Madeline: Indecision 2012

Emily Takes Photos

Before you do anything else (like pick a venue), you need to have a rough idea of how many people you plan to invite.Meg’s book

It seems that when planning a wedding, you have to decide on something to get you started. As Meg suggests, the guest list is a great place to start. However, it also involves the hardest decisions of all, so Brandon and I put it off. We were secretly hoping that the wedding genie would create the perfect list overnight, one that would cause no offense and disguise all awkward truths.

Apparently, there is no wedding genie (though thank heavens for the elves). Without an approximate number nailed down we stumbled on. But the answer to all our other questions was a panicked “I don’t know!” For example:

“When are we having this reception?” (Hi! Already married.)

“I don’t know! When can we get the venue?”

This led naturally on to:

“Which venue do we want?”

“I don’t know! Did you like the one that only takes more than eighty people or the one that only takes less than fifty or the one that takes any number if you bring your own chairs?”

By this point, we were skirting round the issue of the Budget. We knew it was important to have one of these. We even opened a spreadsheet. But how can you budget for something if you don’t know what it costs? We did our best:

“How many chairs can we afford?”

“I don’t know! I have $30 in my wallet. How much do chairs cost?”

 Then we really got lost in the terrifying wilds of the Wedding Industrial Complex.

“I’ve found a website for chairs but only with extra cocktail tables. Did we want cocktail tables?”

“I don’t know! If we bring tables the venue will enforce a mandatory ice sculpture policy.”

Wandering about in these wilds is fine for short periods, but it does not advance you towards the goal of decision-making. Your options multiply, and when you pause to draw breath, you will turn back to your spreadsheet and see that you’ve accidentally budgeted three million dollars.

We tried to rationalize:

“Maybe we can return some chairs—if nobody sits on them?”

“Shall we say ‘comfy shoes’ in the invites?”

“Could we draw up a budget ‘with chairs’ and a budget ‘without chairs?’”

“Is it tacky to ask guests to bring their own chair?”

This, too, was not productive. One of us finally asked:

“Will Aunt Mabel even come if she has to bring a chair?”

(Note: Aunt Mabel is a composite of everyone we know.) And that brought us full circle:

“I don’t know! She won’t come anyway if we don’t hurry up with this Save the Date.”

“Well, we’ll just have to decide. When are we having this reception?”

Planning a big event, it turns out, is hard. Planning an event without knowing how big it will be may be impossible. So we took a deep breath and made choices. One thing that spurred me on was reading that Meg and David sent more invites than Save the Dates once they knew they would have space. The knowledge that the final choice didn’t have to be final was helpful. But so was learning to make a ballpark decision and stick with it. Not just for weddings, but for life!

Let me offer a happy ending: Brandon and I whittled at our list until we had a number we were both agreed on. Then we put down a deposit on a venue which allows you to adjust the guest list until two weeks before the event. Then we celebrated with an episode of Law and Order. In short, there is hope for us all.


Photo by: Emily Takes Photos

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    • Ah, yes. BYOC. That is the current standard procedure at my house for any holiday/family dinners/functions, including Christmas Eve dinner and redo of Christmas Eve dinner (so we could include my brother who is stationed in Japan but came home on leave after Christmas). We have a dining room table, but no chairs. Granted, that was only like 13 people…so, probably not quite the wedding-sized proporations you are dealing with. :o) However, I highly recommend.

  • Haha. I love the chair debate. My husband kept suggesting we ask people to bring lawn chairs to our wedding. We ended up finding a suitable alternative… which was a bonding experience between him and my mom as they built benches together. I can’t be trusted around nails.

  • efletch

    Oh wow I so relate to this post. I was traveling down the same rabbity hole of confusion for months. Then I found APW and calmed down a little (teeny tiny) bit. I keep coming back to the venue and the people once that is nailed down it will get easier. Right now my parents back yard is looking pretty awesome, and my dad has this magical optimism that we will find a place for people to park. I have not looked at chairs yet…anyway I feel your pain and thank you for adding the happy ending at the end! There really is hope for all of us!

  • PA

    “I don’t know! If we bring tables the venue will enforce a mandatory ice sculpture policy.”

    SO TRUE. “No, no, we have too many brunette guests! If we do that, the venue will insist that we hire blonds and redheads from their staff to even the numbers!”

  • Oh my god, I am seriously mired in the land of Chair Bullshit right now. So timely and hilarious. Thank you.

  • Laura

    Oh man. I’ve recently been tackling the guest list. I somehow was under the delusion that it would be pain-free. Everyone in agreement on who we should invite! Everyone happy with the final head-count! Wheeee!

    Needless to say, I was, erm, wrong. I am just now surfacing from a week of guest-list hell. It does get easier, right?

    • meg

      Oh! That is quite a delusion. The guest list is just about The Worst Bit TM for most people. So if it’s bad for you, joint he club ;) Yeah, it does get better (though RSVP week is also kind of hell, just a warning there.)

