewish Wedding In New York

12. A New England Church Wedding

13. A Wedding Festival At Rock Springs RancH, Oregon

14. A Dirt Floor Dance Party In Napa, California

15. A Glittery, Homemade Bay Area Catholic Wedding

16. A Downtown Raleigh Chapel Wedding

17. A Brooklyn Wedding With A Killer Dance Party

18. A Hip, Urban Wedding at A San Francisco High School

Maddie Eisenhart

Maddie is APW’s Chief Revenue Officer. She’s been writing stories about boys, crushes, and relationships since she was old enough to form shapes into words, but received her formal training (and a BS) from NYU in Entertainment and Mass Media in 2008. She now spends a significant amount of time thinking about trends on the internet and whether flower crowns will be out next year. A Maine native, Maddie currently lives on a pony farm in the Bay Area with her husband, Michael and their mastiff puppy. Current hair color: Purple(ish).

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  • vegankitchendiaries

    So, guys… I’m loving these wedding round-up flashbacks! APW’s Greatest Hits, dude!

    • Meg Keene

      When are we getting YOUR wedding again??

      • vegankitchendiaries

        I submitted it in December! x

  • Sarah E

    Preach. Guest list of 180 + 50ish kids right here. Plan: later ceremony, dessert, beer and wine. Results? I’ll let you know after May

    • Allie Moore

      we did exactly this! it was great.

  • Laura C

    On the day of, my problem with a big guest list (240+ people at the wedding) was that I never felt like any of it was for me. I felt way too much on display to have the ceremony feel meaningful. I never came close to relaxing and letting the experience take over, the whole night. But it was a great wedding — it reflected me and my husband in all sorts of ways, people had a great time, the dance party was amazing.

    Our planning problem was the being too big for many venues thing. Our compromise was going with a venue that required we use their in-house caterer, which was … not cheap. But the places we’d looked at that allowed our choice of caterer were either too small or would have involved tons and tons of rentals that would have added enormously to our work and possibly ended up being nearly as expensive as the in-house caterer where the dishes and linens and everything were priced in.

    It’s a huge luxury, obviously, to be able to just go ahead and spend the money, but ultimately I think we were able to get to a relaxed, fun (for everyone but me, anyway) wedding by, rather than building something from the ground up, taking the standard pre-set stuff at a venue that does a ton of weddings and saying “now here are the things we don’t want, or want to do a twist on.”

  • Bethany

    So so glad to see this! I’ve been stressing about our guest list being around 180-200 people (and I suspect it’ll be closer to the 200 once we’re done talking about it). We’re the sort of people who cram 20-30 people in our tiny apartment at Halloween because we love being able to invite all our friends and see different groups crossover and interact. However, at the same time, so much out there pushes that if you want to be “special” you need to be small and “intimate” rather than including all of your community and family. The reminder that we can be who we are and still special helps. These posts and weddings are awesome. Thank you so so much for posting this!

    • neighborhoodmap

      It’s also really “special” to see your grandma, best friend from college, and your husband’s cousins and best friends from college all dancing like fools together on the same dancefloor. =)

      I’m the same way about parties — one of the best parts of planning our wedding last year is that now all of my disparate girlfriends from all over the country are Facebook friends since my bachellorette party and the wedding weekend. Seeing them like and comment on each other’s social media posts just reminds me of that very special night when everybody we loved was all in one spot, celebrating us.

    • emmers

      Church basement sounds awesome! We had a big guest list too (around 215 or so?), and I was sooo worried about having too many people for the venue (which holds 175). We ended up having around 140 people actually attend, so about a 65% attendance rate. This post was right on the money, with its calculations on how many people attend: http://apracticalwedding.com/2013/06/where-to-start-wedding-planning/

      Our wedding still felt pretty big, but ended up being the perfect size. I missed some of the people who couldn’t be there for various reasons (a dear friend was actually due to have a baby that day, some elderly relatives couldn’t travel, some people had to work), but life happens! So if you do invite 200, a venue that has comfortably hosted 220 previously should be perfect!

