Wedding guest lists may challenge mothers of the groom

Wedding guest lists may challenge mothers of the groom

One of the first sensitive moments mothers of the groom encounter is the wedding guest list. How many people will you be allowed to invite? Will you and your son collaborate or will he have his own list?

At a business women’s dinner, fairly early in my own journey as a newbie MOG, I realized I was seated with two women who, like me, have two sons. It was just the three of us so I relayed that a wedding was on the horizon and asked for their advice on being the mother of the groom. Immediately, the friend on my right responded, “How many invitations did you get?”

“We haven’t gotten to that yet,” I replied.

She formed a circle with her thumb and index finger. Got it? That’s right: zero. Then the friend on my left held up all of her fingers. 10. Yes: ten.

For the rest of my journey, those fingers gave me a perspective I may not have had as well as the inspiration for this whole project. Similar discussions with other friends, in which they often lowered their voices to practically a whisper, brought me to this realization: the mother of the groom is “the other mother.” The mother of the bride has a fairly well understood role. But the MOG must be very careful what she says and to whom. Her family’s future is at stake. If that seems overdramatic, I ask you: what is the cost of a fractured relationship with a son and daughter-in-law? It is high, that is for sure.

Invitations in my case were a very pleasant experience. I was asked how many I wanted. That in itself is remarkable. I knew it then and I know it now.

Deciding who to invite wasn’t the easiest task. I have a large family, with more than 20 living aunts and uncles, and more than three dozen first cousins. Then there’s the other side of the family, two step families, and my son has a zillion friends. Knowing that 200 invitations had been printed, and that my financial contribution to the wedding itself — aside from the rehearsal dinner — was limited to helping pay for the venue, asking for 60 of those was both audicious and conservative for me.

My daughter-in-law and son not only drove an hour to bring those invitations to our house after work one September evening, but we addressed them together, had a wonderful time and it’s all a great memory. The bride and her family blessed me with their generosity. Most of the invitations were used for family and friends who are closest to our son. More plainly, I tried to invite guests who were close to my son rather than just my own friends. That wasn’t universally true, but it was my general guideline.

So that’s my invitation story.

Here’s some perspective on the wedding guests list. When I began researching for this project, I bought every book I could find about the being mother of the groom. There are six in all of Amazon, which is effectively the known universe. It is possible I missed one or two but I doubt it.

One is a book of poetry. (Maybe I should have read that description more closely.) One is a book of essays, written when people were still using AOL. One is a novel. One is cleverly titled as a guide for the mother of the bride or groom. Great marketing, but not necessarily all that helpful since it really isn’t tailored for us MOGs. That leaves two reasonably useful resources.

Of those two, one, Sharon Naylor’s “Mother of the Groom, Everything You Need to Enjoy the Best Wedding Ever,” at 276 pages, is almost big enough to be called a tome. It’s pretty definitive too. If It has anything to say about the guest list, though, I could not find it. (Ms. Naylor, I apologize if I missed it and will correct this if I find it later or someone points it out to me.)

The other, “The Complete Mother of the Groom” by Sydell Rabin, promises to show us how to be “graceful, helpful and happy during this special time.” I believe you will be a much more peaceful mother of the groom if you read it. In its 212 pages, three address your guest list. Ms. Rabin basically advises you do what I did: make sure anyone you invite actually has a relationship with the groom.

Emily Post’s “Wedding Etiquette,” a bonus resource not included in the six aforementioned since it isn’t written specifically for the mother of the groom, has a bullet point on page 66 in which the groom is reminded it is his responsibility to have his parents prepare their guest list. And that’s it.

What conclusions can we draw from this? There are a couple of choices that I see:

1) Keep your expectations low. Don’t expect to have much say in this matter. This is the bride and groom’s wedding. If they choose to include family and friends that are important to either sets of parents, then I think it is respectful, courteous and decent, and I’m reminded of the Biblical commandment in which honoring one’s parents promises the reward of a long life. But is it required? No, it’s not, especially in modern weddings in which the couple is older and largely planning and paying for the event themselves.

2) Since no one seems to have established or addressed any protocol in this area in recent years, it may be time to hit the reset button and this may be a place to do it.

If the second premise is true, that’s some serious power y’all.

So what are your thoughts, experiences, perspectives? I’d love to hear it.

  • Denise49

    Big, big wedding, there will be 10 bridesmaids and four other “handmaids.” matching amount of groomsmen.
    I asked to be allowed to invite one person. She is like my mother. Bride just told me no.
    I asked my son about it, he said they are having a difficult time with the guest list because they have to invite all of the wedding party’s parents and some siblings.
    I understand this, it’s their wedding. I will know almost no one there, but my ex will have his whole family, parents included. My parents have died and this lady is all I have and she’s been my family for my whole life.
    I’m sad and hurt. It is their day and I’m trying hard to keep the hurt to myself and not be angry. It’s difficult.

    • Joyce Beverly

      Denise, I am so sorry. I know how disappointing and lonely this feels. All I can advise is that you hold your head / chin up and be your best for the day. Spend a lot of time with people who build you up prior to the wedding. Go with your love tank “full,” even if it’s coming from other sources, before the day. And remember, it really is only one day. Keep your eye on the future. Best wishes for you and you family.