      • Laura

        Well, I guess at least there’s a club… ;)

      • MDBethann

        Thanks for the heads up about RSVP hell – I’m due to enter that in 10 days and I’ve heard from about 2/3rds of my guests. I’m guessing that’s pretty good, but I’m still not looking forward to tracking down about 50 people. Sounds like I need to prepare a couple bottles of wine to get me through the week. Good thing my shower last weekend was wine-themed!

  • “Could we draw up a budget ‘with chairs’ and a budget ‘without chairs?’”

    Exactly! Thankfully we ended up having a 150 chairs in our new venue (yes, we had a first one…we made the mistake of booking a venue that only held 120 and then realizing we needed to hold 150+….don’t be us! If you have large families then add 10-20 to your guest list when thinking capacity. A little extra space never hurt anyone and will save you the dilemma of needing to book a brand new reception site 4 months before the wedding….)

    And for one insane-WIC moment I almost ordered nicer, cuter, chiavari chairs to replace the ones that were INCLUDED in our rental. And then I switched from SMP to APW and took nap :-)

    • meg

      Chiavari chairs are SO UNCOMFORTABLE y’all. UGH.

      • truth. Kind of intensely uncomfortable after about 15 minutes, in fact.

      • Kat

        so not going to share this fact with my sister whose main requirements for her venue was that it have:
        A) Chandeliers…but not just any kind of chandeliers, antique ones
        B) Gold Chivari chairs included
        C) Lots of window light

        I DID NOT think such a magical place existed for the budget they’re working with, but some how it appeared.

        Still…she will not be told about uncomfortableness of said chivari chairs

        • meg

          Bring your own pad for the chair back ;)

          • Kat

            I think I will!! ;)

    • Our venue also has chairs included in the rental price, but they’re not gorgeous chiavari chairs. I seriously considered spending the $2,000 on chiavari chairs, and then I realized that was insane.

      • Jo

        I had to google “chiavari chairs”. (General rule of thumb: I figure if I don’t even know what they are then I definitely don’t need to pay extra for them.)

        When we were looking at venues, the tourguides (I love how they call their salespeople “wedding planners”) and their literature would say that the site rental would include certain chairs and plain white linens. These were always referred to in the most derogatory way to try to insinuate that a “tasteful” bride would pay extra for “nicer” chairs and linens. nope. not me. not. gonna. happen.

        • meg

          White linens and white chairs are THE BEST. Simple, tasteful, done. I pondered doing colored napkins for more money… and then I thought that my proper great grandmothers would be appalled by colored napkins, laughed, and nixed the idea.

        • Denzi

          “General rule of thumb: I figure if I don’t even know what they are then I definitely don’t need to pay extra for them.”

          Best rule of thumb ever.

    • V

      In the sense of APW community support I’d just like to say – it’s also ok if you want the chivari chairs! Chivari chairs do NOT necessarily mean that you sold out to the WIC. Don’t beat yourself up over choosing them (and paying for them) if that’s what you want.

      Poor pretty chairs, they always seem to get the brunt of the WIC disdain. Though the chair decision can be absurdly difficult. :)

      • Haha – my only problem was that I had perfectly good ( and more comfortable chairs, I completely agree Meg) chairs that I had already paid for – and my budget didn’t accommodate paying for chairs twice.

      • meg

        BUT THEY HURT TO SIT IN! (That’s my issue with them. Not the price. Ouchy!)

    • APW is the reason I made it through a year of engagement without knowing what a Chiavari chair was. By which I mean, I read some early post telling me I didn’t need to give a crap about things I didn’t give a crap about (read: chairs), and ignored anything chair-related from that point on. I think the chairs at our reception ended up being semi-ugly, but what of it? We tied paper flowers to the backs of them, and moved right on.

    • Kat


      that SMP Kool-Aid is a strong one!

      • Ake

        We had our reception in the sports field of a school in London and when it came to chairs (the field, not, surprisingly, coming with chairs included) my Mum kept asking the school, “but you MUST have chairs, you’re a school, don’t you have chairs?” and the school were like “but you are getting MARRIED right, you don’t want SCHOOL CHAIRS, they’re plastic, they’re used for exams and things…” and my Mum was like “Uh, am I missing something? I mean, you can sit on them, right? Are CHAIRS supposed to be PRETTY? Is there such a thing as a pretty chair?”
        But the school refused. “No, no, you cannot use our ugly chairs. It’s against The Rules. Which we just made up.” So we had to hire chairs anyway.
        I love my mum for her practical brain.
        Love it.

