Monday, December 26, 2005

DON’T EVALUATE YOUR GUESTS’ RELATIONSHIPS--AND IF YOU HAVE TO, TACT AND CLASS MUST BE IN YOUR CORNER (PART I)

Heather was a good friend: smart, witty, and a close confidante. While I was single and on the prowl, she had been committed ever since I had met her. Dreaming of getting engaged to her boyfriend, RealEstateDeveloper, Heather was engagement-friendly.

Pretty soon, I ended up finding someone of my own--TallGuy. The day after my first date with TallGuy, I excitedly told Heather I could see myself spending the rest of my life with him. That--after ten hours of knowing him.

Heather soon got engaged. As she attempted to plan her wedding, her emails and phone calls became scarce. During that time, TallGuy and I spent hours on websites and in front of travel books, searching for a perfect destination for our first trip together. We decided upon the Greek islands and we found a lovely hotel in Santorini for a week in July. Having called the hotel, we had it all planned out. Heather emailed me that she was thinking about the second weekend of July--smack in the middle of our trip. As we hadn’t booked airline tickets, she promised me she’d let me know when it was definite. About a week later, she emailed confirmation that they had decided on that weekend.

During the next few weeks, TallGuy and I scrambled to rearrange our plans... The hotel we had fallen in love with (and we had booked) didn’t have room any other weekend in July. Although extremely disappointed, TallGuy and I made the decision that Heather's wedding was more important. . I emailed Heather that we had pushed our trip back, and she quickly responded that she was so happy to hear it.

Months passed, and I received a large square envelope, topped with my name in squiggly calligraphy. It was from Heather and RealEstateDeveloper. I wondered if TallGuy's name had been left off the envelope accidentally, but then I looked at the response card. Sure enough, there was no “and guest” at the end of Ms. Wedding Fairy.

I considered that perhaps it was a mistake, and that TallGuy's name was neglected by an irresponsible calligrapher. I realized that notion was pretty unrealistic.

I received an email from Heather two weeks after the invitation reached my mailbox. After not having heard from her for months, and only after I told her we moved the trip, it was an interesting correspondence:

“I know it's been forever since we've talked...I'm so sad about it. I wanted to call you, but have felt so uncomfortable because I didn't know if you'd be mad that I could not invite TallGuy to the wedding. Things got expensive, and the list of guests wound up much longer than we thought/wanted. RealEstateDeveloper and I both have many friends that are in very serious relationships, some with significant others that we are close friends with, and others with significant others that we don't know as well. Although we would have loved to invite everyone with their significant other, we just couldn't. So, we had to make the decision that we would only invite couples who were engaged or married, or if we were close friends with both people. This meant we had to invite a lot of our friends in serious relationships without inviting their significant other...I'm sorry it worked out that way.... I know you would have had more fun with TallGuy there, and I wish he could have been there to share our special day, especially because I know that you both rearranged your vacation so you could be there."

Having read (and re-read and re-read), I wasn’t sure what got to me more--what Heather did, or that she handled the aftermath so poorly. I’m sure that many of my readers will disagree with me about this, but the fact that Heather was effectively evaluating the relationship I had with TallGuy, compared with the other couples that would be in attendance, was something I found to be a big "don't"--particularly because this wasn't a situation where the budget should have been such an issue, given that Heather was a big-shot Ad Exec working at a large shop in L.A....

I don’t disagree with the idea that trimming a guest list can be the key to saving money, and I understand that the cost of a wedding can get absolutely excessive.

Having said all of that, however, I believe there is a difference between cutting out the family dentist from the list, or the groom’s parent's family friends that the groom has not seen in three years....

Every circumstance is different. In this instance, Heather called me right away when she became engaged, and repeatedly told me how excited she was for me to share her special day, and that it was so important to her that I be there.... this was why her behavior was more surprising than if it were simply "just another friend"....

Heather's attempt to differentiate her guest’s relationships, to me, seemed a problematic way of cutting costs. The first category of those who were “in”, as I understood it from her email, were (A) those couples that were engaged or married. But how can anyone be sure that the guests who are engaged have “better” or “more serious” relationships than those who just started dating? TallGuy and I were super serious off the bat--does that mean that our relationship is less tangible because I have yet to receive a piece of jewelry?

The second category she listed was (B) those couples who Heather and RealEstateDeveloper knew very well. I don’t disagree that she and RealEstateDeveloper barely know TallGuy (I actually barely know RealEstateDeveloper). Although I understand it makes sense to invite couples with whom both individuals are close, it seems strange that because she had carried on a long-distance relationship with her husband-to-be, and she and RealEstateDeveloper didn’t have the means to get to know my boyfriend (and others in the same scenario), she could simply cross out couples from the list.

