Groom Duties

If Parents Are Paying, Do You Control Guest List?

A reader writes:

“My fiancee’s mother is very involved with our planning, which at times is not a problem at all.  However, we are almost 50 people over what we had wanted to invite for our wedding.

“Her mom keeps insisting that we invite her cousins’ son (who my bride-to-be has never met), and refuses to back down.  I want to tell her that its OUR wedding and we don’t want to invite them, but she is helping us pay for it and keeps throwing that in our face.  How do we handle this?”

As Plunge readers know, usually, our advice is to deflect responsibility, get creative, and finesse some oddball solution to your problem. In your case? It’s actually a lot more simple: deal with it.

You’re screwed. This is just the way it is. And it’s all because of this fundamental equation:

If she’s paying, she’s choosing.

That’s inescapable. When parents foot the bill–or part of the bill–they get a certain amount of leverage. If you don’t like it? Fine, then don’t accept their contributions.

Now here’s the good news: this probably won’t be a big deal. And it’s as normal and routine as a Brett-Favre-playoffs-ending-interception. In any given wedding, it’s customary that you won’t know 10-20% of your guests, and that you won’t like another 25%. Par for the course.

Now, let’s put this in perspective, and see how much these annoying guests will actually matter. There are three potential disadvantages to unwanted guests:

1) You have to interact with them

So what? You have all the social leverage. For that dreadful lot of Bride’s-Mom’s-Cousin’s-Sons, you can smile and chat for 2 minutes and then get the hell out of dodge. This should be enough to placate her mother.

2) You have to pay for them

Her mom’s already doing this, right? It’s not like you’re paying for these ass-clowns out of your own pocket. If her mom is contributing to your wedding, she has the right to smuggle in a few of her own. Within reason. If she kicks in 5%, obviously, she can’t expect to gobble up 30% of your guest list. But if she’s contributing, say, a third of the bill? A few randoms isn’t so much to ask.

3) They form a critical mass of suckitude

This is the biggest potential downside. If a mongo slice of your guestlist is full of dweebs like the Bride’s-Mom’s-Cousin’s-Son, then yes, that could change the complexion of your party, jeopardizing the vibe and sucking your energy. This scenario is most often seen when a wealthy parent invites 100+ of their work/business friends. (Think: Godfather wedding.) In your case? This doesn’t sound like a real issue. Yes, you’re 50 people over, but it doesn’t sound like those are all her Mom’s add-ons. Assuming that’s the case, you don’t have a legit beef.

So there you have it. Suck it up, grit your teeth, and have another drink.

For more on the awkwardness of parents and money: Brides and Beggars: Talking to Parents About Money and The Guest List Tug of War.

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