      • emmers

        One more thing– also try not to freak out if you need to add some last minute invites. We had way more of these than I was comfortable with (maybe 15 of the 215 people?). Some people invited themselves, some people my mom invited without asking, some people gave themselves plus ones, and some people I had initially not invited and then decided I really needed to.

        But with the percentages, it really all did work out! I wish I could have chilled out about that, since I had many freakouts about the guest list, envisioning a terrible scenario of 200 people attending and people not having seats!

  • snix

    Yay! Our guest list is hitting at just over 200, and I’m hoping that means we’ll have around 170 or so attending. One of our first big dilemmas was the size of the guest list. How do you manage to get everybody in that you want when the groom’s family is monstrously huge and extremely tight-knit (almost an oxymoron)? My family’s no small potatoes either. I love looking at these weddings, and they’re reminding me how stoked I am going to be when we’re surrounded by lots and lots of people who love us and want the best for us, even if they have to put up with some strange nontraditional elements.

    • snix

      Plus, the “figure out your guest list and then figure out what you can afford to feed them” really resonates with me. That’s how we’re trying to go about it.

      • neighborhoodmap

        This. Also all the other things that can help save some on bigger receptions — it really helps if you have your priorities set from the beginning of planning. There are trade offs that can be made at every level — basically anything where cost increases the more units you have to order. We had a gigantic wedding, and we decided our priorities were (1) people we love, meaning an inclusive guest list in an accessible space for those older relatives in wheelchairs or walkers and (2) having a great time, meaning open bar (with middle-shelf-level booze) and a solid, but not necessarily fancy meal, so people could keep dancing to the kick-ass DJ, and (3) having great memories, meaning getting a photographer whose style we LOVED. Things we didn’t care so much about? (1) Flowers. Going half and half on our centerpieces (half nicer, half MUCH cheaper) saved us a ton of money. Going with in-season flowers (granted, not hard in September), including roses (which, our florist informed us, apparently are seen as “dated” in the mainstream trendy wedding industry, but whatever, I like them and my mom has always grown roses, so it was a nice touch for her). (2) Fancy linens, tables, chairs, dishes, glassware, etc. We had to rent all of these things, unfortunately, because our venue contract only included space, but we told our caterer to stick with the most basic options she had, and as long as everybody had a place to sit and eat, we were satisfied. (3) Paper goods. I ordered almost everything we needed (save the dates, invitations, programs, escort cards) from Vista Print (who, according to the promotional emails I get from them now, totally thinks I’m a small business owner, which I think is a hilarious commentary on the process of planning a wedding), not using their “wedding” templates but instead ordering them as, consecutively, post cards, rack cards, tri-fold brochures, and folding business cards (which came in bulk units for much, much cheaper). Then I got bulk thank you cards at Target.

        Point being: those were the priorities we set, FROM THE BEGINNING OF PLANNING, and we stuck to them. They worked for us. Other people have different priorities, for sure, and that’s great! You do you, as the kids say. But I think the real key is having the discussion about the priorities, and allowing that to help guide your spending.

        • Bethany

          Those are awesome priorities and really similar to those of my fiance and myself which is incredibly comforting. We also have “finding a way to make our very diversely religious/nonreligious friends and family be as comfortable and included as possible in our religious wedding” since we’re both deeply religious but also deeply committed to the idea that everyone’s faith/nonfaith journey is their own and something to be respected. We’re thinking of having a Wiccan friend do the meal blessing with neutral language since everyone will have just sat through an hour long Episcopalian full mass and while we want a meal blessing, we don’t want to ram Christianity down people’s throats. Now making a note to try to search through APW for inclusive religious weddings.

        • snix

          I just noted down your Vistaprint wedding to non-wedding conversions, just so you know. I had been having a hard time finding non-wedding versions of invitations, so this should save me some heartache. Thanks!