  • Cass

    When first engaged, this was the very first bit of wedding planning that I did. I have a large family, I wanted to count them so we could figure out which church will hold them all.
    My husband had a different problem, in that he didn’t know exactly who he was supposed to invite from his family other than “If we don’t invite some of them, we will be black-listed from them forever (but I don’t know who these people are!?)”
    In the end, we ended up sending a lot of invites 2 weeks before the wedding when we found out who was actually related to who, and where the hell they lived.

    • Kat

      this sounds like my guy’s current problem.

      ME: “Okay so it would be helpful before we decide where we’re getting married to know who we want to invite. Who do you want to invite from your side?
      HIM: “Uhhhh, I’m not sure.”
      ME: “What do you mean ‘you’re not sure.’ How many cousins, aunts, uncles and friends do you want there?”
      HIM: “I don’t know who all those people are or where they live!”
      ME: “Uhhhh,… you don’t have a family address directory maintained by family members that lists all names, addresses, emails and phone numbers?”
      HIM: “You do!?”
      ME: “UHHH… OF COURSE!”

      • Brefiks

        Look at it this way–they will soon! One of the handiest things about getting married has been acquiring the list of addresses and having the incentive to keep it up. I’m even considering sending Christmas cards for the first time.

      • meg

        A FAMILY DIRECTORY? That is the craziest thing I’ve EVER heard of!

        • Kat

          My family is crazy super organized like that! I think it’s a little silly but it’s actually pretty handy. Kinda like how churches and clubs have phone directories… there are about 70 people including cousins, spouses and their children and grandchildren on my mom’s side.

          • Kat

            Also I believe my mom (she’s type A like that) started it when I think she realized that both her daughters would probably be getting married sometime soon and it would help to have all the right info in one place. Not only is it a large family but people are spread out across the globe.

          • MDBethann

            My mom has a Christmas card spreadsheet that’s pretty up-to-date and I just went off of that. My FH didn’t know who to invite on his side, so I had to sit down with his mom and get names & addresses. I’ve now created quite the joint family directory/spreadsheet and should be in pretty good shape for Christmas cards, at least until people move! Excel is one of my best friends

        • Lturtle

          Our family not only has a directory, but an email listserve. I guess we’re double crazy. :)

          • Kat

            WOOT! An email listserve! Now that’s all sorts of awesome! I’d suggest it to my mom but she frequently has problem sending emails even though she sends maybe close to 50 a day. “How do I attach a file again?”

      • Daynya

        This is exactly the situation we are in. I have had my list of which family members and friends to invite for months. He…thinks that his parents should probably be there…and beyond that, I’m left to just pick which family members of his I know (and like) to invite. It’s really awkward, but, I’ve got nothing to work with here!!

        I am really jealous of the family directory. I will have to hunt down all of this info myself from everyone. Perhaps I will start a directory with my findings, and offer it to family members going forward. For a price. ;)

  • Can someone please explain to me why chairs are causing people so many headaches? They are just chairs. Do you remember what chairs you sat on during weddings you attended? I’m guessing the answer is no. As long as people have something to sit on (if that’s the kind of wedding you are having), then don’t stress about it so much. Just pick the chairs that fit your budget. Don’t pick a budget that fits your (idea of) chairs.

    • I am with you on this. I suspect the reason why chairs (or chair covers!?) always come up in this conversation is that (in my experience) it’s one of the first things the venue wants to know about once you’ve settled on a date and a number. Some of them want to know about it before they even give you a quote.

      I have no idea why the venues are so fixated on chairs (is there a worldwide chair shortage that I haven’t heard about?), but I will say that the venue’s extreme interest in my feelings about chairs was a complete surprise and led to me doubting my non-existent opinions on the matter. (What if I don’t care at all about chairs? Am I missing something important? Am I doing this all wrong?) If others have had a similar experience, I am not at all surprised that chairs become the focus of these concerns.

      (This comment brought to you by parentheticals.)

      • ElisabethJoanne

        It’s crazy what vendors expect you to care about. When we selected green beans and asparagus, the caterer was concerned we had 2 long, green vegetables. Should the green beans be diced or something? My response: “We don’t care what the food looks like.”

        I’ve posted before about photographers who wanted a day-of schedule 14 months before the wedding. Now it’s the ceremony details 9 months in advance.

        Slowly, I’m gaining the confidence to say, “I understand you need that information, but we have not made those decisions yet. I promise to get you the answers by X date.” As an incredibly detail-oriented and organized person, the final answers will be more than the vendors dreamed possible. The photographer, for example, can have every word and action of the ceremony, except the sermon, down to the final Amen of each hymn, but not until we’ve had a few more meetings with the Priest.

        • Kat

          ack those are some non-APW friendly photographers!!

          • ElisabethJoanne

            Actually, I’d recommend the photographers we interviewed, and the one we hired. As a professional, I understand the information-suck-with-blinders that comes from taking on a new client. No one was rude or pushy about it, and any bad feelings about the requests are equally my fault. (There are no pop quizzes in wedding planning. Just because someone asks a question to which I don’t know the answer does not mean I “haven’t done my homework.”)

