How Many Wedding Guests?

One big dilemma that any bridezilla faces: how many wedding guests to invite? Who should be present at the ceremony? Are there certain relatives or co-workers that barely merit the cost of a reception dinner? Will the invited guests show up, or even bother to return an RSVP? Can we seat Aunt Edna next to Cousin Ralph without the inevitable awkward moments? Yeah, fun questions indeed.

Welcome to one of the biggest advantages that elopement weddings have over traditional weddings. If you plan an elopement, you can pretty much forget bothering to entertain any of the above questions. Why? Because you can simply elect to have: no wedding guests! Did you even consider this as a possibility? Probably not. And that’s too bad, because the wedding ceremony – whether it’s a simple elopement or a big, traditional wedding – is about you and your future spouse, period. It’s not about who will show up, who will sit where during the reception, who will offer the toasts, what gifts they will shower you with, or what the bridesmaids will wear. In fact, most elopements will simply omit the wedding party entirely. And that’s fine. Your friends really don’t want to spend a few hundred bucks on an unattractive chartreuse dress and matching shoes that they will only wear during your wedding day and never again.

Focus on the elopement ceremony as it pertains to you, your future spouse, and your marriage first. Then, if you decide you want to invite a handful of guests – which is your choice, remember – then do so. Realize, however, that too often engaged couples worry about offending friends and family if they invite certain people, don’t invite others, set up seating arrangements, or decide to hold a wedding ceremony in a locale that’s too inconvenient for half the guests. You solve all of these problems by deciding to invite no one. Just a thought.

Now, suppose you actually decide to keep the guest list to an absolute minimum, or even skip the invitations altogether? How will you avoid offending everyone you know? One solution is to hold your elopement ceremony in a destination that’s just a bit too inconvenient or expensive for most travelers. Is this devious? Depends. You may find that a few of those closest to you will show up! Perhaps Aunt Edna or Cousin Ralph, however, might be too busy or lacking the funds for a plane ticket. Darn.

So, who should you invite to your elopement wedding? Let’s look at the options:

  • No wedding guests. Not having any guests will, of course, save you and your future spouse a great deal of money. But don’t forget that your family and friends will save money as well (unless they opt to send you a gift, which you should specify would not be necessary). This is because they won’t have to spring for plane fares, hotel stays, new clothes, or babysitters. Also, you’ll have no worries about who will attend or won’t attend, or concerns about who to invite – or not. There will be no chances of awkward family get-togethers. No worries about whether an ex-stepfather might encounter an ex-stepmother. On the other hand, there is the possibility that you may offend those closest to you by not inviting them to your wedding. And you could very well cause some friction with your parents (this applies only if you’re a younger couple, of course) if you opt out of a traditional wedding. Even so, as the idea of eloping grows, the idea of having a “no guests” wedding will become less foreign over time. This means that where some years ago people in your lives might have been irked by not receiving invites to your wedding, in the years to come these annoyances will be less of a factor.
  • A few wedding guests. You could compromise and invite only those people who you feel closest to. These would include parents, siblings, and close friends and relatives. Don’t feel obligated to invite a relative with whom you have little contact with. Especially for those who have large extended families, inviting those with whom you have a tenuous relationship is not only a financial strain on you, but may make the invitees somehow feel like you are only out to get some extra wedding gifts.
  • Lots of wedding guests. Let’s face it, if you’re expecting a lot of guests at your small wedding, you’re going to pay for their presence.
    Even if you skip the traditional wedding reception dinner and avoid renting out a banquet hall, you’ll likely at least get married in a backyard, beach, or park. Your guests will probably expect a minimal amount of decor and seating, especially if older folks will be present. So you may have to hire a party rental service to at least provide chairs for those who will want seating during your (albeit brief) elopement ceremony. And with more people at your elopement comes more variables. Will you hear – through the grapevine – about the opinions swirling around your scaled-down affair? Will the inevitable comparisons that some people will make between your small budget elopement vs. “Jim and Mary Jones’ ” lavish traditional wedding make you uncomfortable? Keep these issues in mind as you make out your guest list. One of the big advantages of planning an elopement is being able to avoid the opinions or “advice” of others.

Choose to elope if you’re interested in pleasing your future spouse – and yourself – first. After all, the wedding ceremony is about you two. If you’re still focused on showing off to your family (and frenemies) while putting on the “party of the decade”, then yes: stage a traditional wedding. Years from now, all of the wedding guests will have forgotten about your big party. But your bank account may still be hungover from the mighty expenses you incurred by trying to show the world how lavish your “big day” was. Will it have been worth it? Probably not. Your marriage is too important to turn it into a circus sideshow. So keep things simple, and focus on your relationship. Not on how your wedding will appear in the society columns. If you’re traditional wedding is turning you into a “bridezilla” (or “groomzilla”), then opt for no wedding guests. There are no laws requiring you to invite anyone to your marriage.