The Guest List

I have one of the smallest families I have ever known. There are six of us. Mum, Dad, brother, sister, Grandma, and me. Six.

Jack has two of the biggest families I have ever known. He’s half Sicilian—so you can expect a large family on that side. Except it’s not his Sicilian family that’s the big one—it’s his English family. And these people see each other all the time.

Every single year a fireworks party is held at his Grandma’s house, and her five siblings arrive, each with their own children and grandchildren, and in some cases great-grandchildren! His mother is one of four, and one of her sisters has six kids of her own…that’s a lot of people!

So what do you do when you have a family this big? You have to put them into groups. The Immediate Family, the Close Family, and the Extended Family.

The Immediate Family. Mum, Dad, brother, sister, two grandmas, and grandad. Not bad.

The Close Family. Ten aunts and uncles, twenty-one cousins, and four second cousins.

The Extended Family. Too many to even count. But we focussed on his grandparents’ siblings because they were the ones we knew the most, and unfortunately we had to draw the line somewhere. :( Still—that came to 19.

That’s 61 people. SIXTY-ONE PEOPLE TO MY SIX! That made me feel a bit lonely, so I totted up my numbers.

I may only have five actual family members, but I made up for it in family friends. OK, maybe made up for it is not the right phrase, but I added some more people to my side so I didn’t look as pathetic. Fifteen extra people—not bad! Not equal, but not bad.


OK, maybe a bit bad. Hahaha. I joke like I only invited my family friends because my side would look empty, but in truth these family friends are the equivalent of aunts and uncles to me. People who have been there for years and years, people who come round at Christmas and send me cards on my birthday—they might not technically be my family, but I class them as such.

Still, adding both our friends to the list just made the numbers grow and grow—we couldn’t have that many people at our wedding. Our maximum for the meal was 100 and really that was pushing it. One hundred and twelve was too much.

I expressed my concern to Jack and he wasn’t phased by it. “Invite my extended family to the reception only. They’ll probably still come to the ceremony. It’s OK…that’s what my family do.”

Tiered receptions are the norm in the UK—you invite as many people as your venue holds to the evening do for drinks and dancing, and close family are invited to the ceremony and wedding breakfast.

Even Kate and Wills did a tiered reception! Although theirs was slightly different. Nineteen hundred guests to the ceremony at Westminster Abbey, 600 to the wedding breakfast, and 300 to the evening dinner and party. So they did it the opposite way round—but still, it’s a normal thing to do here.


Thank goodness we don’t have THIS MANY guests!! / Image via Oregon Live / Photo taken from film footage

One thing did bother me, though. These people would be travelling—could I really do that to them?!

Yes—I could. I struggled with it at first, worried what people would think, but I spoke to his mother and his grandma about it and they said the same thing. They are a large family—no one expects a young couple to be able to afford to host them all. They will go to the church ceremony, go down to the beach, grab some lunch, make a day of it, and meet us later for a party. They’d all done it for everyone else—it was normal. And after thinking about it for a while, I was OK with it. In fact, I’m relieved that it’s OK. It takes a lot of pressure off me.

It’s hard to do something when etiquette, magazines, your friends, and strangers on the internet tell you it’s “wrong,” but ultimately only you can decide what is right for you and your wedding. You know your friends and family, so trust yourself that you’re doing the right thing.

Did anyone else face any struggles like this one? Did you plan/are you planning a tiered reception?


Mrs. Jackrabbit

Brighton, UK
Wedding Date:
September 2013
Apple-y Ever After: Reception Details
Butts in Seats
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  1. mslemur Member
    mslemur 616 posts, Busy bee @ 8:36 am

    This is really interesting! I love hearing how things are different in different cultures (even as similar as the UK and US generally are). I only very rarely hear about split ceremony and reception.

    What do you mean by wedding breakfast? Is this what we would usually think of as the reception? Is it before or after the ceremony?

    Sorry for all the questions 😉

  2. msjackrabbit Member
    msjackrabbit 1080 posts, Bumble bee @ 8:47 am

    @Miss Lemur: Good question! the wedding breakfast is the meal.

    We have pretty early ceremonies over here (mine is a late one at 2pm) so the wedding breakfast is named so as it’s traditionally the first meal of the wedding day!

    Our reception will start at around 8pm, so more people will arrive then for drinks and dancing :)

  3. mstoadstool Member
    mstoadstool 2485 posts, Buzzing bee @ 9:26 am

    Oh make a post explaining that, it will be very interesting.
    I hear you in the big family front, our 4 families (both mom’s and dad’s) see each other all the time, so aunts, uncles and cousins HAD to be there, no questions about that, but inviting my dad’s cousins would have put us in the 300 guests mark. Big families.

