Huh? Wedding Advice? What in the world brings this up? Well…we have been invited to 3 weddings over the course of the next several months and they have been the subject of discussion around the kitchen table. OK…so it’s been a one man discussion! However, as a two time “Father of the Bride” within a year of each other (ouch)…I’ve got my own opinions/advice! So…if you’re planning a wedding, below is my unsolicited advice…from the “Father of the Brides”!
If I’ve said it once…I’ll say it a thousand times…it’s all about the list! To me…this was the most agonizing aspect of sending both of my daughters down the aisle and off to wedded bliss! You might ask why? The obvious answer is…it has the most significant impact on the overall cost! Cost matters…unless you are part of the 1%. I’m not! The list influences the location for both the wedding and the reception venues, the menu, the flowers (or lack thereof), bar options, invitations and damn near everything else…save the infamous bridal gown…aka…dress (see below). Believe it or not, I still think about those few that we couldn’t invite to our wedding (cost and venue size)…and that was over 37 years ago !
Here’s an interesting option. For one couple we know…the magic number was 150. Parents of the bride and the groom were allocated a maximum of 30 guests each. No questions asked (invite whoever they wanted). The bride and groom got to invite the remaining 90 guests! Any unused invites allocated to the parents would go back to the bride and groom’s “kitty”. Interesting idea and it really worked for them (I think?). On the other side…if each set of parents had a list of 50…oops! My own lists for each of my daughter’s weddings were well over 50+…and that was painful enough! Again…it boils all down to the list!
Don’t expect a whole bunch of folks to show up to a destination wedding if it requires travel/lodging expenses in excess of $500/person. (You can only go but so far or can't get too exotic at $500 a pop!) If you do…don’t expect any big time gifts! Again…this does not apply to you one per-centers!
My youngest wanted to get married in Jamaica. We love Jamaica. My wife was born in Jamaica…but when my daughter realized that a significant number of family, close friends and other relatives that she wanted to share in her “once-in-a-lifetime” experience…financially…would not be able to attend...she squashed that idea. Instead, she got married in Connecticut…and the wedding party (and her parents…that would be me & Mom) all jumped on a plane and went to Montego Bay and had a group honeymoon!
It was an awesome 7-day experience for about 14 of us! Everyone involved still says it was the best. For a few folks in the wedding party…it was their first trip “abroad”!
Now that I think about it…”international” weddings can be an exception to this “destination wedding” rule. My oldest daughter…fell in love with and eventually married my German son-in-law. He was born and raised in Dresden, Germany…from the former East Germany no less! The wedding was held here in Connecticut.
The final list included about 180 guests. Aside from his immediate family, the list also included about 30 friends from Germany, a dozen or so from California and even one from Tokyo Japan! We sent out the invitations…and I assumed that maybe 10 or 15 of the their German friends would actually attend…saving me some money! Wrong! Damn near all of them showed up! Even the friend from Tokyo! For many, it was their first time to America. For my son-in-law’s grandmother, it was her first time on a plane!!! She was 82!
The Wedding Venue:
Inviting 50 people and getting married in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral (in New York City) is a little odd….dontcha think? If nothing else…the echoes would be deafening. Big is one thing…small is another! My wife and I got married in a small church (capacity about 120). The ceremony was scheduled for 10:30AM. My wife and future in-laws were worried because we invited 150+ people. I assured them that most of my friends would not attend a wedding ceremony starting at 10:30AM. Much to my surprise…they ALL showed up! There was standing room only! Seriously…some folks had to stand in the vestibule! I was shocked! At 10:30AM…I barely made it to the ceremony myself!
Our youngest daughter got married in a beautiful old church…that we didn’t even belong to…but they opened their arms to us.
Every other church turned us down except St. Johns Episcopal and a nearby Universalist Church. I could go on forever about that…but I’ll defer. The older daughter got married at the reception venue…a beautiful outdoor ceremony. Outdoor versus indoor is a whole ‘nother discussion. Fortunately, the rain didn’t start until after the ceremony and the outdoor cocktail hour!
The Reception Venue:
Okay…so the list is 500? Scratch the filet mignon! How about a single rosebud per table…better yet…a daisy? Tables? What tables? Passed hor d’ourves? Fuhgeddaboudit! Open bar…maybe! Top shelf booze at open bar? At 500 guests…no thanks…we’ll use the house brand instead! How about just beer and wine? How about BYOB!
Both daughters opted for a reception venue…that by default…dictated the maximum number of invitees. I think both venues had a capacity of about 175 or so guests. As I mentioned, for our oldest daughter the wedding and reception venue were one and the same. The younger wanted a big time party atmosphere and opted for a local venue.
Unfortunately…both lists started out at the 200 level! It was an agonizing exercise going through the list and having to make some eliminations. To this day…I regret eliminating those I/we wanted to attended versus those that were “politically correct” to invite!
Once their big day arrived, I was really annoyed…okay…livid…at the last minute “no shows”. Okay…you were really sick! I understand. Other than that…you really pissed me off. Why? We had to include you in the “committed” headcount to the caterer…you cost me money even though you opted not to show up! More importantly…we eliminated folks from our list so that you could attend…and you didn’t. In many cases, I understand…but in most…there was no excuse! Especially when we had to tightly scrutinizing the infamous list! Again…it’s the list and forget about being politically correct!
It’s obviously a female thing…and I’ll get beat up for this. Why anyone, outside of the one per-centers, would spend more than a grand on a dress (okay…wedding gown) is beyond my comprehension. Okay…$1500 MAX! My daughters spent less than half of that! You’re in the dress for a max of seven or eight hours! Less if you have a wedding gown and then a change into “a dress for the reception”. I understand it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience…but trust me…the bride’s daughter (if she ever has one) does NOT plan to wear your “hand-me-down” dress at her nuptials…and you quickly realize that spending several thousand dollars on a white dress is absurd!
Father of the Bride:
I could go on and on but I don’t expect that you’ve read even this far! If you have…let it be known that I was a very happy “Father of the Bride”…both times! Everything worked out really well and the feedback from the daughters, son-in-laws, and invited guests were awesome. If nothing else…have a great time…but don’t forget the list!