Monday, April 5, 2010

In Defense of Big Weddings

There has been a lot of talk on the internet lately about the beauty, the simplicity, the to-the-core-ness of a small, intimate weddings.  And I love intimate weddings, they look lovely.  But all this praise being heaped on the small wedding makes some of us big-wedding girls feel a little self-conscious.  We feel guilty about our large budgets, about our beautiful dresses, our delicious, expansive, expensive food.

So I think it's time somebody went to the mat for big weddings.*  And I don't mean the "your parents made you invite 400 people" weddings.  I mean the weddings where you simply were so excited that you couldn't wait to share your joy and awesome party with everyone you know.  The weddings where your parents generously offered to foot the bill, because they could, and because they wanted to.  The weddings where you invited your whole damn neighborhood or office or family because well, it was the right thing to do. 

Small weddings have a place.  But so do big ones.  There are small-wedding people and big wedding people, and I think the message that every indie blog out there is trying to send is simply, "you have to do what is right for you, and you have to respect that what is right for you might be wrong for someone else."  I don't think big weddings are better than small weddings, but I think that big weddings get derided in the BIC because people equate big wedding with magazine-worthy wedding, or brides who become so obsessed with the wedding that they forget about the marriage.

So why are we having a big wedding?  Because we are likeable people who like other people.  Because we both tend to stay in the same geographic areas.  Because we like our families.  Sure, some of my 14 cousins and their 10 spouses and 8 kids could have been cut from the list.  It is totally acceptable to cut family from your list if you aren't close or don't like them.  But we went to the beach for a week with my cousins.  And had a blast.  We have our own listserv.  We call each other just to chat.  So the cousins are in. As are their parents, aunts and uncles that I regularly chat with or send emails to.  Aunts and Uncles that have supported us in our relationship are on the list. Because we want them there.

So what about our friends?  Our friends is where we had to make the deep, painful cuts.  And we still wound up with 150 people on our guest list.  I have friends from high school, from college, from law school, that I still hang out with and keep in touch with and I cannot imagine celebrating our marriage without them.  If Maryland wasn't such a great state** our friends would stop settling down here after college and we would have fewer friends.  Our friends have been wonderfully supportive of us as we have struggled to figure out our relationship through college, through working, through law school, through this beginning of the rest of our lives.  They are who we will raise our children with and who we will call for help when we go to buy a house.  The long and the short of it is that these people matter to us, and we wanted to celebrate with them.  So we're having a big wedding.  It doesn't make us better than anybody, but it also doesn't make it less than people who choose to have a small wedding.  The fact that we are sharing this day with more than a hundred people does not make it any less meaningful.

We're trying to keep it simple, but the nature of a big wedding makes it more complicated.  So we do the best we can - we pick vendors we love, we skip the things we don't like or don't understand, and we spend as little or as much money on specific things as we are comfortable with.  Sometimes I wish we were having a small wedding, sometimes I wish we would just elope, but mostly, I'm very happy with this choice that we made and I know that a big wedding is right for us.*

Are you having a small wedding or a big wedding?  Do you wish you were having a smaller wedding or a bigger wedding?  Why or why not?

*I'm defining big wedding as 100+ people.
**Unless you're gay.
***This does not change the fact that I am very surprised that most of our guests are totally pysched to be coming to our wedding.


  1. We had a medium sized wedding. About 80 people. It was perfect for us. That size for us was the cut off, if we'd invited anymore it'd have been a roller coaster of more and more invites. Everyone has that cut off (and some people aren't trying to cut off) and that's your choice. Just because you have a big wedding doesn't make you spoiled/greedy/self centered or anything, it means you want to have a huge awesome party!

    That being said I am photographing a wedding next month that is having 17 people at the ceremony, and then about 50 people at a party at a later date. I'm looking forward to seeing what the dynamics are like at such a small wedding.

  2. I really like this post. I'm having a small wedding, but I totally respect people who want to have a big wedding because they're people people. We're just not. We both have a small number of very close friends, and while his family will be the biggest portion of our guest list, mine is really small. We don't feel the need to invite a lot of people. But I totally understand why some people want to. For me personally, I want to have enough people for it to feel like a big party but not enough that I feel like I don't know half the guests.

  3. I agree! I have been thinking of writing a blog just like this. In today's wedding world cheap is chic- and I don't mean cheaply done.. I mean actually cheap & awesome. But as someone who is spending a *whole lot* on our wedding I feel all kinds of guilty about our 170 person invited affair. I am actually having a hard time finding other blogs with brides having a wedding like ours. We are paying for the wedding ourselves and we are not going into one penny of debt to do it. We have been saving and saving & I am super excited about our black tie big budget affair! I know this makes us unique so Thank You for the big wedding shout out. I don't feel like I am wasting money, I think I am spending it excatly how I want to- on one day. On our awesome fantastic party to celebrate our wedding!

