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.