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?