          • neighborhoodmap

            You’re welcome! A note: That worked well for us because of the large quantities we were ordering (and we still ended up with a bunch left over, that I can’t quite figure out what to do with, since it feels … wrong … somehow, to throw out wedding invitations). Because those things are designed to be business promotional materials, Vista Print only offers them for purchase in fairly large unit numbers (like, multiples of 50 or even 100). For instance, when it came time for shower/rehearsal dinner invitations, we went with regular, designed-to-be-invitations invitations, because we were only ordering a couple dozen of those. But yeah, if that works for you, knock yourself out! And remember: their layouts on things can ALWAYS be personalized beyond what they present as their examples, so if you see a pretty background that you like with a layout that you’re not sure will work, click through and start playing with it — you’ll likely be able to fiddle with it to make it work.

        • neighborhoodmap

          I just came back here to add, because I can’t believe I forgot it — In the things we cared less about and therefore saved ourselves some $$$$:(4) Cake. We had a small, pretty “cutting cake” from the caterer for the cake cutting with its pictures, etc., but then we actually served CostCo sheet cakes — they’re about $20 each for around 50 slices of cake, and they’re actually really good (God Bless CostCo). Considering that there was an entire sheet cake left at the end of the night that the catering staff tried to get us to take with us in our limo back to the hotel, I am SO GLAD that I could write that off with a breezy “oh well, at least that’s only 20 bucks wasted.”

          • guest

            That’s a fantastic price! Happy for you, and yet, bummed for me…I could care less about cake too (actually prefer to not serve it), but if there is a big guest list that is likely all that will be affordable. Which won’t feel like enough to offer people who travel across the country. Sometimes a budget is a legit reason to cut the guest list. But I can still appreciate the article.

  • neighborhoodmap

    Our biggest struggle with our guest list (and I know we’re not alone in this) involved our parents’ list of friends and family. We topped out at around 275 on our “if we could invite everyone we love” list, invited around 260, and ended up with 212 RSVPs (200 actually showed). Approximately two thirds of our guest list was “the bride’s side,” vs. “the groom’s side.” I struggled a LOT in the planning process with having to cut my close work friends so we could have room for my dad’s old work buddies and their partners, or even some of his cousins (he has, literally, more than 100 first cousins, some of whom I wouldn’t recognize if I actually walked right into them on the street). We eventually struck a balance that worked for us, though not without a lot of stress on my part, and then I just had to put my foot down and stick to my boundaries once the decision was made, like when my dad tried to say “oh, why don’t you just add these other two couples, too” — as if it was an afterthought, and an easy thing to do. And, actually, having my dad’s work friends around, the ones who have known me (or at least known of me) since I was a baby, and supported him as my parent throughout my development, turned out to be one of the more surprising emotional moments of the whole experience for me. They were all so excited to be there, so thankful that we’d included them, and so happy for me, this person they first knew from baby pictures my dad brought to work all those years ago. And I’m starting to understand it more now, too, as more of our friends are having babies, and knowing how excited we are for them, watching their kids grow and develop, watching their families change, and supporting our friends in their new ventures as parents. I GET it now. I wish I had gotten it during the planning process. We still would have had to fight our way to an appropriate balance, but I feel like I would have stressed out way less.

    • Bethany

      This inspired me to email my dad to ask if there was anyone he wanted invited. My mom had three friends she wanted and there’s one friend couple (almost an extra aunt and uncle as I was growing up — we still see them if they’re in our city or if we’re home) we’re already inviting, but my dad hadn’t made any requests. He didn’t request anyone but seemed really touched, so thank you for inspiring that!

      • neighborhoodmap

        Oh YAY! What a great warm and fuzzy thought for the middle of a Wednesday.

    • Eh

      Having my dad’s friends at my wedding (and my sister’s wedding less than a year later) was really important and very emotional for us too. (And I think Meg has said this before – they tend to buy awesome gifts.) My dad has hung out with the same group of friends since high school (actually he has known his best friend since elementary school). They now live all over the country. My mom passed away 12 years ago and starting the year after that they have been having reunions each summer. There is a small group of four of them that is a closer-knit group and those are who were invited to our weddings. My dad’s best friend (my “uncle”) had been sick for a few years before my wedding. (He was one of the few people I really cared about being there so I specifically asked my dad what I could do so he could come.) Just in time for my wedding (and his son’s wedding the same year) he was the healthiest he has been in years. It was great seeing my dad and his friend interact (since they live all over the country we normally would just see my dad and one friend at a time). It was great seeing my uncle who I hadn’t seen in a few years yet was such a big part of my life growing up (his family came over to all of our family events). Unfortunately after my wedding he became ill again. He made it to my sister’s ceremony but was unable to attend the reception (it was great seeing him that day and very emotional – it was such a huge change from less than 10 months earlier). My dad and his friends had their reunion at the end of September and they went to visit my uncle in the hospital. A few days after that visit he passed away.