    • coventry patmore

      This happened to us. We were allowed just 2 people out of 120. I wrote to Joyce about this. She replied. I was grateful.

      We just simply showed up with smiles on our faces and took our seats.

      We figured that the blowback would be on the bride’s family for excluding us. We were just guests. If they were fine with being rude, it was their problem.

  • Kimberly Wood

    HELP!!! I am the mother of the bride, and my problem is with the grooms parents. We have no family in our town (we are a military family), of the 150 guests at our daughters wedding, our side makes up 8 guests, including my husband and myself! The groom assumed his parents would contribute so I allowed him to send save the dates to 150 people. Long story short, the grooms parents were offended when asked what they were contributing and said its tradition for the brides parents to pay for everything. They are throwing a rehearsal dinner the night before, however they are inviting EVERYONE who is invited to the wedding to their home for a bbq, not just the wedding party. Basically they are using the occasion to throw a family reunion and are claiming the party is a gift for the bride and groom, despite the groom telling his mother he prefers a small dinner after rehearsal. When asked to scale back the rehearsal dinner and contribute that money to the wedding the mother of the groom actually suggested our children should scale back their wedding and serve only cake and punch rather then contribute. Our children are not in a position to pay for their own wedding, they both just finished college and while financially secure can not afford several thousand for a wedding. They wanted a back yard wedding at the grooms grandparents home but his mother insisted this was not appropriate and started making guests lists. I naturally assumed she would contribute. His parents earn about the same amount we earn so they are in a position to help, but are unwilling. I am feeling angry and resentful. We are comfortable but the expense of the entire wedding is a strain on our budget.. Mother of the groom said she wants traditional but is not paying for alcohol, flowers and other expenses that are traditional for grooms family.. I resent having to purchase a corsage and boutonniere for her and her husband. I resent hosting a reception that is essentially only her guests. I resent paying over $1200 dollars to hire a photographer and having her walk away with professional quality family portraits when she hasn’t contributed a dime. Please tell me how to tactfully get this woman to contribute to this wedding? Is it appropriate to ask her to split the photography bill since half of the photos will be of her family?? or do I just have to hand over the digital prints and allow her to stiff me for her family portraits too?

    • Joyce Beverly

      Oh Kimberly, I am so sorry! You are definitely on the receiving end of some rude behavior and unfair expectations. My first inclination is to advise you in the same way I do mothers of the groom: let everyone know what you are willing to contribute and let the problem sort itself out. However this is a really tough problem for a couple fresh out of college. Not many brides that age have the emotional and mental resources to deal with an unreasonable mother of the groom. (I am assuming traditional college age but if I’m wrong it’s still tough.) So, I will admit, I am a little stumped. I’m reaching out for help to a couple of wise and etiquette-savvy moms, a mother of the bride and a mother of the groom, who says she’s embarassed to be a MOG in this instance. I’ll be back asap with our collective thoughts. When is the wedding? It will help to know this. Thanks for reaching out and again, I’m so sorry you are experiencing the blunt end of a battle-axe MOG.

    • maggiesocial

      As I will mention below, the water has gone under the bridge. You can be resentful and it can reflect in the festivities OR you can take control (of the event and your emotions) and make this the joyous occasion that it should be. This is about the Bride and Groom starting a new life together- your goal should be as a protector of that and not let your own resentments get in the way. The ceremony and reception are the icing on the cake– what is important is the actual vows being said. As MOB, it is easy to let the stress over the budget and trying to please everyone take over. I totally and completely understand the frustration but only you as the MOB can control your feelings.

      Here are my thoughts on the issues you mentioned.

      1. The number of guests from each family:

      Save the dates have gone out- anyone that got a save the date should be invited to the wedding.

      The guest list should have been addressed before those cards went out. Who and how many people were invited is water under the bridge. Now you have to figure out how to work that number into your budget and venue. It is a shame that the groom assumed his parents would help. However, they may not have known he was indicating that and if they did know it should have been a discussion with them before the lists were made. I know the numbers seem lopsided but for your own sanity, you need to just let that go and work with it. Yes, they should offer to help, but if they don’t you can’t force them.

      It sounds like the groom has a large family and you do not. It is a whole different mindset when making up guest lists.
      Is it possible they didn’t realize the gap in numbers-especially when the guest lists were being made? Did you give them a limit?

      2. The rehearsal dinner:

      It is their choice how to handle the rehearsal dinner just as the wedding plans are your choice.
      Our MOG, decided to host a large dinner including out of town guests on both sides. It was a wonderful addition to the weekend and allowed us to meet the extended family, who was becoming our daughter’s extended family. Let her do her thing and you enjoy the evening with the guests… and be that… a guest! Meet the people that are becoming your daughter’s family — it could be your only chance and you might make some good friends! It is your opportunity to sit back and enjoy the festivities. You should be happy that they are excited about your daughter joining their family. It is an honor that they would like so much of their family there. After all, the wedding is about becoming a family.

      3. The venue:

      As the hostess, the MOB working with the bride needs to decide on what type of wedding they will have and a budget. It is most important that you get the venue selected. Your stress level will go down and you can start planning when you get this resolved.