  4. Thank you for writing this. We're hoping we'll end up with about 100 people, so not really a big wedding. But I agree that a lot of the indie blogs do exactly what you mentioned, which is trying to spread the message that you do what works for you and not what you've been told that you should want/need.

    Somehow, however, I feel that's turned into categorizing anyone whose wedding isn't intimate, DIY, vintage, rustic, etc. as inauthentic . . . . or that they blindly followed the stereotypical wedding blogs and magazines into the abyss. There are many of us in between those extremes, trying to find the balance between DIY projects and keeping our sanity, between keeping costs down and getting married in an expensive area.

    So I'm right behind you in defense of big weddings. Or really, in defense of any wedding-related decision that is thought out and is actually authentic.

  5. Thanks for this post! Honestly, I don't really know how many people will be at my wedding, but I'm sure it's going to be big (to get more specific--huge, as in 200+ people, ~100 of which are family). With all the friends and family who are getting official invites plus open invitations to my sorority and our church family... who knows? Hopefully we'll have a good idea from rsvps by the time it actually rolls around. But really, we've planned the flexibility right into the day. We're getting married in an open-air chapel, so whoever doesn't fit under the roof will have folding chairs and blankets to sit on outside, and we're having a potluck reception, so the amount of food should (theoretically-we have back up plans!) expand to fit the crowd. We have a huge field for guests to camp that night as well, if they want.

    All that to say, weddings, whether big or small, all look different. I have friends who would never in a million years do what we're doing, but their weddings are going to be just as fantastic. For me, it's being honest with myself and my partner about what we want, what we are comfortable spending (even with the practically blank check my parents handed us), and what honors our marriage and our community.

  6. I'm coming in at a medium sized wedding (about 100) but that's what's right for us. If a larger wedding is right for you, that's all that matters.

    I think the talk surrounding simplicity can still be applicable to your wedding because I think simplicity deals with the values underlining your wedding, not the amount of guests. You can still have a simple wedding even if you have a large guest count if you focus on the joy, love, and community around you. Good aesthetics and food are just perks on top.

    Having your entire community, whatever size that community is, is important. If anyone in the wedding blog community is making you feel bad that your wedding is too big, cut them out of your reading list. You shouldn't feel like your choice is incorrect, just because it doesn't fit into their notion of what a simple wedding is.

  7. Great post! The last wedding I went to had 350 people (which is actually about average here), so small is also relative. Everyone keeps commenting on our "teeny" wedding (100 people!).

  8. Here, here!
    Living far from my family and many old friends, it was easy to initially have a medium (150ish) size guest list, but every time I see an old friend or my parents remind me of another set of cousins, my list grows! It is about the family and community aspect. And, for those of us on a budget, the bigger the list, the more "simple" it will have to be anyways!
    I definitely appreciate this post and the comments, it makes me feel less anxious about my swelling 'A' list!

  9. This is a sweet post Ellie. We are having about 100 people (although we invited about 200, but we live across the country from most of our family members). The responses we get for saying we are having 100 are funny, some people say, "wow that's big" and others say, "oh, a small wedding." I chuckle, since apparently we fall in the "medium" category.

    My mom had a 250 person wedding though, and it was one of the most joyous weddings I've been to, so go for it! Throw a big bash!

  10. We had a big wedding. We have big families, and I really wanted all of my mom's first cousins to be invited, plus my great aunts and uncles, for the simple reason that we keep in touch and I really like them and they are my family. We had 275 people on the guest list. 170 people were able to attend and it was a total blast--like a huge family reunion, except it is all of your favorite people that you are so happy to see.

  11. yay for doing whatever the heck you want and accepting it

  12. Yup! I'm a big fan of doing what makes you happy- it's your wedding damn it! Three guests, 30 guests or 300 guests are all "perfect" for someone. I think the sooner we toss this notion of "perfect" out the window- indie blog world or not and embrace whatever makes us happy the better! Great post!

  13. I love the look of the small wedding featured on a lot of blogs, but for us, it just wasn't practical. Our families are huge, so our wedding will be larger (about 225). Sure, it cuts out a lot of the extras, but it was the right decision for us. Thanks for the little nod to those of us with bigger weddings.

  14. I've been thinking about this a lot in the last couple of days. When we first started talking about our wedding, I think we counted 8 people each whom we wanted there... and then when it happened and we sat down and made our lists, it turned into 50. Which, of course, turned into 70. And now I'm thinking, as long as we're at 70, why not invite the side of the family that I really sort of want there, but couldn't invite when it meant adding 30 to a 16 person wedding? I think in the end we'll have about 50 people, which will be comfortable in our space and good for our budget.

    I think there's a big difference between inviting 200 people because you just want a "big wedding" and lots of gifts, or because someone else is throwing the wedding for you, and inviting 200 people because you *want* them there. I'm not saying the first is wrong, just that it's definitely not for me. And the second could be...

    Good luck!