      • neighborhoodmap

        Not to disregard the more emotionally important focus of your comment, but YES! to the awesome gifts. I was almost uniformly blown away by their generosity.

        • Same here – my step-moms sisters BLEW US AWAY. It was crazy. And the parents of a couple of the people in our wedding party. It was crazy. But now that some of them are having kids, I just know that we’re going to be those people to them when they grow up. Can’t wait for wedding gifts for my friend-nieces and nephews!

  • S

    Our 400+ person wedding was a collection of intimate moments. Additionally, it cut down on us feeling like the center of attention constantly, and effectively transformed itself into a great, big, happy reunion for a group of people from all over the country who are all in their own long-distance relationships with family and close friends. Big weddings are just a different flavor of magical!

  • Sarah

    THANK YOU. I had a fairly big wedding and I wish it didn’t have such a stigma attached, like it’s somehow less meaningful. Having everyone we loved at the wedding was top priority for us. We wanted everyone important to us to celebrate this choice we were making. We wanted our loved ones to see us through this milestone. We were elated to be getting married and we wanted to share that with everyone else in our lives. We wanted our community to witness our vows to each other, to support us, and to hold us accountable for those vows. We wanted to show our appreciation for the people who have supported us and will continue to support us throughout our marriage. We wanted our wedding to reflect not only how happy we were to be marrying each other (thus the $20k budget – holy cow that took a lot of saving!) but also how much we loved and appreciated the people in our lives, and how much we wanted them there that day and for the rest of our lives. So we invited everyone.

    When we met with a planner to help us out with our wedding, we were told $20k would not cover a 120-150 person wedding and that we should either cut our guest list (“would you normally want to take that person out for a $100 dinner? then cut them” she said), borrow from our parents (We are in our 30s. My parents paid for law school. No.), or just scrimp on Christmas gifts and increase our budget (“Sorry mom, I couldn’t get you anything this year. Instead, I get the fancy chairs and Aunt Suzy can come to the wedding!” No.) Needless to say, we didn’t hire that (or any) coordinator and instead figured out how to make it work.

    Do I even remember what chairs we ended up picking out? No. Do I feel like I had to make sacrifces? No. Do I remember the old lady who lives next door to my parents (who I probably hadn’t spoken to in 20+ years) showing up in a wheelchair, in tears, telling me it was the best wedding she’d ever been to and reminding me that she watched me grow up? Hell yes. Was it worth an extra $100 so that my friend who lives 1,000+ miles away could bring a plus-one so she wouldn’t have to travel alone? Absolutely. Next to the actual ceremony, which would have been the same whether there were 2 witnesses or 200, what stands out in our minds is the love we shared with everyone that day. I will never forget walking down the aisle and before I even saw my husband, looking at the pews, seeing 130 of our family and friends and exclaiming, through tears, “everyone is here!” The reception was filled with so much love and happiness, more than anything I’ve ever felt before.

    Sure, we would have had a wonderful, meaningful, happy, amazing wedding day had it just been the two of us or just our immediate families. There is nothing wrong with an intimate wedding. But that’s not us. We wanted to celebrate, big time, and we wanted to thank the people in our lives for getting us through where we are today and continuing to support us throughout our lives. What better way than to throw a big fun party?

    • Lovely! I’m so happy you had such a wonderful experience, and I had a similar one. We invited everyone, didn’t cut anyone, looked for a space that allowed that specifically, and I was so excited when it happened that I stopped, midway up the aisle, and hugged by best friend from childhood’s father, because I didn’t know he was going to make it until then. It’s just a glimpse of the whole day, but was everything that happened, and I couldn’t be more grateful that we were able to make that happen.