      If you think you are resentful about paying for pictures, flowers and alcohol… what about landscaping and cleaning his grandparents yard and house prior the wedding. Venues are expensive and their home would need to be treated just as if you are paying for a venue.

      Everyone is going to want to put a best foot forward and some of the things necessary will be long term improvements to the grandparent’s property. If it is the venue, that is your responsibility to help with the expense or accept the flaws. But you will need to remember there will be many housekeeping expenses that they will be covering to have that many guests in their home.

      It could be that the MOG is concerned about the work and expense this would place on the grandparents. Not knowing the situation, their health or the location, it could mean the house needs to have somethings done before they are comfortable hosting a wedding in their back yard. They may be concerned about a weather contingency. The yard itself might need some work before it is wedding ready. It is a big deal and a lot of work to be the venue of someone’s wedding. The bathrooms will be used and will need to be cleaned before and after. People will be in and out of the house so it will need to be cleaned and “spruced up.” The kitchen will be in use… they just may not be capable of that type of responsibility no matter how much they would love to allow the use of their yard. And what about parking and noise? Is that going to be an issue for their neighbors? 150 people in your yard is a lot!

      The grandparents may not be capable of the preparation but don’t want to say no to their grandson. The MOG may be caught in the middle and trying to keep the grandparents from being the bad guy. If the groom assumed his parents would kick in $$ he may have also assumed his grandparents would host as the venue.

      Again, this is water under the bridge and an issue that should have been settled prior to the save the dates. But it wasn’t so now you just need to push forward and work towards a happy resolution.

      Perhaps there is an outdoor park or area that can be used instead that wouldn’t impose on the grandparents. It could provide the same ambiance as the back yard. It would probably be a lot less stressful for you too.

      If you can’t afford a meal, then don’t plan the wedding for a time when people are expecting a meal. If you want to do a meal, perhaps a brunch is a good option. If you don’t want to pay for a full bar- then don’t offer an open bar. You can always opt for a champagne toast, offer beer and/or wine only. There is absolutely nothing wrong with only offering tea, water and soft drinks. The venue may dictate what you can serve.

      Ask your daughter what she would like and then work that into your budget and figure out what you can do. Don’t open these things up for conversation. Don’t ask for opinions at large and give them the opportunity to tell you what to do. If you need/want the control of the budget- then take control. You can’t expect anyone else to know and keep your budget better than you.

      4. The groom’s family responsibility:

      It is traditional for the groom or his parents to pay for the bridal bouquet and the mother’s/grandmothers corsages. I also think that the groom/grooms parents often offer to help with alcohol. But I don’t think that is a hard and fast rule. Even if it is “a rule”, you can’t count on them paying for those things. When we planned our daughters wedding, if we wanted it and ordered it – we planned on paying for it. If the grooms parents stepped up (which they did)- then it was icing on the cake. You are ultimately responsible so plan it that way. This sometimes means cutting back.

      Perhaps you could have the florist list out the projected expenses with them broken out. Just talk to the MOG and say, “This is what our florist says is the traditional way of dividing the floral expenses. Is this amount ok and how should she bill you?” If she pitches a fit- then you know you need to cover the expense and/or adjust what is ordered.

      I am curious who talked to the grooms parents about helping with expenses. Was it you and your husband? If not, is there any possibility of miscommunication? I think you owe it to your sanity and the sake of the wedding to go out to dinner and discuss the wedding expenses if you have not done so. If YOU don’t discuss this directly with them, then you have to let it go. If you do and they don’t offer help- then you plan accordingly.

      5. The photographs:

      As far as the pictures go, it is technically on the brides list to hire the photographer. However, it is not your responsibility to print the pictures. Don’t think of it as pictures of their family reunion. The pictures are for your daughter and her husband to look back and enjoy their day. Chance are this day is going to be a whirlwind for them. The pictures are going to be a big part of their memory of the day.

      Give the photographer a list of posed pictures to take and they should stick to that list. Be fair and equitable. Immediate family only. Extended family pictures can be candid shots during the reception. If the MOG wants extend family posed pictures, she should hire a photographer for the rehearsal dinner. Again, the pictures are for your daughter and son-in-law.

      I can only assume you have had a bad day and are letting off steam. Hopefully, the ability to do that helped and you are now in a much better place. I think the long and short of this frustration is that you need to take control of the planning and ignore the others. You need to consider the number of guest that have already been invited, budget an amount, prioritize and make the money you spend go to what is important to you and the bride. Don’t worry about the rehearsal dinner. Let her do her thing. You do yours- don’t ask her opinion- stick to your plan. If she gives an opinion, say thank you very much and proceed with your own plans. Get the venue issue settled– that will allow you to move forward with plans.

      This needs to be about the children getting married. The important thing is to plan a beautiful ceremony with the B&G’s life together starting out on a happy note!

  • Karen Trout

    My son & fiancee are paying for wedding themselves…we have not been asked/consulted at all about guest list and my son invited my ex-husband without even mentioning/asking what i thought. My ex basically played no part in their upbringing, I had to take him to court for money and haven’t spoken to him in years…basically my husband has been dad to my son & daughter since son was 2. Daughter has massive issues with ex, has had to have counselling & she’s not really looking forward to seeing him either.
    Our thoughts/opinions haven’t been asked on anything to do with wedding & he’s the first of my 3 to get married.
    Feeling rather left out and absolutely dreading seeing my ex again.