  4. msjackrabbit Member
    msjackrabbit 1080 posts, Bumble bee @ 9:30 am

    @Mrs. Toadstool: 300 guests?! wowza.

    good thinking! I might just do that and write a post about the typical running order of our days :)

  5. Member
    glasgowbound 3166 posts, Sugar bee @ 10:01 am

    we’re getting married in Scotland – our ceremony is at 4:30! people are VERY confused :)

  6. Member
    stephk527 987 posts, Busy bee @ 10:15 am

    I definitely would love to read more about the specifics of your wedding days. Is there not a dinner after the ceremony, then? Will it go ceremony – pictures – reception? This is so interesting, I’m so glad we have a UK Bee!

  7. bluewhale Member
    bluewhale 638 posts, Busy bee @ 10:43 am

    I think it’s totally fine to do this, as long as the invitations specify it. Mr. Whale and I traveled to a wedding a few years ago, only to find out when we got there that we weren’t invited to the ceremony… We probably would have gone anyway, but it would have been nice to know ahead of time that we were only invited to the reception.

  8. Guest Icon Guest
    Mila G, Guest @ 11:05 am

    My “side” is the same way – mostly family friends, but often I forget to think about them as “friends” because they are sooo like family

  9. msjackrabbit Member
    msjackrabbit 1080 posts, Bumble bee @ 11:31 am

    @Glasgowbound: 4.30?! I can imagine they ARE confused! hahahaha

    @StephK527: oooh sorry, i wasn’t clear :( ceremony, pictures, wedding breakfast (dinner), dancing. they just call it the ‘breakfast’ because ceremonies are usually at 11am, and the meal was typically the first meal of the day!

    @Miss Blue Whale: ahhh yes, it’s custom to have 2 different invites – one for the ‘full day’ guests and another for the ‘reception only’ guests :)

    @Mila G: that’s how i feel! i find it odd when people have giant families and no family friends!

  10. Member
    ginnwitt 213 posts, Helper bee @ 12:10 pm

    I had (have) 2 seperate invites, one reads cermeony, dinner and reception, the other reads ceremony and reception…so there is no confusion…I’m the one who mixed up one, I ended up giving a dinner invite to someone who was reception, so we’ll just have 2 extra friends for dinner, in the end, it’s going to work out fine

  11. Member
    ginger8 31 posts, Newbee @ 3:06 pm

    I was entertained by the pie chart you posted because, like yours, my fiance’s side for the guest list is significantly smaller than mine due to my enormous family size. I’m one of 6 kids. My mom is one of 12 kids and that makes me one of 60, yes you read that correctly, 60 grandchildren on that side of the family (Irish Catholic family anyone?). I’m close to my entire extended family so it’s been nuts trying to make a guest list and trim it down so that we can afford to even feed everyone at the reception. Luckily, there’s a precedent in my family to cut off the cousins at 21+, but even doing so, my family makes up 85 people on my guest list. Our goal has been to keep our list below 200 people and amazingly, we’ve thus far managed to do so.

  12. mspony Member
    mspony 9265 posts, Buzzing Beekeeper @ 6:35 pm

    I think this is a great way to include everyone in the wedding festivities! I hope you write about the traditional wedding day in the UK, I find those so interesting.

  13. Member
    chronicwhimsy 2581 posts, Sugar bee @ 8:10 am

    I remember when I first came on here I thought it was really odd how worked up some people got about only inviting people to the evening reception. It took me a bit to realise it was a US vs UK thing.

    It’s good your Future In-Laws are understanding about their numbers though. It could have been really awkward if they’d all wanted to turn up for the whole thing!

  14. sword Member
    sword 1029 posts, Bumble bee @ 8:08 pm

    Tiered receptions are so normal in the UK, pretty sure that’s what Mr. Sword’s sister plans on doing for her wedding as well! And yes, anything Kate and Wills do is always worth copying, haha!

  15. Member
    Selaen 64 posts, Worker bee @ 12:47 pm

    It’s weird; we’re looking at similar figures & setup for our wedding..

    My side of the wedding will be fairly small as my family is still in Finland & I wouldn’t presume they’d want to attend as it’d involve loads of traveling. So we’re not doing “sides” but doing a sit wherever you’d like kinda thing. So that our families would mix a little to make it look a little less… pathetic.. on my side! But we’re inviting 66 people to the whole shebang and then another dozen or so for evening only. Basically, because my family will be traveling halfway across Europe to attend, they are all invited to the whole thing. His nearest & dearest are all invited to the whole wedding, and the members of family/friends we’d like to be there but aren’t absolutely-completely necessary for us, will be invited to the evening do. This includes people from our current city as well as his friends & family from down south. If they want to attend our wedding, they’ll travel – we’re traveling down to Weston for one of his friends’ wedding in June, on an evening only invite, so it’s not that big of a deal..

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