  • Sarah

    I also want to say that the idea of cutting guests out in favor of some other detail really doesn’t sit well with me. When you’re at Great Aunt Gladys’s funeral and you think back to the last time you saw her, would you rather think “I’m so glad she made it to our wedding so I could give her one last hug” or “man, I know I had to cut out Gladys and all these cousins I never see, but really, I am seeing them now and anyway, and wasn’t that extra appetizer and those matching hologrammed robes I got for my bridesmaids tooooooootally worth it?”

    • neighborhoodmap

      This just happened to me. One of my grandmother’s brothers died three months after our wedding, and the first thing I did when I heard the news was flip to the picture of his table at our wedding. I’m SO GLAD that I have that memory, that my aunt/his wife has that memory, that my grandmother has that memory of being together with her brother in a happy time, that my father has that memory of his uncle, etc. etc. etc. Weddings don’t have to just be about the couple getting married (though, yes, in large part, it is by default, just not completely and solely!). Everyone else has their experience of being at your wedding, and celebrating with the rest of your shared community.

      • Same, my very dear friend’s father got very sick about 6 months after the wedding, and he’s not doing well now. I love thinking that they were all there as a family partying and in love and laughing and feeling good.

  • ardenelise

    I loved the note about guests that accompanied this post on Facebook:

    “On the flip side, indie wedding media has placed a premium on the “intimate” wedding, with most modern wedding blogs being devoid of images of guests altogether. (Who needs them? You have that unique dress/cliffside location!)”

    I LOVE the photos of our guests from the wedding. I’m so glad we have documentation of the 200 people who came from all over the country to support us and celebrate with us. The photo of my father-in-law, the mother of my maid of honor, and my husband’s former roommate all laughing like old friends, even though they had NEVER MET BEFORE? AMAZING.

    One of my favorites is this reaction shot to our cake-cutting. I just love how into it all the little kids are!

    • vegankitchendiaries

      Guest shots are EVERYTHING. Make sure your photographer knows this too!!!

    • They’re ready for CAKE!

  • Kayjayoh

    Our guest list was pretty big, and even then it was smaller than it could have been. Part of why we felt comfortable having such a big list was that so many people would be asked to travel, and we knew that not everyone would be able to make it. With about half the guest list needing to buy a plane ticket, we threw caution to the wind and invited around 200 people, including many small kids. I think we had about 80 declines.

    There is definitely no one that I regret inviting, and our group seemed to be a perfectly manageable size both for the venue (which was huge) and for our emotional capacity. Even with the size of the group, it still seemed intimate to me. (Also possibly due to the layout of the venue.) There are possibly a few people who I wish that we had invited, mostly friends of my husband with whom I have become close since moving, but it isn’t a deep regret. They are part of our lives now, and they will be around for other events and milestones.

    Having a large group definitely informed a lot of my other planning decisions (such a pizza and finger food buffet for dinner) and it certainly brought the cost up, but not in a way that was a problem. I’m really happy with our chaotic, colorful large wedding.

  • pajamafishadventures

    When I perused wedding websites before finding APW the narrative seemed to be “you should only invite people you are really close to, and if you have 300 guests at your wedding you’re obviously just inviting indiscriminately!” Which isn’t THE dumbest thing I came across out there in the big scary world, but it is certainly up there. While I personally would really like to do a micro wedding (I have a very small family that I am not close to, I’d rather just invite my top ten friends and there +1s) I know that it won’t be possible the my dude’s big family, and I know that if we hit 200 invites it’s because there are 200 people that matter, not because we’re handing out invitations like mardi gras beads.

    • Hannah

      Ha! I love the image of an inebriated couple chucking glittery wedding invitations at their equally debauched guests. Well done. :-)

  • Eh

    We started the planning process by drafting up a guest list. After everyone’s input our guest list was 165 people. In addition to our immediate family and friends, we invited great-aunts and great-uncles, all of our first cousins and their children, my step-family, and a couple of our parents’ friends. (My father’s policy about wedding’s is that you invite your “Christmas family”, that is anyone you would invite over if you were hosting Christmas and there were no limitations on space or price.) We knew that not everyone could come (we got married in the fall and half the guests had to travel more than 7 hours or by plane) but we wanted to invite them all and let them make that decision.

