Who's In, Who's Out
Before you can even think of drawing up a list of potential reception revelers, you need to think about who should be invited — and who shouldn't. Each family is different, of course, but there are some general guidelines you might want to follow, and some advice that may help you out of some pretty hot water down the line. The first thing you need to know is this: If you're hosting a large reception, someone is going to be offended at not being invited or be unhappy about being invited. Unfortunately, this is the nature of the wedding season. You can't please everyone, not even when you try your hardest to do so.The Family
Obviously, if the reception is a small affair, you'll have to pick and choose between extended family members very carefully. Only those people who have (recently) been very close to you or your daughter would expect to be invited to such an intimate gathering. If you're limited to twenty spaces, you'll have to pick and choose your guests very carefully — and wisely. (In other words, don't feel badly about not being able to invite your best friend from high school, whom you haven't spoken to in several years.)
Many MOBs invite the entire family — aunts, uncles, fourth and fifth cousins, and folks who are only rumored to be blood relatives. Before you go this route, examine your motives. Perhaps your family is huge but extremely close, and by not inviting everyone, you'd be breaking the family code of togetherness. Your heart is in the right place if this is your major concern. If, on the other hand, you want a packed house for the sake of appearances, you won't be fooling anyone, especially if this is your regular modus operandi. All the guests there will know why they were invited — if they bother to show at all.
Should children be invited to a formal wedding?
It's absolutely fine to include close relatives, like nephews and nieces. You might also want to consider a cut-off age for kids — but stick to it. Don't include your eight-year-old relative and then tell the groom's mom that her ten-year-old nephew is too young.
Inviting people you hardly know to your daughter's wedding can be construed as a request for gifts. Many families do operate this way; there's a tacit rule of reciprocity there (you bought cousin Jane's daughter a lovely set of candlesticks for her wedding; now it's Jane's turn to pony up), and that's fine. When you start inviting distant relations and long-lost friends who aren't in on this exchange system, though, it's more likely that they'll ask themselves how they made it onto the guest list in the first place.The Associates
Who hasn't been invited to a business associate's wedding or the wedding of a colleague's child at one time or another? Business relationships can be peculiar — you may work with some people you feel extremely close to, but in the same office, there may be folks you barely talk to. Still, you have to work with all of these people every day. You certainly don't want to offend anyone, but you also don't want to come across looking as though you're inviting everyone under the sun so that they'll send your daughter a gift.
The level of difficulty of this situation really depends on how large your workplace is. If your office has 150 people in it, you obviously can't invite everyone, so you're free to include only those you're closest to. If you work in an office of 10 employees, though, inviting only 6 of those people will greatly offend the others — quite possibly for years to come.
Aside from leaving certain coworkers out in the cold, the very issue of a wedding can cause problems in the workplace, such as when the invitees talk in hushed tones about what they're going to wear to the reception, then clam up the second a noninvitee enters the area. Your safest bet in this case is to either invite everyone or to invite no one.Everybody Else
Should you really invite the entire neighborhood, your hairdresser, the guy who's been plowing your driveway every winter for the past twenty years, your doctor, the mailman, and your accountant? Only if any of them happen to be close friends of yours or of the family. None of these people (or others like them), who are in your life without really being in on it, will expect an invitation — or at least they shouldn't — even if your small talk with them has consisted of nothing but wedding details lately. Most of them would probably find an invitation to your daughter's wedding odd, to say the least.Guests?
There's been a debate raging for eons as to whether brides should allow their guests to bring guests no matter what the circumstances, or whether each bride should make that decision based on the size and location of her own wedding.
A single female who is expected to travel to the wedding should be permitted to bring a companion along. Even in this age of independence, some women don't feel comfortable traveling alone. Don't put her well-being at risk for the sake of saving a few bucks on the reception bill.
A guest's spouse or fiancé should always be included. Of course, now that many couples live together for years before they become officially engaged or married (if they ever take those steps), the question of inviting a guest's significant other has become more complicated. Consider couples who live together to be as good as engaged, and include both of them on the guest list.