            I chalk it up not so much to the photographers being non-APW friendly themselves as to their working with too many non-APW couples.

        • LOL! Is having more than one long green vegetable a bad thing?

          • ElisabethJoanne

            Only insofar as my future husband doesn’t like green beans.

            As I indicated about the photographers, in a way, I appreciate these vendors’ attention to detail. Yes, there are non-APW brides who would care about this stuff. And lots of us on APW care about the most random things. I want the (2) bridesmaids’ shoes to match, for example. Yes, I remember the bridesmaids’ shoes at weddings I’ve attended. And, yes, I paid for the shoes, after extensive consultation with both of them, who didn’t really care.

        • Awesome. I laughed out loud at this comment about the 2 long green vegetables. I had a minor melt down about linens because the caterer kept expecting me to have an opinion on all of these small details. I was like, you do this week after week as a professional, I trust your opinion, just make it look nice. I am not an expert on napkins, china, or buffet table design and have no desire to become one!

          • MDBethann

            We had the same response to several venues and florists when we were looking for ours last year. We ended up going with the ones that didn’t ask us crazy questions and seemed very down to earth, i.e. “we do this all the time, we have it covered.” I <3 my venue (a microbrewery!) because of that and the fact that they are about as green as a city restaurant can be.

    • I actually don’t care so much about getting SPECIAL chairs. Throw up metal folding chairs and call it good, for all I care. My problem is that we’re getting married at an apple orchard which doesn’t include tables or chairs. Fine. We’ll rent some.

      But the ceremony and the reception are located on opposite ends of the orchard. I was tempted to saw “screw it” for the ceremony, and put out picnic blankets, but we have a lot of guests who NEED chairs for physical/medical reasons. The number of chairs needed to accomodate those guests is so large, that we might as well just get chairs for everyone.

      But then, do we spend another $$$$ to rent TWO sets of chairs? One for the ceremony, one for the reception? Do we rent one set and have guests carry chairs bewtween the sites? What about all those guest who are medically/physically incapable of carrying their own chair?!

      And on and on and on down the spiral of Chair Hell.

      I’m pretty sure we’re sucking it up and spending the money on two sets of chairs. But THEN the company we’re renting from hit us with all kinds of hidden costs (delivery and drop off fees previously stated to be included in the price! Extra set-up fees, because who else is going to open and place over 300 chairs? 150 guests x 2 chairs each).


      It’s 1:53 pm here. Am I allowed to have a drink yet?

      • Megan2

        It’s after Noon. I say yes!

        • Whitney

          My cousin got married on the beach right next to the house where she was having her reception and asked us ahead of time if we (the youthful and able-bodied) could each grab a few chairs on our way back and set them up at the tables. They were the plastic folding ones with vinyl cushions and were light so I could manage at least 2 on my own. It took 10 extra minutes and wasn’t a big deal at all. :-)

      • efletch

        When planning your wedding normal drinking rules do not apply! I agree that you can ask other guest to help out moving chairs. You would probably be amazed at how unfazed a lot of people will be to help out.

      • I don’t know if it helps, but we are also having the ceremony in a different location from the reception (it’s about a 10 minute walk up-hill from ceremony to reception venue), and we opted to rent one set of chairs and have the caterers transport them between two venues. Yes, it costs us extra in labor, but it was cheaper than renting an extra set of chairs.

        Also, yes to the drink. That sounds like a really good idea right now!

      • Teresa

        There was a wedding posted on APW a few months ago where the photos were so beautiful and one of them was of the wedding guests all moving their own chairs! If it’s not a three mile hike, I say have them move their own chairs!

      • We’re asking our friends to carry their chair from the ceremony to the reception (given it’s not across an orchard just around the house) and then to help out grandparents/etc with theirs. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

    • meg

      But Madeline couldn’t figure out how to afford ANY chairs, is the point. You would remember a wedding where you had to cram dinner into your mouth standing near a table! Probably. (There are weddings that don’t need chairs… but most do.)

      • MDBethann

        Cocktail tables at which you can stand with a few lower tables and associated chairs for the elderly and those who need to sit for medical reasons?

  • Megan2

    Awesome! We’re finally making some headway too. The list does keep growing, but it was the helpful place to start. Couldn’t pick a date until there was a place, couldn’t pick a place till there was a count, can’t pick a date until there was a place. It has nearly all fallen into place. Most of the addresses are collected. We’re visiting the “final” location on Friday. I have invitation plans & thoughts in the works.

    Last night we went over caterers though. Ugh! Fiance is a cook, so he thinks we can self cater. (I hope I can spreadsheet the plans for that last week, without driving him crazy.) *& Fingers crossed that the catering-friends have their license already!!*

    For around $1000 we can probably do it up awesome. While looking at websites, it was looking more like $4000. ($400 for trays of chicken that would cost $100 to make at home.) We’ll just “steal” some menu ideas. Gouda & orrichettie ‘mac&cheese’ with procuttio & scallion! Yes, please.

