Post # 1
I have a huge dilemma… My FI’s family is very big and very close, but due to a number of things (budget, wanting to avoid chaos) we have decided to have a very small wedding. We are having 9 people – just our parents and siblings. My future MIL really wants the whole family included, so she suggested we could have some sort of post-wedding celebration. Problem is, my MIL seems to be having a hard time understanding that this isn’t our wedding reception… She wants to decorate it all nice, show a video of our wedding ceremony, have a DJ and dance floor.. I really want it to be just a casual get-together. But, I also told her I don’t have anything left in our wedding budget (half-hoping we would just drop the idea completely) so – as far as I know – she’s planning on taking care of the whole thing?
So, FI’s aunt suggested we do a big engagement party instead of a post-wedding celebration. I liked that idea, especially because then the whole “wedding celebration” will end with our actual wedding and reception with the 11 of us and our honeymoon (the way we want it). But I feel like that’s a little iff-y of a situation to invite a ton of people to an engagement party that aren’t invited to the wedding. Also, it could be kind of awkward to announce (do I invite them with something like, “because we are having a very intimate wedding, we would like you to join in our engagement celebration…”?). Now it just seems like a gift-grab, doesn’t it?
I still like the engagement party idea, though, but someone suggested the after-party would be easier, becuase you could send an announcement that says “We are having a small, immediate family wedding, but look forward to celebrating with you on [date]”. I think that kind of makes it sound like a later reception though, which I don’t want it to be.
To make matters even MORE complicated, FI’s cousin got engaged one month after us, they are getting one month before us on the beach (September – immediate family only) and then having their post-wedding celebration in November (not sure exact date). If we did the post-wedding celebration, we were thinking Oct 28th (almost right after we get back from the honeymoon), but then that would be right before theirs. If we wait longer (January/February) then I think it’s stupid, because we just spent Thanksgiving and Christmas with these people – can’t they say congratulations then?
Sorry for the long post. ANY words of wisdom would be helpful!!!!
Post # 3
I think first of all, that you need to be careful not to sacrifice the approval of your own friends and family, and your fiance’s family, in order to gain the approval of a bunch of strangers on internet wedding boards. Wedding boards give advice on “wedding etiquette” written for brides, by other brides, who got their ideas from wedding boards and who often have no foundation in standard formal etiquette. Except for a few quixotic old ladies tilting against the windmill that is The Wedding Industry, non-brides aren’t haunting wedding boards and don’t hear those strange “wedding etiquette” ideas.
What your friends and family DO know, are their own family customs, local practices, and ethnic traditions. A few of them at least can also be expected to know standard formal etiquette (to whit, the etiquette practiced by your head of state and consular service) which is useful, since weddings inherently join two different families and hence may involve conflicting local and ethnic customs. Standard etiquette is a useful fallback to address such conflicts. In short: your mother and your future mother-in-law know their own family standards better than you do, and FAR better than the internet does. If the two ladies agree, take their advice. If they don’t agree, try to find a compromise: resort to standard etiquette if necessary. The purpose of standard etiquette is to provide ways of simplifying your life, not of making it more awkward.
Secondly, I think that while greed for material goods — what you call “a gift-grab” — is an ugly characteristic in a bride, so is greed for control over everyone else’s social plans. If your mother-in-law wants to hold a dinner-dance for her friends and extended family, she is not only completely entitled to do so, but formal etiquette will consider it a generous act of hospitality. By formal standard etiquette, if a hostess invites you as guest of honour to a party, you should make every effort to accept. To decline the invitation categorically may create an irreconcilable rift in the relationship. A wise bride does not create irreconcilable rifts with her groom’s family. Nor is it in good taste for a guest of honour to accept conditionally, or to try to change her hostess’s arrangements. A guest of honour is still a guest. A good guest-of-honour’s lines are “thank-you, that is so generous of you” and “whatever you think best: I trust your judgement.”
And that in turn means that little problems like coordinating around your cousin-in-law’s affair, and deciding how to word the invitations, are your future mother-in-law’s concern, and your whole dilemma goes away — or at least becomes her problem, not yours.
Post # 4
@amandasue: Etiquettely speaking in the US, engagement parties are typically for wedding guests only, or nearest and dearest only as most people don’t have their wedding guest list made up by then. But marriage celebration parties can be afterwards for any and all. It’s not typically associted with the wedding events (engagement party, brideal shower, wedding, wedding reception). The reception is what is immediately after the wedding to thank the guests. So a post wedding celebration – a celebration of marriage – can include others. Even though it’s called an “at home reception” that is kind of a misnomer. It can be fancy, it can be casual – whatever you want! But if your MIL wants to throw it for you and pay for it, she probably gets the most say in what it’s going to look like. If you are paying for it you get to have the most say.