    When we looked at venues we had to take the guest list into consideration and really figure out how many of them would reasonably be able to come. Because we (generously) estimated that 120 of our guests might be able to come we were still able to look at smaller venues (which was good since the larger options in my husband’s hometown are outside or the community center both of which would have required a lot more decorations and/or more effort on our part). Our ceremony venue (an old train station converted into a theatre) had a capacity limit of 140 and our reception venue (banquet hall at a country club) was closer to 120. In the end less than 80 of our guest could make it so we were well within our capacity limits.

    If you are looking to save money and you have a large guest list, one way is to look at options in smaller towns. We got married in my husband’s hometown 45 minutes from the city we live in and it was a fraction of what it would cost to get married in the city we live in (supper was $20 a plate, compared to $75-$100, and facility rentals were much less also). People from neighboring towns get married in my husband’s hometown because it is less expensive (especially compared to more touristy neighboring towns, though it has similar amenities – historic buildings and parks on the river). My BIL got married in the city we live in (even though they still live in my husband’s hometown because they wanted to have only one venue and wedding coordinator) and they spent at least $10,000 more than us (a lot of that was food and venue costs but also their photographer). We also saved money by not having a cocktail hour which was possible because we had two venues (i.e., people had a couple of hours of downtime while we had pictures). If you take into consideration the cost of the ceremony venue we save over $800 on food and drinks (you can also avoid having a cocktail hour by having your pictures before and going from ceremony to supper).

  • Our guest list was over 200, including children. Lots of children. I could not literally imagine my wedding not at my church and without my church family. My wife, on the other hand, had a real hard time with understanding my concept of community. I consider people in my church community whether I’ve talked to you in a year or not, you’re my community and I want you there. I literally wanted to invite everyone. I did not get my wish and I still feel bad about the people we didn’t invite. She also didn’t get her wish because the wedding was much bigger than she would have designed for herself and she doesn’t feel bad at all about the people we didn’t invite.

    But we both got our wish in having an incredibly happy wedding. My wife had a hard time understanding that people care about us as much as they do. She couldn’t conceive of her friends coming in from Florida and Chicago and her family coming in from California. I wasn’t surprised because I know she’s an amazing person and that others see that in her, too. I, too, was blown away by the incredible love people had for us. This love didn’t look like the WIC tells you love looks like (for example, no one threw us a wedding shower), but it was there just the same. It was there in our Wedding Team organizing logistics, in our friend who baked our cake, our friend who made beautiful banners, and friends who brought our food from a restaurant an hour away. It was in the room when our guests shouted “Yes!” when our minister asked “Do you support Karen and Michelle?” It was there when they all sang together at the end of our ceremony. And it’s still there almost a year later when everyone asks how we are and tells us how loved we are.

    We didn’t have a rocking reception because we couldn’t afford to feed over 200 people dinner but we had an amazing ceremony. And it was all worth it.

    • This is a wonderful “leaving the ceremony” shot that Amanda Summerlin got.

  • Sierra

    This gives me a lot of hope for our wedding! We’ve just sent out STDs and the guest list is at 270 right now! When we first started planning, we decided that having as many people as possible was important – how else were our large, extended families ever going to meet? That not only dictated our church and reception hall, but also the city it was held in!

  • FancyPants

    I think either APW has entered my psyche OR I am actually so.in.the.throes of wedding planning that (the best) website focused on wedding planning FEELS like my psyche. Hard to say today.

    These weddings are SO FUN. Big guest lists: bring it on people / bring on the peoples!!!

  • This really comes down to personal preference. I take issue with the attitude that you need to have every person that you care about at your wedding. You don’t.

    I had 2 weddings (with the same person). The first wedding was a guest list of 30 of our most elite people (of which some of them I had never met before) and we got to spend time to get to know one another and interact with each and every one of them AND have time to ourselves during the day. The second wedding was in France and had 140 people. In French culture, you have to kiss every single guest and talk to them for at least a minute. The food was buffet style but I COULD BARELY EAT FOOD because people bombarded me literally all night. The second buffet got taken away before I could get a plate and I had to ask the staff to make me up a plate. I barely spent any time with my husband all night and the party went until 4 am.

