Q. Karen, our daughter is getting married in a very small ceremony, per her request, and we are only having immediate family members and a few very close friends. However, I am concerned about offending people who have invited us to their children's weddings in the past, even though they were much larger affairs. How can I politely let people know that we are limited with our guest list without offending people?
A. I think the guest list and the seating chart are two of the trickiest things about hosting a wedding. It is not always possible to return the favor of a wedding invitation because of many variables. Maybe your paths with certain friends over the years, have gone in different directions, or your child doesn't particularly know some of your old friends and even some of your distant relatives. All those things should be taken into consideration when you are making your guest list. Certainly, budget and the place where the wedding and reception will be held can, and usually does, limit the number of people you are able to invite. If you have a very large immediate family, those family members should take priority over friends.
The best way to deal with the guest list is to just put the word out there with family and friends that you are limited as to the number of people you can invite and how deep into a family you can extend the invitation. Maybe an aunt and uncle will be included, but not all of their children ... that's OK. Or maybe cousins will be included, but not with a guest. As the host of the wedding, you get to set the guidelines. Many young people today want those attending to be people they know well.
Oh, and if you are the guest, feel complimented if you do get invited and understanding if you don't. It is the gracious and polite thing to do.