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Etiquette Quandaries Solved

How to troubleshoot the guest list; arrange the floor plan; and accommodate everyone at the reception.

DILEMMA
My family is paying more. Does that mean we can invite more guests?

SOLUTION
Not neccessarily: Hammer out a good compromise very early on. There’s nothing tackier than picking a fight with your future in-laws over what you’re getting for your money. If your future spouse comes from an immediate family of eight and each of his siblings has four kids they want to bring, you may want them to pitch in extra, but don’t punish them for their booming fertility.


DILEMMA
Where should I draw the line on plus-ones?

SOLUTION
The “No Ring, No Bring” rule is outdated, horribly Draconian, and a major bridge-burner. That said, no real friend should expect you to shell out upwards of $200 for their flavor-of-the-month whose name you don’t even remember (nor he/she yours). To avoid this, address all your invitations explicitly: “Jane Doe and John Day,” if they’re an established couple, or simply “Jane Doe,” if you’d prefer she fly solo. If you can afford to, ask single friends up front whether they have anyone special they’d like to bring, while gently reminding them that the guest list is a bit tight. That should scare off all but the least tactful from stepping out of line, but you do risk opening a can of worms.


DILEMMA
I want to invite some colleagues, but not all. And do I have to invite my boss?

SOLUTION
Send any workplace invitees a note telling them who else is invited so they know to be discreet. Inviting your boss can be dicey, so consider the boundaries of your relationship: If you celebrate each other’s birthdays and frequently meet for lunch, go for it. If not, inviting him or her will probably just be awkward for everyone involved. If he or she does make the cut, don’t seat your co-workers-slash-friends at an intimate table presided over by the boss: There’s no greater vibe-killer than having to bring professional composure and “A” game to a booze-fueled party.


DILEMMA
I’d like to invite my ex.

SOLUTION
Talk frankly to your fiancé(e) early on, and leave the decision up to him or her. If you sense even a hint of hesitation, abort! Whatever you do, don’t engage in a childish (and destructive) game of tit for tat.


DILEMMA
My worst nightmare is having hyper kids disrupt the wedding.

SOLUTION
You’re under no obligation to invite children to your wedding—after all, Beluga and blini do not a Happy Meal make. But, if you’re not clear from the outset, it’s no fault of your guests if they show up with their offspring. Write a note to each of your brood-saddled invitees explaining that while you love their kids, you haven’t been able to find a good way to accommodate children and you hope they’ll understand. Recommend a local babysitter or nanny agency. Most parents won’t leave their kids with strangers; regardless, it will alleviate lingering feelings of guilt.


DILEMMA
I want to ask some talented buddies to work at the wedding. Tacky?

SOLUTION
If you’re neurotic about the work they’ll be doing (be it taking photos, baking the wedding cake, spinning, etcetera) and can’t resist micromanaging them, it’s only going to lead to stress and general malaise in the months to come. On the other hand, if you’re on a tight budget and laid-back about it, there’s no harm in asking. Start out by sharing your budget concerns, asking if they might be willing to donate any of their services, and reminding them under no uncertain terms that you want them to come as your guests—and not the hired help.


DILEMMA
Should I feel guilty about having a B-list?

SOLUTION
No. Just be sure to send your A-list invitations really early. There’s no excuse for some of your guests to get theirs the week (or worse, the week after) the RSVP deadline. That’s sad.


DILEMMA
Is a seating chart a must?

SOLUTION
A floor plan avoids confusion and awkward guest pairings. Seat curmudgeonly blowhards at opposite ends of the room and feuding divorced parents at opposite ends of a table (with a conveniently extravagant centerpiece in between and your peace-loving officiant nearby). Or have them each “host” a different table of relatives corresponding to their side of the family. Whatever you do, don’t stick them together and hope for the best. In terms of nontoxic guests (a.k.a. your friends), it’s totally up to you. Just avoid seating all your randoms in one big bunch. A dud table is a dud table and will instantly be recognized as such. And where to put your Great Aunt Sally? Seat her near the center of the action, reasonably close to the WC, and far from the speakers lest she skyrocket out of her chair when the D.J. takes it up a bass-heavy notch.


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