I believe the lesson to be learned is this: If you are going to categorize, be VERY clear about how you’re going to do it, and try to cut your guest list in such a manner that makes sense. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t cost-cut, but if you have the slightest inkling (like Heather did) that your method of categorization is insensitive or hurtful, then it’s probably not the best approach.

Adhering to certain “formulas” is bound to relegate certain people as “haves” and the others as “have-nots”, and people are likely to know which category they fall into very quickly. I’m not saying that the bride-to-be will please every guest, but it’s important to remember that the invited attendees should not feel offended, uncomfortable, or put out--particularly given that each and every one of us is spending at least $150-200 on each wedding and shower gift, as well as the frilly negligee for the bachelorette party.

The trick to this type of natural selection (i.e. survival of the fittest as pertains to wedding guests) is to be as random and as unformulaic as possible. While TallGuy may not have fallen into category (A) or (B), he was one-half of the decision to completely rearrange a trip to Greece, as well as forego a stay at a hotel that he and I both adored. And although RealEstateDeveloper may not have known TallGuy, Heather considered me a good friend (see above email), and she knew how much I cared about my boyfriend (engagement ring or not).

Heather's admission about my potentially uncomfortable feeling being sans-date at her wedding was also noteworthy. that “I know you would have had more fun with TallGuy there.” While TallGuy may have been an extra “cost” in the end, I really believed that being good friends with someone + moving and rearranging a trip to Greece + having a boyfriend who the bride knows is important to you + knowing hardly anyone else at the event = a common sense conclusion that adding one more person to the list (and, in the case of others in the same boat, two or three or four more) is not a burden that will ultimately alter your wedding planning.It all depends on the situation, the circumstance, the individuals involved.

Therefore, Heather's express decision to put TallGuy to the “(C)” category highlighted his have-not status. While it is certainly frustrating to have to place limitations, it’s best to isolate each and every scenario and to carefully consider each potential guest as an individual--rather than to divide and conquer.

You’re probably wondering where the hard and fast solution is--unfortunately, there are no clear answers, which is why wedding planning is never as black and white as the Ralph Lauren tux the groom wears.

Each experience, though, must be treated separately, and careful consideration must be given to everyone involved. Why? No matter how right you think you are about your wedding list, or how much planning you’ve done, your guests can very much make-or-break a reception. If most everyone wants to leave early because they’re not happy with your decisions or how you have handled yourself along the wedding-planning way, then you have ultimately failed in at least one goal of your wedding - making sure your guests are having a good time.

I acknowledge that these decisions are going to be inevitable for many brides-to-be. However, if you have to make these tough decisions (and I KNOW they are ridiculously tough), there are ways to ensure that you don't act as inconsiderately as Heather did. How do you do guest-cutting gracefully (or as tactfully as you can?) More this week.

Stay tuned!

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

My finace was invited to a wedding and both envelopes were addressed solely to him. We talked about it and he was good friends with the groom and I told him to go and have a good time. Well being a typical male he forgot to RSVP (which I gave him s**t about) and when the bride called she asked "You and Annon (me!) didn't respond...are you both coming?
I guess by simply writing his name on the envelope that was meant to include me as well....

Megan said...

Just wondering- has this wedding happened yet? I think I would somehow find another hotel in the greek islands that had an opening that weekend.

the wedding fairy said...

Megan-

Thanks for the question--yes, the wedding happened, and I can safely say that it was one of the most uncomfortable few hours I have ever experienced.

I hardly knew anyone, except one girlfriend--who was dancing with her fiance the whole time. During the receiption, I sat and people-watched (at a table where I was the *only* one without a date).

The kicker? My mom and dad picked me up and dropped me off--because I didn't have a car, and it was pretty far away from NYC (and there was no transportation). Actually, my parents were kind enough to have STAYED THERE--THE ENTIRE TIME--and they had dinner at a restaurant nearby, then picked me up when I was ready.

The irony of it all is that I never interacted with/saw the bride and groom. Maybe it was bad etiquette that I didn't go chasing after them to congratulate them, but so be it. Given the circumstances, I thought Heather could have gone out of her way to find ME.

The Greek Islands were great--and in retrospect, I wish I had taken your advice and found another hotel that week.....

I think people sometimes forget that friendships are supposed to last a lot longer than the wedding planning/celebration. Sad, but true.

Thanks for checking in!