We associate weddings with sunny summer days, but the process often starts in the bitter cold.
A 2014 poll by WeddingWire found that 16 percent of engagements happen in December, more than any other month. Why this is, I’m not certain. I suspect there’s something about the days growing shorter that makes a man say, “With my home’s total lack of insulation, I won’t get through winter without her body heat: Let’s lock this down and live ’til spring.” And so they become engaged, starting the challenge of building a life together and, more importantly, planning a wedding.
Shin-pei and I need to handle this marital bliss thing a little longer before we feel confident offering guidance on married life, but we survived a wedding and from that we have one profound piece of advice: You will get your invite list wrong. Let’s repeat that together: You will get your invite list wrong.
There is one easy solution to an invite list: Possess infinite money and time.
This isn’t to say you will get it completely wrong or even mostly wrong, but no matter how much you agonize, you will look out at the assembled masses and think, “Why isn’t [INSERT CHERISHED FRIEND/FAMILY MEMBER] here?”
The invites will cause you tremendous stress. You will experience it even if you come from a culture where you automatically invite your entire town. That would seem to take the matter out of your hands, but you will still wind up musing, “Do we invite people who lived here but moved away?” And, “How about people who just moved here?” And, “What about people who haven’t actually moved here but have been checking the real estate listings and gone to a few open houses?” And, “Where’s the town line again?” And, “Why aren’t we eloping?”
You’re already taking on the trouble of getting hitched: Go all in. There is one easy solution to an invite list: Possess infinite money and time. This way, budget and scheduling are not of concern. Sadly, most of us have limits and must take everyone—all the people who shaped both spouses’ lives—and divide them into circles. Possible circles include:
- Immediate family.
- Less immediate family.
- Was told they’re family, but where are the blood test results?
- College friends who’ve always stayed close.
- High school friends you’re in touch with occasionally.
- That dude who made me a copy of a Metallica album in elementary school.
- Work friends.
- Work acquaintances.
- She’s trying to destroy me but if she comes I can keep an eye on her.
And so on. The catch? Once you invite someone from a circle, accept the whole circle. Why? Because people can forgive if they’re not invited to a wedding, as long as they don’t hear that someone else was invited who makes them think, “That person in attendance is my approximate equivalent.” At which point it gets raw.
In our case, we decided the vast majority of our guests would come from a circle we called, People We Love Who Can Attend a Wedding Without Their Lives Being Violently Disrupted. We came up with this circle when we realized we had multiple friends who live across the country or had wives who’d be just under nine months pregnant at the time of our wedding. This led us to reason, “Perhaps our wedding will have more of the relaxed vibe we desire if we don’t force anyone to induce labor so they can fly 3,000 miles for our big day before rushing back to take care of their newborns.”
Building on this, we tried to limit invites to people who’d be in the area anyway, so they’d be spared travel hassles, hotel bills and other inconveniences. While this guideline was waived for some of our guests—Hello, in-laws from Taiwan and Tasmania!—it resulted in a wedding that required only a subway fare for most invitees.
We then planned on arranging additional gatherings soon after it. (Note: This was a well-intentioned, incredibly naïve idea on our part: By the time you plan a wedding, experience a wedding, go on a honeymoon and scramble to make up all the work you neglected during these joyous events, the thought of organizing anything makes you get in the fetal position while whimpering about chair rentals.)
And how was the wedding? Best day of my life. Move over, Super Bowl XLII, but we each found ourselves thinking, “I wish [INSERT LOVED ONE] could be here.”
There were last-minute cancellations due to a severe illness and a work crisis—I urge you only to invite people who are healthy, yet unemployable. But, more importantly, some folks are simply beyond invitation. When I noted that all it took to create the perfect wedding invite list was infinite money and time, I left one thing out: You should have jurisdiction over life and death, too.
You will have moments—only fleeting ones, because there will be so much happening you won’t focus too much on anything—when you think, “[INSERT BELOVED GRANDMOTHER] would have been so happy to see I found someone I love so much.” And, “[INSERT COLLEGE FRIEND WHO PASSED TOO SOON] would have been shocked to see me get married, let alone get a girlfriend.” And, “I wonder how many times [INSERT CRAZY LATE FRIEND WHO ENJOYED A DRINK] would have fallen down walking the 100 yards from the garden where we got married to the restaurant where we had dinner.”
And as disappointed as you may be in those moments, take heart. “Why couldn’t [INSERT FRIEND/FAMILY MEMBER] have joined us?” remains preferable to, “Why is [INSERT SOMEONE ONCE CLOSE WHO’S TURNED INTO A TOTAL DICKHEAD YOU INVITED ANYWAY] here?”