peonyinlove: We did the same thing (caterers at my dad’s house) and had to limit to as close to 50 as possible, which was what we ended up with. We invited our wedding party and their significant others/fiances/spouses, parents, grandparents, and aunts and uncles (but had to cut out their kids/my cousins because it was too much) first and foremost. At that point, we looked at out of town guests, and we essentially added to the guest list at that point very close family and friends who were coming from out of town, such as my DH’s adult cousins coming in from 3.5 hours away. He also wanted to invite his childhood soccer coach and his SO because we hadn’t seen them in so long and they were coming in from North Carolina. We ended up right at 50, and although there were some people we would also loved to have had, I finally broke it down and said that I will make an additional effor to talk to these other people at the wedding the following night, but not all wedding guests can come to the rehearsal, it’s just not feasible.
I would start with your immediate family and go from there, which you sound much like you’re doing. Just because your second cousin might be flying in (this is just an example, this may not be your actual situation) you will see them at the wedding and probably the brunch, so you don’t need to feel obligated to invite them and their whole family, be it kids, or SO or whomever.
Similar to what PP said, my SIL had a list of “things to do around town” that she had in her welcome bags at the hotel. This could be helpful for those checking in Friday night who are not attending the rehearsal.
Also, if there are a handful of really close friends you and your FI want to have over some possibly more “distant” family, I would invite them. The rehearsal is supposed to be much more intimate and more about people closest to you. I realize you have some family making a long trip to see you, but they didn’t book that flight with the expectation that they would be invited to all wedding related events (at least that would have been presumptuous on their part). I would just make a mental note to stop by their tables and stay a bit longer with them the night of your wedding.
Additionally, we sent out a little note that I printed on regular old paper with invites that was stuffed into those who were invited to the rehearsal’s invite envelope. If we had any RSVP no, then I removed them from the rehearsal dinner list, and we invited others personally if we had space and wanted to include others. I didn’t feel bad about it because it wasn’t nearly as formal as the wedding, and they didn’t know whether others had received an actual paper invite or not. It just gives your invited guests extra time to plan.
My ONLY regret was that I didn’t request an RSVP for the rehearsal, I just assumed that if they said they were coming to the wedding, they were coming to the rehearsal as well. It ended up working that way, but I freaked a few days ahead of time because I wondered if people were actually coming since no one had indicated to me otherwise. You might think about adding some sort of RSVP, like an email or something informal for that part.
To be honest, 50 is a large number for a rehearsal dinner to begin with, so while I understand that you feel bad about not being able to invite everyone who is coming from far away, the reality is that they are coming for your WEDDING and not the rehearsal. They should understand that.
Hope that helps at all!