    • Joyce Beverly

      Karen, I understand how painful and discouraging this is for you. Unfortunately, you are dealing with a rather common situation. As difficult as this is, though, your son and his fiance get to make decisions about whom they invite to the wedding, especially since they are paying for everything. You are able to decide how you respond to the situations that arise. My advice is to treat all of their guests kindly, including your ex, and to help your daughter prepare for the occasion. It may be a good idea to have her work with her counselor on this before the wedding. I have written a post about this kind of thing too. Here is a link:

      I hope this has been helpful.

  • LilacWine

    We weren’t told how many invitations that we got. So we gathered addresses, created a small list and have now discovered that of the 30 people that we put on our list, they chose 10…without consulting us…not sure how to handle damage control on this one. If I’d known I had 10 it would have been pretty simple to pick which 10 were closest to my son. I wish the bride’s family had just been up front with me about this.

    • Joyce Beverly

      Guest lists are always the hardest. Not knowing how many we can invite is really difficult. I’m sorry this is happening to you.

  • edpals

    We have just the opposite dilemma. We are the parents of the bride. The groom’s parents have seized the guest list from the get go, pushing it to the venue maximum, and we will probably end up with maybe 10 people for “our” side. So, NO control over guest list, whatsoever. It is NOT my daughter’s wedding, at this moment, it seems to be her in-laws wedding.

    • Joyce Beverly

      I hear this more often than you may imagine. Weddings are a two-way street that usually ends up only going one way, driven by the biggest steam-roller in the group. I am sorry this is happening to you and your daughter. I hope it’s not too late to get back some control.

  • Katie

    I need help. Me and my soon to be hubby are having our wedding June 3rd. And she’s inviting all these people that we don’t know. But the main issue is she had invited her boyfriends mom, sister and daughter.. Which I don’t not favor a single drop. And I let the other people slide but I said these are not invited and she flipped out and said of her step daughter , sister in law and mother and law can’t come then she is not either…. This is my wedding!! Help

  • Kathy Mills

    My son and his girlfriend live in Tucson. Both sides of families and most friends live in Illinois. We have had some issues and first, they married in the Tucson courthouse in December secretly. I just learned of it a month ago. Now they want a big formal wedding in Tucson next February. My son’s wife and I do not get a long very well and frankly I don’t want much to do with her either. Right now we tolerate each other. for my son, I put on the happy face. I have said nothing to him or her. Her mother has not contacted me and frankly, I don’t even know what is going on. I don’t think its right they want a big huge wedding now especially since they are already married. My younger son was asked to be a groomsman, not even stand up with his brother, which to me is wrong, but whatever, and he does not have the funds to go to Tucson for this event, so that would fall on me. I have a large family. My husband has a medium size family in Illinois. The girl’s family all lives in Illinois too. Not many people are going to be able to afford to go to Arizona for a wedding, and the two of them I don’t think have even considered who can or cannot go. They have a venue that requries you have at least 100 people. I don’t know they can cough up 100 people in Tucson. I am not sure how to deal with this. My son asked me to make a guest list but I already know they won’t be able to afford to go so what is the point?

  • Trish Mason Meaney

    I am the mother of the groom. I live on SSI, with a rent that is 59% of my income. So, obviously I cannot make any financial contribution. My son is going to pay for the rehearsal dinner and they are having it at the brides parents house. This is going to be very awkward for me. I have never met them, and have only met the bride once. They met and decided to get married after only 4 months of dating. My son knows her family well. I live 2 hours from him, but feel that he should include me more. Now to get to the guest list. He never asked me if I wanted to invite anybody. I have 4 sisters and 3 brothers that I have not seen or talked to in over 8 years. Long story short, they got together behind my back and stabbed me. My son does not really know them at all either. He decided that he was going to invite all of them to his wedding. This really hurt me and makes it so I don’t even want to go to his wedding. I told him I would rather have him invite his cousins (my siblings children) and he doesn’t care.It would be a large burden to have the cousins because with spouses there would be 44 people. They are having a total of 150 guests. I think he only wants to invite my siblings so that he will have some family there. Otherwise he would only have me, his brother, his niece and nephew and his friends.. I don’t know what to do. I really, really don’t want to go with my siblings there. The wedding is in September, I have no money for a dress, or to stay in a hotel. So, with all of this I feel I will end up making a scene by crying or getting really angry at his wedding. Not going is obviously not an option unless I want to lose my son. Any suggestions? I am stressed to the max over the whole thing.

  • Joyce Beverly

    I hope this situation has improved. It was definitely one of the more challenging scenarios imaginable. A reception later, particularly following a civil service, is a common solution. I hope that you were able to save some of your $40,000, even after the losses you experienced due to the cancellation. I’m all for you and your husband taking a nice vacay from this. :-)

  • Joyce Beverly

    John, there is no question that the guest list is one of the most difficult aspects of a wedding to manage, for brides, grooms, moms — everybody! There are no easy answers, unfortunately. My advice, though, is to continue to make difficult cuts to the list. As hard as it is to think about hurting the feelings of family and friends, keep in mind that you are beginning a very important, rest-of-your-life relationship with your in-laws. Difficult beginnings take a while to get over and can affect all of you for years.