    I had almost forgotten about having to rent chairs. I’m still hoping hay bales with drapes over them would be acceptable. We’ll see. It’ll probably be chairs in the end.

    • Madeline

      “Couldn’t pick a date until there was a place, couldn’t pick a place till there was a count” etc…EXACTLY!

  • ElisabethJoanne

    Of course, sometimes you pick a place before you make a list. Getting married in my home church, and seeing it full, was most important to me, so we made up the guest list and chose a reception venue around its seating capacity.

  • Lauren

    We started with “Just immediate family and the grandmas.” That’s what we said when we made the calls to tell the fam that we were going to marry. Then it morphed into each inviting one friend plus spouse and I added a great aunt as well as an aunt (my godmother) and her boyfriend. 24 guests. We booked a restaurant venue not long after.

    Not everyone is pleased by who is and who is not invited. But it’ll be fine. That’s the most we ever wanted to do. ;)

    • Jo

      I’m jealous that your amount with friends and spouses is just 24!
      My partner’s “immediate” family alone is 18 people because it’s a blended family with many grown siblings.
      We’re trying to do a small thing and wanted just immediate family, but since my side would be 4 people we’re extending the bubble on my side to include my 1st cousins and aunts and uncles since I’m very close to them (and my side still is only 12 total).
      It’s been tough because we’re close to some of my partner’s aunts and uncles and cousins as well, but we can’t just pick and choose and if we were to include all of his aunts and uncles and 1st cousins his side jumps to over 70 people!

      The guest list has certainly been our biggest plague in this process. This is just the latest stress. We were originally going to do a larger affair so that we could include everybody, but there was a lot of additional drama about trying to please very different factions of people. So we basically said “screw it” and are just doing the small thing and will hopefully get to celebrate with the various extended friends and family groups separately after somehow.

      • Cali

        Same here! Just my fiance’s “close” family is 20-something people, because he’s also from a blended family where each side has lots of siblings and step-siblings, cousins, etc. And they’re all super close and spend all their time together, so it’s not like they’re just distant relations we can easily cut. Whew!

  • Alexandra

    First time poster, though I’ve been lurking this site for a few weeks now. I just wanted to say that this part really speaks to me:

    “… we were skirting round the issue of the Budget. We knew it was important to have one of these. We even opened a spreadsheet. But how can you budget for something if you don’t know what it costs?”

    This part terrifies me. We have the vaguest idea of a guest list, which fluxates between 80 people (should no one out of town decide to come) to 165 people (with some rapidly expanding trouble with family friends with adult, married children I used to be friends with). We have an equally vague idea of a budget, but is it truly a budget if the actual number is dependent on how many guests we have? Obviously, the same amount of money covers a lot more if you suddenly end up with a halved guest list. And then you factor in a venue, and suddenly I have 3 factors that are completely dependent on the other 2 being decided. And neither me nor my fiance are exceptionally decisive in the first place.

    I might have to start flipping coins. Seems to be the best way to actually reach a decision.

    • I was right here about a month and a half ago. I kept fighting and fighting for my 80 beloved guests and finally got an agreement out of the planning commission. I was ELATED. And then slowly and sneakily, the planning commission started adding people back in and suddenly we are up to 200 guests.
      If there’s anything to learn from my experience, it’s that you need to figure out whether or not you and your fellow planners are the kind of people who can really draw the line on the “friends and obligation/ but you used to be so CLOSE to Suzie Q when you were 5 years old” conundrum. I knew all along that this was too important to my parents, and I should have acted accordingly. If you can’t draw the line hard and fast, you should just plan on all 165.

      • Jo

        I like that term “planning commission”!

        If you are really clueless about standard wedding costs, a good way to get a reality check is to check out some inclusive venue pricing. It started to get a lot clearer to me once I’d started researching venues and asking for information (sometimes this stuff is available straight from their websites, but often you can get it quite quickly by emailing the venue and asking). The venues that have done weddings before tend to have standard packages that include various levels of food and different amounts of guests, etc. I’m not saying that you need to go with any standard venue, but it’s a good way to get a feel for costs of catering/ site fees/ etc. Then you can try to find cheaper alternatives if you want, but at least you know where the industry is starting from.

        The other thing about budgeting is that costs are not directly proportional to the number of guests. Site fees and photographers in particular can be substantial costs and are independent of the number of guests. Food and drink are generally proportional to the number of guests, but not completely — often there is a cost-per-guest but with a minimum cost that you must reach whether or not you have enough guests to hit that amount.

