My friend, Allison, sent out her first update since our wedding. Because I saw her at the wedding, I technically should've known most of the important stuff in there. But, much to my surprise, there was major news I had not heard, such as the fact that she was training for a marathon.
This revelation reminded me that I didn't have as much quality time as I would have liked with the guests at my wedding. And our 80-person wedding was relatively small! And I got to see people at multiple points throughout the day because many of us stayed at the same place!
The truth is, I did get to spend some quality time with Jason and Allison. We even sat down to play a board game together in the middle of the reception.
I've been to so many weddings where--as a guest--I've spent little to no quality time with the bride or groom (Editor's Note: I'm not being heterosexist by using the phrase "bride or groom;" I've just never been to a gay marriage!). If I'm a bridesmaid, sure. I get to be part of the inner-circle. But other than that, I've felt kind of like an extra in a movie. I say hi to the folks getting married when my turn comes up in the receiving line. I'm sometimes included in the professional photographs when I'm part of the "college group" or "Teach For America group." We exchange small talk if there's a sit-down dinner and the bride and groom make their rounds to every table.
This type of wedding ends up feeling surreal to me. It feels like a charade or a facade or a "meet and greet". I end up feeling like, "Wait a second. This event should be the most sincere and authentic public expression of their love and yet this whole thing feels like a TV show."
There's very little sincerity and authenticity in a TV show. It looks one way on the surface, but there's a lot going on behind the scenes. So much of it is fake or constructed (even supposedly "reality" TV!). My friends have said to me, "We just want our wedding to be over." Or their weddings were so stressful they got seriously sick after it was over and their bodies could finally let down their guards.
I didn't want that for my wedding.
Matt's family and Matt and I decided early on that there should be a separate reception--weeks or months after the wedding--to bring together all the family friends or parents' friends who weren't included on our short guest list. We wanted our guest list to only include our nearest and dearest. In the end, I was much more relaxed saying my vows in front of 80 of my closest friends and family than I would have been in front of 250 quasi-friends and quasi-strangers.
In the comments section from "Fighting with Parents over the Guest-List", Meg from one of my favorite blogs, A Practical Wedding, argues that these people should be invited to the actual wedding:
"Your wedding day is really your parents' day as much as it's your day... in fact, they've probably dreamed and hoped for a loving marriage for you since they first held you in their arms. Your parents may well have personal friends, or even close family that you don't know well if at all (our parents do!). It's important for your parents to feel really included in this celebration - to feel like they share it with you, not that it's just yours."
I wholeheartedly agree that weddings are about family (your family of origin and/or your family of choice). And of course I want those two families to feel "included in this celebration." But I don't see how that premise leads to the conclusion that parents should be able to invite their closest friends--friends you don't even know.
My family did share the wedding with their friends--through photographs and videos after the wedding--not by actually inviting them to the wedding.
Chances are, there are already going to be people you don't know at your wedding. There will be some relatives on the other side or some guests of guests on your side. I already felt stretched thin trying to meet all the new friends and reconnect and cherish the old friends (and we only had 80 people there!).
In fact, if my parents (or Matt's parents) had invited any of their friends that we didn't know, we would have had less time to spend with our actual families. That would have defeated the whole point!
As it was, we got to spend a lot of time during the reception dancing with them, talking with them, hugging them, and hiking/horseback riding with them in the days before the wedding. For us, that was the best way to include our family in the wedding.
Although our families didn't agree with all our decisions along the way, they were immensely happy in the end. The event was the fullest expression of Matt and me. It was chock full of our tastes, preferences, and personalities. Because our families love us, they loved the wedding because it truly represented us.