    I’m so sorry for how this is affecting you and your mom. You may not be able to change the situation, but you can help your mom by finding some time to spend with her. Just because. I promise you as moms of sons get older, time with you becomes truly precious. You have many things to do as you prepare for the wedding and of course your priority now and in the future is to your bride. A short visit, coffee, dinner (or just a phone call if you are not nearby) will mean so much to your mom right now. And you may find it helps you too.

    I know this may not be the answer you are hoping for, but I hope it’s helpful. Thank you for taking time to visit and share. I wish you and your family the best for the wedding and your future.

  • Reg

    I am getting married soon. Both families (well, all three families as my soon to be in-laws are divorced) made lists and invitations were ordered. We are trying to be equitable. Inviting all aunts and uncles, letting all of the parents invite a couple close friends, and drawing lines like we’re not inviting any of the parents cousins.
    This seemed to work well, but now there have been a couple instances where in-laws want to add this friend or that or coworkers. These are people the groom doesn’t know or doesn’t like. I don’t let the requests bother me, but my parents are paying and I know it really bothers them. Of course, we said no to the additional requests.

    • Joyce Beverly

      Your response to the situation was perfect. I hope everything worked out well.

  • Kimberly Ridge Good

    Is it wrong for me to feel angry and hurt that my husband and I were not even asked if there was anyone we would like to include on the guest list? My son and his finacee are paying for the wedding themselves and have said that they are keeping it small to keep costs down and avoid incurring any debt which I respect. However, the MOB was given an opportunity to invite some of her friends. Shouldn’t I have been afforded the same courtesy?

    • Joanne Crain

      I’m in a similar situation. MOB has many friends and 10x the amount of family. Friends I’ve had for over 30 years are not on my son’s list. I’ve been to their children’s wedding and they assume they will be invited to my son’s. Any suggestions as to what to say to my friends?

      • Pathetic Choice

        I am in your same situation. My son didn’t even ask if we would like to have input on his list. What do I say to my friends that are assuming they are invited?

        • Kimberly Ridge Good

          I’ve been in your shoes and can attest that it’s an awkward position to be in. I made sure that my friends knew that they were paying for the wedding themselves and keeping things small (family and their close friends) so as not to go in debt. I also made sure that they knew that my husband and I were given no input on the guest list. Although gracious them, it was very embarrassing for me when friends who weren’t invited sent gifts.

          • Joyce Beverly

            Sounds like you came through this with a few scars Kimberly. I’m so sorry. I hope things are improving.

          • Kimberly Ridge Good

            Joyce, I could write a book! I have been so hurt by the way I was treated with such disregard. As I said in an earlier reply, I don’t expect special treatment but I do expect to be treated fairly and equally, which we weren’t.

    • Pathetic Choice

      I am SO grateful for your wording and willingness to put your thoughts and experience out there. Exact same situation for me. My son didn’t even ask. I am hurt.

      • Kimberly Ridge Good

        I feel your pain. This whole MOG thing stinks in my opinion. As I’ve told my son many times, I don’t want special treatment but I DO expect things to be fair and equal.

  • Mary Bear

    As MOG I thought that I could finally exhale. Wedding weekend went great but I got a text from the MOB, she wants to go over the final head count for the wedding reception, seems that a couple of folks that I invited, RSVP yes, but did not show up. Should I offer to pay the tab for these people? A couple of her invites for the rehearsal dinner did not show up. I never gave it a second thought, the dinner was already paid for.

    • Joyce Beverly

      Oh dear, I’m sorry but this just makes me think, “Does it ever end?” I hope so. I am astounded and really don’t know what to say except to hear what she has to say and go with your instincts. She may just want to vent, which is tasteless of course but what can you do? If she wants an explanation or to talk dollars and cents, I would mention the rehearsal dinner no-shows as well. See where that gets you. If you think she may contact your friends who were not able to attend, then you may want to intervene. If all it takes is paying for a couple of dinners to prevent that kind of drama, I’d be willing to cover it. Others may not agree but I’m a peace maker and think the long-term is more important than today.

  • whateverfloatsu

    We are the mother of the bride and in this case find ourselves in a no win situation. Our daughter is getting married and we have suddenly found ourselves in a very uncomfortable position. We had initially agreed on limiting the number of invites to 160. When we ran through the the initial this seemed possible. However- the mother in law sent her final guest list of must attend the wedding and its 70 people (he has a huge family – brother and sisters with children and close cousins he sees often) My husband and I are paying for everything including the first few nights of their honeymoon. My daughter has 40 people on her list and the groom has another 40 people. Houston we have a problem. Excuse but someone please tell what is fair. we have a small family but it is larger than 10 people we would have left to invite.

    • Joyce Beverly

      My son also has a large (huge) family and we’re close to many of them. Still, we understood that everyone could not come. I suggest explaining to his mother that the budget and / or venue are not limitless. Tell her how many she can invite and ask her to reduce the list to a more manageable size. It may not be an easy conversation, but it’s fair. I hope this helps.