        So, yes, figuring out your budget early on is critical, but there are other ways to cut costs without cutting guests if that’s a concern for you (as has been recommended by Meg elsewhere on APW or in her book – I don’t remember where I saw it…).
        Of course, you can cut the guestlist for non-budget reasons (which is what my partner and I are doing). Figuring that out is a whole other ball of frustration.

      • Love the term “planning commission”! I know that I am in the minority here, but I wrote a strategic plan for our wedding and I truly believe that it has helped immensely in keeping our planning commission on the same page. Here’s what I wrote about it:

        Any time a member of the planning commission would try to add people and push the number up I would go back to our plan and point out how we had decided to make decisions related to who to invite. Our guest list creep has been minimal and in line with our overall goals.

        • Denzi

          I love your strategic plan. Ours was a list of “things we must have,” “things we could give or take,” “things that dealing with gives us hives thinking about” scribbled on a pad of paper on my then-boyfriend’s bedroom floor. I went back to that list over and over.

          His “I don’t care about flowers” + my “I don’t want to deal with flowers” let me tell my father, when he said “But a wedding HAS TO have flowers!”, “I understand that flowers are important to you, Dad. Neither Tom or I has the time or energy to arrange for them, so I’d love to put you in charge of them.” Needless to say, we did not have flowers at our wedding.

          • I have the opposite situation of my crafty family stating (not asking, stating) that they are going to make things for my wedding (my engineer father is crafting dioramas as centerpieces). Instead of trying to step in and decide whether or not it fits with my vision, I just realize that I didn’t have any particular feelings about centerpieces and I have very strong feelings about honoring my family and involving them, so I just smile and say I can’t wait to see how it turns out. This has led to: dioramas, drum circle, pinata, and a potential story slam.

  • Hannah

    Ohhhhhh, the chairs. If only I could have back the mental effort and emotional gut-wringing that went into the decision to finally just do the white padded folding chairs and not the fancy chairs that were $700 more. Because seriously–they’re chairs and nobody is really going to remember them. Although by that logic, you’d think that I wouldn’t bother tying a bow on each of them. But I’m only human. :-)

  • CC

    I am scared of the chairs issue because I am easily influenced. I feel like I might have to carry APW the book with me on all wedding related stuff to remind myself that weddings can be sane (must remember: chiavari chairs are uncomfortable, I think most chair covers look silly). Maybe I’ll just write a gut check note in the back of Meg’s book to make sure I don’t get rushed into a decision (have you checked the internet for comparable pricing yet?, did you know the name of that before you were engaged?, did you care about it before being engaged?, is this within the budget line? if not, where will the extra money come from?) Oh yeah, must remember: I don’t want ice sculptures…giving them to me for free should not alter my perception of the venue’s price.

    Thanks to the person who posted that asking the able bodied 20 somethings to carry a few chairs from one spot to another isn’t that big of a deal. Being one of the first among your friends to be engaged is weird because of the dearth of wedding experience.

    The one thing that I had dreaded the most about wedding planning, even before being engaged and looking at any wedding related websites, was the guest list. My fiance and I have been dating since high school, and people have been asking to be invited to the wedding since then (in a joking way, and I’m sure they’re super excited, but still slightly stressful, and so not fair that most of them just asked me, or maybe my fiance just forgot about all the people that asked to be invited to our wedding). I was worried that we would have a ginormous guest list with so many people that I would feel like part of a show rather than a celebration. However, my fiance and I just sat down together and knocked it out in about an hour, least stressful thing thus far (though maybe it’s because we haven’t told anybody who’s invited yet). Am I deluding myself?

    • meg

      NEVER question things that are not stressful. Just go with it!!

  • Caroline

    Ha! When I was doing research for my wedding, I started with an estimated guest list and rounded up to the closest round number (100). That let me make rough estimates for how much things would cost. That let me narrow down which venues we could afford.

    Then I basically made a big decision tree. “We really want the ceremony to be outside in the evening. Park A is our first choice, but if we can’t get it, then we’ll go to Park B and then Park C. We really want an all-inclusive reception site so we don’t have to deal with renting chairs/tables/linens/etc., so we want Restaurant A or Restaurant B. However, those are only available on Sunday nights. That means Memorial Day weekend. If we can’t get Park A on the Sunday before Memorial Day, then we’ll move on to Reception Venues C, D, or E, which are available on Saturday nights. We’d rather have Park A and Venue C than Park B and Venue A. All of the reception places will let us have the ceremony there in case of rain, except Venue E, so let’s hope we don’t get that far down on the list, or we’ll have to figure something else out for rain.”

    As it turned out, we were able to book both Park A and Restaurant A on the Sunday before Memorial Day, and it was fine. But I actually made a flowchart of all the contingency plans, and stressed out about it endlessly until we got the darn things booked.

    This wasn’t peculiar to weddings for me. I do this every time I plan a trip — well, I don’t always make an actual flowchart, but I think through contingencies and have backup options.

