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.”