  • Joyce Beverly

    My heart breaks for you dear. I wish there were an easy answer. It seems you have a couple of choices, as you said: attend the wedding but not the reception, or attend both. Neither will be easy. I could certainly understand and support your attending the wedding only. Here’s one thing you could do: attend the wedding but give yourself permission to decide whether or not to attend the reception based on how you’re feeling after the ceremony. In the meantime, invest in your emotional bank account. As often as possible, spend time with your close friends and others who love and support you. Do things you enjoy. Be kind to yourself and avoid conflict with your son or his bride. They’re under a lot of pressure right now too and very likely face conflict in other areas. Give them breathing room (you may be the rare person who does) and remember that you’ll have opportunities after the wedding — a one day event — to develop your relationship with them.
    Because of a mom who wrote with a similar situation, I gave some thought to how the stressed MOG can prepare herself for the wedding. Here’s a link to the post that resulted.
    I hope this helps. Take care.

  • Panda


    My fiance and I are planning to get married this
    upcoming summer. We have set our budget and finished “a guest list” in the past couple months. Now, we found ourselves ending up adding more guests to the list to a total of 175 guests! The venue’s limit is 200, but we were hoping to drop the costs of less guests being invited. Also, I have not included a good half portion of my family on the list
    because… I forgot and was multi-tasking at work getting stuff done. In the beginning, we wanted our wedding to be mostly family and close friends; a small wedding, nothing else. All of a sudden, the MOG demands to see the guest list we have created to see who we DID NOT invite. She wants to invite her friends who are “close” to the family(fiance’s family) which I highly doubt since they don’t talk to my fiance on a
    normal basis. Her reason being is she does not want to offend those who were not invited to the wedding because they are easily offended. She was getting mad at me when telling me all this which made it seem like she was afraid to offend those people and it would be the end of “their family’s life”. She even said that she’ll pay for the extra guests that
    she invites, but I don’t like that reason or idea. First of all, fiance and I are paying for the WHOLE wedding which includes: gown, decoration, rehearsal dinner, BM dresses, GM suits/tux, FIL suits, MOB/MOG dresses, MOH/BestMan attire, invitations, reception, and other things I may have
    forgotten. Am I wrong in my decision to say no? I have my reasons and they are not selfish.
    Reasons are:
    1. 200 venue capacity.
    2.These people don’t talk to me or my fiance on a normal basis. They only started talking to us and giving relationship advises when they found out we are engaged.
    4. I strongly disagree with her reason in inviting her guests.
    3. Fiance and I are planning the wedding our engagement which is 6 months ago. Just now she steps in to “help”?

    My parents (Bride’s(me) parents) respect our decision and do not interfere with who gets invited and who doesn’t. They know that we are adults and have to make our decisions, but are there if we need some guidance or help.

    Back on point, this is our wedding, and I feel that this is
    just the start of the MOG trying to still make decisions for her son and me. And that it will continue even for buying a house because she’s already involved with it D:! -_-; I smh… so hard. I am becoming more frustrated and frustrated with this dilemma that it’s really killing my spirit to even have a decent wedding.

    I would love some help in what to do in this situation. My decisions and thoughts are clearly wrong according to some people. “Can’t please everyone and can’t make ’em all happy”

    • Joyce Beverly

      Frustrated Bride,
      Your struggle is classic and I am so sorry for that. Mother-in-laws have a “bad name” because of examples like this. You are not being unfair at all or unrealistic. Stand your ground because you are right: it is the beginning of his mom having more of a say than she’s due.
      You won’t please every one no matter what. Do the best you can and remember it is one day in a life time. I hope this helps.

  • Disgruntled Bride

    Thanks for giving a perspective for the MOG. It was a good read for me as the bride. I was searching for a MOG perspective to better understand my situation. My FI and I are getting married in less than 120 days and running into guest list issues AGAIN. My parents are footing the bill for the wedding and gave a limit of 80 people (we have a fairly small budget). I’m planning the entire wedding (no coordinator at our venue and none hired) and doing all of our decor, invites, favors, etc. by hand-with the help of my family and friends. Not a ton of help from my FI’s family. We originally planned a 50/50 split- then 40 people wasn’t good enough for my FI’s parents. So because they offered to pay for their extra, I agreed to allow them 20 more but limited it at that due to MY abilities. I mean, really, making an entire wedding by hand for 100 people is reasonable and borderline crazy. Now shes pushing for MORE people when my family is already outnumbered and these people aren’t even family. They’re all the MOG’s friends! I already think 60/40 is unfair and the push is infuriating. And to make matters worse- FI agrees with her. So now I’m the minority and cannot get my point through of how it isn’t about the money, it’s unfair to my family. My dad can’t even invite his family because they would be traveling and it would take away from who I want at the wedding so he doesn’t want to do that. I don’t want my parents uncomfortable at their own daughters wedding and I set a hard limit. Am I being unreasonable?

  • Mary Perez

    My husband and I come from very large families. We have 7 sibs each (14 total) and dozens of cousins and second cousins. We gave them the list of each and friends of the family that we felt were important. They made their list from those. Their wedding is a formal affair and due to the venue the list is limited. I was pleased with the list they created with both of our families though I expect some hurt feelings about those left out. I’ve always known that unless my son had a very informal wedding it would be impossible to include everyone. We respect their decision. I’ve decided to not make appologies but hopefully smooth over hurt feelings as they are revealed. I admit I stressed about it initially but then decided to let it go. I don’t feel the need to make any appologies.

