Do you want to have a big wedding? Have you always imagined a big church— or even better, a cathedral— full of your extended family, all your neighbors, and everyone you ever went to school with? Do you picture yourself in a princess gown with eight bridesmaids, two flower girls, and a ring bearer?
Perhaps a ginormous wedding with literally all the possible bells and whistles is your worst nightmare. You might wish you could get away with eloping, but you're afraid it would break your parents' hearts if you ran away and said I do without them there.
Maybe it all sounds good to you— you're marrying the man of your dreams— you don't really have a strong preference one way or the other. If you don't have a preconceived notion of exactly what your wedding will look like, you're free to daydream about exotic destinations, country churches, and fields of wildflowers. But when it comes down to it, you cannot begin planning anything at all until you know how big your wedding is going to be. Before you start making a guest list with all of your sorority sisters and his whole softball team included, sit down together and consider the following four questions:
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1. What can you afford?
Are you and your fiancé paying for the whole shebang, or are your parents contributing to the event? Sometimes, the difference between inviting all your friends from work, or just your boss, is simply a matter of dollars and cents.
2. How big are your families and how much of the family do you need or want to invite?
If your parents have a lot of siblings, you may have so many aunts and uncles to invite, that you can't afford to include all of your first cousins and their spouses too.
3. Do professional obligations dictate that you must include a lot of the people you work with?
Would excluding your besties at work cause political problems around the water cooler? If one of you has a high profile job, it might be a bad move to leave all of your professional contacts off the guest list.
4. How many people can your wedding ceremony and reception venue comfortably hold?
Overstuffing a hot church can be miserable for your guests. Some private properties have very strict limits on the maximum number of guests they'll allow. If the venue is very important to you, you have to make sure the guest list fits inside.
Sandy Malone is the owner of Sandy Malone Weddings & Events, a full-service traditional and destination wedding planning company and Do-It-Yourself wedding planning consulting service for DIY brides and grooms based in the Washington, DC area. Sandy is the star of TLC's reality show "Wedding Island," about her destination wedding planning company, Weddings in Vieques. Sandy's book "How to Plan Your Own Destination Wedding: Do-It-Yourself Tips from an Experienced Professional," will be released on March 1st, but is available online for pre-orders now where books are sold.