I think the suggestion of immediate family only is the best one. If you don't see the more distant relatives often (e.g. only at weddings and funerals), it's ok not to invite them. Most people understand the limitations of budget and space, especially nowadays. You can draw lines by blood relationship (nobody more distant than first cousin), OR by social closeness (nobody we see less than once a year), as well as by age (nobody under sixteen, except wedding party). As far as choosing family over friends--I have to disagree with the PP. My close friends ARE like family to me, much more so than cousins that I almost never see or talk to. Having a wedding without friends would be unthinkable to me.
"Even if we did seperate invites that said something like "come join us for drink and dancing" it would still be wrong?"
Yes, it would still be wrong. You still have First Class (cermony and food) guests and Second Class (no ceremony nor food) guests.
"I wouldnt expect anyone to bring a gift,"
Gifts are voluntary. You don't "expect" anyone to bring a gift. However, I would be miffed if I was invited to what I thought was a drink-and-dancing reception, brought a gift (because it's a wedding), then found out that the Better Than Me guests had already witnessed the actual wedding, then were offered a nice meal. I would think poorly of the gift-greedy couple. It doesn't matter that your stated intentions were to not get gifts. People bring gifts to weddings. They expect to be treated decently.
"If we dont do something like this, our families would be the only people we would be able to invite, and then we would have no friends at the reception"
Tough. Either figure out how to have a cheaper per head reception where all guests are treated the same or live with what you have.
Thank you for agreeing with me on my immediate family suggestion. I happen to think it is the best rule of thumb when you are trying to figure out who to invite. It is important to invite your close friends too.
Have you tried creating a lists? Make 2 lists. One list that says "MUSTS" and one list that says "MAYBE'S" On your musts, include your closest family, the people who you see most often that you absolutely want there. On your maybe's, write the people who you would LIKE to invite but you know that it wont hurt your day if they are not present. This may help you trim your guest list down.
Another thing to consider: If your parents are helping you pay for the wedding, are they inviting their friends, co-workers to your wedding? If they are inviting people that you have never met/hardly see, maybe you should speak to them and explain the guest list problem. Keep in mind, I am just giving suggestions...I dont know your situation but sometimes, brides forget these little aspects in a wedding!
BoSox we are definitely in similiar situations here.
Before getting engaged we always talked about a small beach wedding of about 30-40 people. We never took the time to discuss a guest list & kind of just assumed that it'd be parents, siblings, aunts, uncles & grandparents. BUT once we got engaged... everything changed.
Since being engaged everyone, including my father, has said that this is going to be no small wedding. So last night we sat down & put together our guest list which consisted of close friends & family who we have a consistent relationship with & more importantly, have seen within the last 6 months. This list totalled 136! We were blown away. I've got 88 guests & he has 48. We're quickly getting excited for a bigger wedding now! When my FH first met my family, all 70+ of them, he immediately felt at home. He is now the one helping me cope with the idea of having a bigger wedding =)
"Fill my heart with gladness, take away all my sadness, Ease my troubles, that's what you do." -Rod Stewart