    Also, regarding chairs: If your wedding is at a location and time where another couple might be getting married before or after you — talk to the location people about getting in touch with the other couple to split a chair rental. The couple getting married in Park A that morning got in touch with us that way. We had similarly sized guest lists, so it worked well. We each paid half the cost of chair rental. The chairs were set up before their ceremony and packed up after ours. Saved us both some money.

    The only possible snag was that we had to agree on which chairs we wanted. I wanted to go cheap with regular plastic folding chairs, but the other bride wanted to spring for the padded folding chairs. Since we were splitting it, my half of the padded chairs was still less than the full price of the regular chairs, so I just went along with the padded chairs.

    Seriously, I haaaaaated having to choose chairs. This was why we prioritized having the reception at a restaurant — they have their own chairs, tables, linens, dishes, etc. I think my head would have exploded if I’d had to personally choose and rent all of that stuff. My now-husband would have done his half of the work, but that would have just meant both of our heads would have exploded.

    Seriously, if you’re having a “meal” reception, I highly, highly recommend checking out the possibility of having it at a restaurant. It just bypasses so many of the fiddly decisions about furniture and linens and decor. Nobody tried to convince me I needed chiavari chairs or chair covers to match my centerpieces. Nobody even mentioned chairs. It was awesome.

    And the restaurant we went with? Does a buffet for events, flat price per person, including unlimited soft drinks, house wine, and house beer. YES. We didn’t even have to choose FOOD, or worry about a bar bill. Laziest party planning EVER. I was SO HAPPY. (And believe it or not — their price actually turned out to be one of the lowest of everything we were looking at.)

    • woah, awesome to include house wine and beer! We had our reception at a restaurant with an upstairs ballroom. The owner helped me decorate (seriously elevated my design to something awesome), did all the setup, and pretty much had everything included. It was excellent. We did have to pay for bar stuff, so we bought a keg and then set a bar tab limit.

    • I <3 your flowcharts!!!!!

      We had similar conundrums while trying to choose a venue, and I very nearly did draw up a flowchart. The husband-elect thought I was either being insane or hilarious. I was totally serious. It's become a running joke whenever we need to make a joint decision: "hold the phone! I need to draw up a flowchart!" But I secretly still wish that we had. So I'm really glad to know that someone else out there thinks this is a great idea too.

    • Chris Bergstrom

      I second (third?) that point about restaurants. Already set up, already decorated, not prone to charging weird extra fees, affordable, and they know what they’re doing with food and drinks! We had our 40-ish person reception in a small private restaurant room, it could not have been a more ideal choice for us.

  • Kat

    ugh I’m at the part where I’m still trying to convince G that $900 for a venue for 12 hours is NOT expensive for our area and in fact really quite affordable. But it does look like I’m going to cave and we’re going to go no alcohol and have the reception in my church so then the venue cost gets knocked down to a “donation.” We would save on alcohol costs but we’re going to have an after party bonfire elsewhere with kegs and wine magically appearing.

    • DKR

      I don’t know where your wedding will be, but the venue for mine ( suburb of a major city) is $900/5 hours and $70/hour after that. Of course, that’s pretty inexpensive for this area, being a vacation destination as well. $900/12 hours sounds reasonable to me too, tho I don’t know what’s included in the rental.

      • Kat

        I’m out in the suburbs of Toronto, Canada and it’s not a weddingy venue… I’m really really trying to put things in perspective for my super frugal guy but I keep getting hit with how our grandmas and great-grandmas would not have spent that much on their wedding.. I swear, he has not read the APW book which I bought last night, read the intro and died laughing when I got to that part.

    • meg

      I would have murdered someone in cold blood for that price. Just to put it in perspective there ;)

      • CBaker

        $900 for 12 hours is AWESOME. We are trying to plan a wedding in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, and apparently $3000 for 9 hours is a bargain. Agh.

      • Kat

        Yeah, I’m trying to show Mr Man that with the budget we have it’s NOT a problem. come on dear G $900!!!! 12 hours!!! It includes tables and chairs, access to kitchen and it’s a gorgeous heritage building that used to be the town hall and now converted into a theatre/event space (no rows of seats bolted to the floor). Catering is extra and includes linens, dishes, glasses, cutlery, service and a 4 course meal for $32 a plate… but I can’t even get to the catering part because $900 for a venue seems like a colossal waste of dough to him! Tearing hair out! 18 months to go :S

  • CBaker

    I laughed out loud at the mandatory ice sculpture bit… The first venue we looked at had a “no red things” policy. No red wine, no red food, no red flowers, no red linens, no red CLOTHES. They were a historic property, and I totally understand the need to protect the woodwork in the building, but…. we were attempting to rent the completely outdoor red brick patio. And I was not sure I would feel comfortable including “do not wear red clothing” on the invites.

    • meg

      THAT IS INSANE. The end.