    • Joyce Beverly

      You are a wise mom, Mary, and have a great attitude. You are right that it would be difficult to invite everyone. The fact that you’re pleased tells me the bride and her family are making good and fair decisions too. Your own family members either have or will encounter similar situations. It’s the couple’s special day but it’s a special day for you too. Enjoy!

  • MD Bride


    I am planning a wedding for August 2015 and my father is paying for the ceremony and reception at $150+ per person. My father and I determined that he can afford a guest list of 100 people. My finance and I have decided that we want to keep our wedding small and only invite first aunts, uncles, cousins, and close friends at 50 guests each. My future mother in law is outraged that she is not ‘permitted’ to invite her cousins to the wedding. We (my finance and I) decided that we were not going to invite extended family because it would nearly double the guest list and costs. Am I being unfair? Should the MOG be able to invite her cousins or Aunts/Uncles even if the groom no longer has a close relationship with them? If feel as though I am in a sticky situation, my grandmother was already dissapointed that we told her the same thing- how can I let the MOG invite her cousins and tell my grandmother that her sisters can’t come? Please help.

    • Joyce Beverly

      MD Bride, you are not being unfair. You are applying the same rules to your own family that you are to your future mother-in-law’s. You have disappointed your own grandmother and likely other family members too in order to maintain the guidelines you and your fiancé agreed to and have applied equally to both families. You are dividing the guest list equally as well, which is exceptional. I don’t see how you could be more fair. Your father is spending $15,000 on the reception, and who knows how much else is being spent on the ceremony, dress and other expenses. Limits have to be set for every wedding. Yours are more than reasonable and your father is being very generous with his investment. The MOG in this case needs to chill. She may need to stop by here or chat with a few of her MOG friends to get a reality check. I hear horror stories — like the groom’s family getting 0 (yes, zero) — invitations. I hope for your sake and hers that she calms down and allows you and her son to proceed gracefully with the wedding you want, not the day she is planning in her head. Stand your ground, gently and peacefully if possible, but firmly. If she will not respond to you reasonably, perhaps there is another family member or friend who can help her understand. I hope you are able to get this behind you quickly. There are so many opportunities for wonderful experiences ahead for both of you. Don’t let this steal your joy.

      • MD Bride


        Thank you for your response. It helps to put my mind at ease that I am not being unreasonable or unfair. I never could have imagined that wedding planning for a Bride-To-Be would be so stressful. Isn’t this supposed to be a happy once in a lifetime experience? It makes me sad that family members, not just in my own experience, have to cause problems. I just hope that all MOG’s will all work to have nice relationships with their future daughter in laws and Brides also try to include the MOG’s to some extent. It’s certainly a fine line.

  • Mad MOG

    I am the MOG. We are allowed 2 guests, out of 125. I have been *told* that we must, just simply must, have 60 people at the rehearsal dinner. Otherwise, we are stingy. 32 of these guests are attendants and plus ones. The rehearsal dinner is now close to $10,000. I am beside myself. My husband is outraged.

    • Joyce Beverly

      Mad MOG, wow. $10,000? reported the average cost of a rehearsal dinner in the U.S. In 2013 as $1,184. reports a range between $1198 and $1414. So the price tag of your event, at more than $160 per person, is nearly nine times the national average. I’d say you have a right to be mad. You also have a right to limit your investment in this event. Although traditionally the groom’s parents have paid for the rehearsal dinner, more and more couples are paying for this and many other expenses themselves. The fact is, whatever the “rules” are or were, it is up to you and your husband to determine what you can afford and are willing to invest in your child’s wedding, son or daughter. Despite what you have been told or how it “feels,” you and your husband are in charge of what you spend on this and no one else. Elsewhere on this blog you will find me stressing long term relationships over details, but you won’t hear me say you should submit to bullying. That sets a precedent you literally cannot afford.

      • coventry patmore

        Thank you, Joyce. I thought I was losing my mind. A sit-down, as you suggest, is not possible since they are 800+ miles away. However, your comment about the total cost being 9 times the national average is very helpful. It puts things into perspective. And you are right, this is bullying. I hadn’t quite got past the shock and horror well enough to put a name to the actions.

  • Sad Mother of the Bride

    Joyce, I enjoyed this article. You are correct – there is very little info to be found regarding guest list etiquette. I am (or possibly “was”:-( the MOB. My daughter and her fiance decided on a small intimate wedding including immediate family, grandparents, aunts, uncles and first cousins plus their closest friends. My husband and I are paying for the entire wedding. Our family is small so we already had a smaller number on the guest list but we considered it fair if we all stuck with the plan as I outlined about. But a couple of weeks before the invitations were to go out, the MOG started pressuring her son to add more people to the guest list. He didn’t stand up to her and put our daughter in the middle of a mess that she didn’t deserve. We’ve called off the wedding. So, all that said, my advice to brides and grooms and all the parents is to come up with a plan that is fair to all and STICK WITH IT. And above all, don’t put the bride and groom into the impossible situation of trying to please everyone because it can’t be done.

    • Joyce Beverly

      This makes me sad too and unfortunately it’s not the first time I have heard of the mother of the groom derailing a wedding to the point it was cancelled. Brides and their moms are often in the “bad press” spotlight but there are MOGzillas too. Your advice is spot on. Thank you for sharing.

