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Dealing with ILF .... Incredibly Large Families

The "extended family group shot". Taken by George Matthew Photography.

In the fall of last year, I planned and executed a wedding where the bride was the baby of 7 siblings, who were all married and had children. When going through her guest list, the inevitable counting of guests showed that about 50 of them were quite literally just immediate family.

So what happens when you run into the situation of having to invite all the "important" people, but still wanting to keep your reception within reasonable numbers? Or if your family, out of their love for you, wants to get involved in everything? Here are some tips in dealing with the ILF....

1. Really assess whether or not +1's are reasonable for family members and other guests. Sometimes, new boyfriends or girlfriends (we are talking 6 months or less) generally get the boot if trying to pare down your guest list.

2. Consider having a kid-free reception. Sometimes this would be the difference between 20-30% of your projected guest count if you have an adults-only reception. If the ceremony is in a different venue, you can also consider just inviting the kids to the ceremony instead.

3. Think hard about second, third or fourth cousins, family friends of friends or other distant relatives that you haven't spoken to for years. While this might be a hard decision to break to your parents, this might be the end decision and the difference between an extremely large and a moderate sized wedding.

4. Consider having your parents pay for the additional extended family/family friends tables if it becomes excessive. If it is absolutely mandatory to invite your cousin's husbands family, then this might be a good option.

5. Invite distant relatives to another, more low-key function (perhaps a next day BBQ or lunch). This way, they can still celebrate with you!

6. Try to avoid the "too many chefs" conundrum. With large families come lots of opinions. While all opinions should be respected, it is imperative to note that the bride and groom (and perhaps parents) make the final decisions. You can express that their help in executing your vision is greatly welcome, but ultimately, there shouldn't be any misunderstanding of who's wedding it is. In order to manage this, specific tasks should be given to those who really want to be involved, so that they feel included, but also so that the bride doesn't feel overwhelmed with requests to help.

7. Establish expectations and boundaries very early. It's always nice to have a buffer, so putting the maid of honour or your wedding planner in charge of various decisions and projects and expressing this early on to your family is also important. Otherwise, there might be an assumption of who is involved in what, and later, unfulfilled expectations.

8. And finally - communication and honesty is key. If there is a moment where you feel like there is more stress than needed, that is the exact time to have a conversation with whoever is causing the stress, particularly if they're family members just wanting to help. This will avoid arguments, hurt feelings and drama in the future!

Happy planning & until next time,


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