    You do as you please but I choose being able to eat and spend time with my husband at my wedding over having every person that is important to me there.

  • Alexandra

    I love big weddings, and I had one myself. However, I just went to a huge wedding and I am a little miffed…they had a cake and punch reception, which was indicated on the invitation. But then we found out that there was a smaller reception later, after the cake and punch reception. And we weren’t invited. It felt like being in second grade and not invited to a birthday party that all your friends are going to. Our friends all went to the second reception, and we went home to eat dinner by ourselves. After all the cheering of the wedding, it just felt weird and anti-climactic.

    I understand the reasoning behind this–they can’t afford to feed so many people dinner. But I think it would have been in better taste for them to limit the dinner to the wedding party only or something. It seemed like half the wedding guests were left out, and the other half were on the A list.

  • Mandi P

    YES! Once we started counting, we realized that my family equals 97. Derek’s equals 75. We’re in our 30’s, so the “friends list” is pretty big too… We have invited 304 people. We believe about 200 will show up. RSVPs have not yet started to roll in. And… I just met with a caterer who is open to dropping off food & having our family & friends take care of setting up, serving the buffet, and cleaning up. Great!
    Oh, and we live down the street from Aspen, CO — a HUGELY EXPENSIVE DESTINATION. But the caterer I just met with was real, down to Earth, and practical. He told me the nitty-gritty of buying wine & beer, hiring a bartender (or 2), and all kinds of other practical information.
    YES, we can both invite our whole families and our friends. YES, everyone who will be there will be important to us. And, YES, we can do it on a budget (at least for the Aspen area!). Thanks for this post!

  • Kara Davies

    Our wedding (7.5 years ago) was easily 200 people, if not more. Total cost from memory (not including flights or outfits for out of towners) was $13K. That included the church, the flowers, decorations, caterer, cake, all cutlery and crockery, photographers (ThePopes.com!), videographer, the pastor’s fee, wedding coordinator, the getaway car, balloons for getaway, my dress, my hair, my make up, my shoes, my jewelry, my garters, my bridesmaids jewelry (my gift to them), my husband’s wedding gift from me (engraved pocket watch with one of my bridal portraits inside), the programs, etc. We saved ourselves a bunch by having a Friday afternoon ceremony followed by a pasta dinner in the same room at my childhood church.

  • Kara Davies

    Our wedding (7.5 years ago) was easily 200 people, if not more. I’ve got a large family on both sides, plus a very large group of friends from childhood and church. My husband’s family is smaller and there were a total of 7 Aussies present. (3 months to the day later, we had a second reception in Australia at my new church and hosted by my inlaws. I’ve no idea on the cost there.)

    Total cost from memory (not including flights or outfits for out of towners) was $13K. That included the church, the flowers, decorations, caterer, cake, all cutlery and crockery, photographers (www.ThePopes.com!), videographer, the pastor’s fee, wedding coordinator, the getaway car, balloons for getaway, my dress, my hair, my make up, my shoes, my jewelry, my garters, my bridesmaids jewelry (my gift to them), my husband’s wedding gift from me (engraved pocket watch with one of my bridal portraits inside), the programs, etc.

    We saved ourselves a bunch by having a Friday afternoon ceremony followed by a pasta dinner in the same room at my childhood church.

    • Kara Davies

      And my veil, my bridal portraits (included in our wedding photography package), my fake bouquet (real bouquet got dried and stays at my folks house, can’t bring live flowers to Australia) which sits on our sideboard next to our marriage license.

  • Hayley Tuller

    AHHHHH THANK YOU for writing this post!! I was the Episcopal Potluck bride, and it was anguishing hearing judgement for having had a big wedding both before and after the day. I couldn’t agree with Miss Manners more. You put the people first. You figure out how to take care of them. Then you buy the stuff you can afford.

  • did you know that the biggest wedding reception banquet was for over 150,000 guests?