  • Distraught mom

    Yes, they were the only guests I was told I could invite….I told my son how I felt and it ended up w his being very angry with me….things are calming down now and I am getting ready to tell my friends they are uninvited…..I realize I can’t win and agree with you….I truly don’t want bad feelings in the future.
    They are both in their forties and know what they want…..thank you so much for your input and good advice……I appreciate it……distraught mom.

  • Distraught mom

    I am the mog. I was told I could invite 4 guests to the wedding…I told my.friends they were invited….and sent them pics of place cards w their name engraved on them. My son just told me they are uninvited, due to the fact the venue is only 110 guests and they need the space. I offered to pay extra for them, but the capacity is only for 110. I am feeling very disrespected and it resulted in my telling my son how I felt about the situation….it ended in his becoming furious with me and feeling he is not close with my friends…..perhaps I should have accepted their decision…however, after the invites were sent I was told afterward…..I had to ask him why my guests received no invites… would be appreciated….Ty

    • Joyce Beverly

      What a difficult situation. I hope these are not the only people you were allowed to invite. Even though I have several questions that would help me understand the situation better, at the end of the day MOGs have very little input into the guest list. Your friends know how difficult it is to manage weddings. I think a simple explanation about unexpected venue restrictions, along with an apology, is the appropriate message to give to your friends. I really do think they will understand, and they will sympathize with you too. As far as your son is concerned, ask yourself what you want your relationship to be like in the future. He is in a very difficult situation. If you ask him to referee or choose sides, you will lose and The fallout and long term consequences of putting him in that situation can be devastating for you. I am sorry you are going through this. My bottom line response is to look toward the future. The wedding is one day. The relationship with your son and his family is forever.

  • Summerbride

    I’m getting married next summer and my parents are paying for nearly the entire reception, rehearsal dinner, and numerous other miscellaneous expenses. The groom’s parents are not contributing anything financially. Since my fiance’s parents are divorced, my parents allotted each of his parents a maximum of 30 guests each to invite close friends and family. My fiancé’s mother has a relatively small family and wants to invite her boyfriend’s cousins. My mom is very offended by this because my own parents have excluded their cousins from the list due to budget and feel that the groom’s mom’s boyfriend’s cousins are far too distant of a relationship to be invited over their own cousins. My mom feels that the if the groom’s mother has a small family, she should only use the invites she needs to keep costs down. What is your take on this?

    • Joyce Beverly

      This situation is difficult in many ways. I understand your mother’s response completely. My opinion, as stated in this post, is that the mother of the groom should invite people who actually have a relationship with the groom. Perhaps that is true of a boyfriend’s cousin, but I’m skeptical.
      Here is what I suggest: “Next summer” is pretty far off. Explain to your fiance’s mother that in order to manage rising wedding expenses the guest list has to be trimmed. I don’t think you can dictate whom she invites, but I do think it is reasonable to trim the number.
      Also, always, always look ahead. You, your mom and his mom will be family now. Don’t let one wedding guest spoil these new relationships. It can’t be worth that.
      I hope this helps. Thank you for reading.

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  • Laura Calder

    As MOG I was given a limited number whom to invite. In the beginning, it was my understanding that my son & daughter in law to be mentioned a secondary list? They were going to send out Save the Date then determine whom could not attend, then go to additional guests on this 2nd list. I thought it applied to both parents as well. They decided to send out 110 invites going way over what they actually wanted. Originally they were going to invite 70-80 guests to start. Seems, like they got carried away. Of course 15-20 of their friends declined as this is a destination wedding $$. Since, we had a smaller number one couple from our guest list can’t make it. I asked if I could replace with another couple close friends, whom I wanted on the list from beginning. My son was very abrupt, rude with a not up for further discussion attitude….wow hurtful & not expected! We are contributing to the wedding as the bride’s Parents. We are also working hard for a wedding social that helps raise money for the
    upcoming Wedding, to help in offsetting their costs. The kids are also paying for portion of wedding. I was only asking for 2 people to replace nothing more?!

    • Joyce Beverly

      Laura, thanks so much for taking time to read this post and share your story. It definitely seems unfair. I am sorry you are experiencing this. No matter how hard we try, usually at some point in the wedding planning period feelings are hurt, unfair decisions are made, tempers flare, things are said that can’t be unsaid. As hard as it is, remember there are so many wonderful memories to be made after the wedding. However, they can easily be impaired by offenses we harbor from this period. Also, most people tend to think the bride or her mom are the most stressed. In fact, I think many grooms are similarly anxious. (As are we MOGs.) They may feel torn between the demands of the most important women in their lives. It’s tough for everyone. When I think how my son may be feeling, I’m more inclined to cut him some slack. I hope this helps. Please continue to check in here. I will be writing many more posts in the weeks to come.

  • maggiesocial

    How tragic for the MOG who gets no invitations. I would think the bride’s mother should have stepped in at this point and given that bride a ‘talking to’. :)

    • Joyce Beverly

      I could not agree more Maggie. Unfortunately, I think there is a real shortage of mothers of the bride who are willing, or able, to steer their daughters toward the right decisions. Thanks for taking time to respond!

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