    • MDBethann

      I get the no red wine and no red food because of stains. But red flowers, linens, and clothes out too?? Strange indeed.

  • Brefiks

    Too funny! The whole moving target experience of planning is one of the biggest headaches.

  • Ah yes, the guest list was our first step too.

    Funny enough, it seemed easy at first. I write down my family and friends I want there, and he does the same. We add them together, and voila! One thing down!

    HA. Yeah sure.

    The initial guest list IS easy. It’s the weeks after those when it suddenly occurs to you–“Oh no! We forgot to add our next-door neighbors of twelve years! And my best friend’s parents! And the family we used to vacation with… dang, they have kids who are grown up now with families of their own… do we have to include all of them too?”

    Add in the fact that most people were coming from out of town, and we were looking at anywhere from 60 to 160. Not quite the single venue-determining number I’d imagined.

    And yet… somehow it worked out. As we talked to people, found the hard cap on a venue we wanted, and sent out Save-the-Dates, that 100-person range kept getting smaller and smaller until it was down to like, 10. Much more manageable.

  • ElisabethJoanne

    Hmm. I need something like this post I can make The Parents read. We typed up a guest list, gave it to The Parents, and asked for feedback around the time we were choosing a venue and setting a budget. The parents added a handful of people, no big deal. But in the 7 months since, the handfuls have kept coming. I’ve removed some friends in favor of family whom surprise! we are in touch with. I have no real problem living out the family-over-friends priority, just don’t like the surprise aspect.

    And I stress, ’cause we’re in Annie in LA’s position: lots of out-of-town guests who can’t all possibly be coming (and lots of guests with children who may not bring them), but the numbers still scare me.

    • meg

      “I need something like this post I can make The Parents read.”

      Cough. That’s my book. That’s why I wrote it, so you could give it to your mama.

      • CBaker

        A great friend sent me your book as soon as she found out we were engaged. I read it, and immediately handed it off to my mom. “Here, this is the theme, practical” She loved it and (I hope) understands now why we are making certain decisions. “Only one attendant apiece? Wonderful.” “Buffet style brisket taco bar? That sounds nice!”

        My three sisters, on the other hand, all need a turn with the book!

        (and they’ll get it)

      • ElisabethJoanne

        I’ve considered this, in a way, but for deeply personal reasons you’ll just have to trust me on, it wouldn’t work in these families.

      • That’s why I bought 3 copies! One for me, one for my mother, one for my fiance’s mother. We’ve all read it and are literally on the same page. Thanks!!

  • EmKate


    I am currently looking at an email from a ‘designer’ (aka what happens when you say to your caterer who do I ask about covering that ugly stage in the beautiful building with fabric).

    I will fully admit- i think I’m about to pay for the fancy pants chairs. Reason: the chairs included with our venue are legit terrible conference chairs that are 1. uncomfortable and 2. half broken, so we had to get something… Fancy pants chairs just looked so nice too.

    Right now I’m struggling with the fact that we are spending so freaking much on one day. We’re not going into debt, it’s something we can afford, we’re spending money in ways that match with our ethics/morals (aka I paid more for a dress made ethically in Canada, we’re paying a true artist to take pictures, and free range chicken versus terrible-life chicken) but I still have spent the last hour in a total panic attack. Compounding the panic is that my soon-to-be Mr. is out to see and not available by phone/skype/immediate messaging. I realize I’m rambling, but man is this therapeutic.

    Be happy. Think about what you’ll remember in 5 years.

  • Stephanie B

    If it’s not the chairs it’s the chair covers. I’m not really picky nor do I want (or have room for) expensive things but the chairs at the venue we really like are plain old folding metal chairs. Normally these chairs are great, I don’t mind them, but for some reason when I look at them now they really bother me. It’s like they know where my button is.
    I really don’t want to get chair covers because a. we can’t afford it and b. way too formal, but those damn chairs won’t leave me alone!

  • Denzi

    This may already be in The Book(TM), but I would advise leaving some slush room (if possible) in your guest list. We originally started with a guest list of sixty, before my husband finally said, “Look, I know you REALLY want a small-ish wedding, but I’ve always wanted the kind of loud, crazy wedding where we could invite everyone.” (He also has five siblings, and his dad has eight siblings, and his mom has three…aieeee large Catholic families.) It was a big deal emotionally, convincing myself I’d be able to handle 100-200 people at my wedding (125 attended), but it was not a big deal at all logistically, as we had picked very size-flexible venues.

    I would go so far as to say “pick a venue that can hold 10-25% more guests than you want to have” (depending on how many guests you’re planning for originally). That way if you have small wedding remorse, or parental guest list creep, it doesn’t feel like as much of an imposition. Or like you have to bump friends who are important to you for distant relatives. And if your wedding shrinks or hold in size, I promise that won’t make your venue feel like a big empty space of nothingness. Just a little more legroom, walking room, and a big space full of love.