What Should You Do If Your Family Wants a Big Wedding But You Don’t?

by TTMK on October 3, 2013 · 13 comments

The following post is from staff writer Melissa Batai

In the last two decades, weddings have gotten as bloated as McDonald’s super size meals.  Weddings used to be a simple affair where the couple got married and had a quiet reception at the bride or groom’s parents’ house.  The cost was minimal, and the event was low-key.

Gone are those days.  Now, a wedding can involve hundreds of guests and a fully catered reception complete with an open bar.  Some couples even pay for a bus to transport the guests to a secret wedding venue.  The more over the top the wedding, the better for some couples.  Of course, with all this pomp and circumstances comes a huge outflow of cash.

But what if you don’t want the big wedding or the huge outlay of cash?  What if you want a simple, low-key wedding but your family wants the large wedding?  What do you do?

It’s unfortunate that so many family members get vested in the bride and groom’s wedding.  Ideally, things should be done the way the bride and groom prefer, but that rarely happens.  Instead, the engaged couple often spends much of their time running interference between what other people want.

If you want a small, simple wedding but family members want otherwise, consider these alternatives:

1.  Have a destination wedding and invite just a handful of guests.  Of course, many people can’t afford to travel to have a destination wedding, so consider just inviting the bridal party and you and your spouse’s immediate family.  This will be much more intimate, and you’re likely to have a stress free wedding.

A few weeks later, have a big reception.  Now that the pressure of the wedding is off, you can just enjoy celebrating your marriage with your family and friends.

2.  Have a small wedding first and a large wedding later.  This option lets you have a small, meaningful wedding first and a bigger bash later.  My husband and I had a big wedding with his family and their friends a year after our initial wedding.  While the event was still nerve-wracking, knowing that this wasn’t our “real” wedding took some of the pressure off.

3.  Simply refuse.  Ultimately, this is your wedding, and if you really don’t want a big wedding, you can simple refuse.  Of course, since there is no compromise here, you’ll likely offend some family members and may have to deal with the fall out for a few months (or years, depending on your family members).

Hopefully, you only get married once, so you should be able to have the wedding you want.  However, everyone close to you likely feels they should have a say in your wedding, so if you take a different path than they would like, prepare to meet some resistance.

My Question for You

Did you have a wedding you didn’t want because you gave in to familial pressure?  What strategy would you suggest for someone who wants a small wedding but is getting pressure from family members to have a large wedding?

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Joe Saul-Sehy October 3, 2013 at 6:45 am

I like how you had the big wedding later. Way to juggle everyone’s expectations!

We had a wedding that was a compromise. My dad has 16 brothers and sisters, so it would have been difficult to decide to invite some and not others. Because my family was so big, we couldn’t invite the middle school track kids that we coached….until we realized that we could just invite them before the cake was served (after dinner). Our wedding was flooded with middle schoolers about halfway through and it was awesome.


Michelle October 3, 2013 at 8:46 am

Haha we have a similar issue. W’s mom has 11 or 12 brothers and sisters, and W’s dad has 8 or 9 brothers and sisters. A huge family!


TTMK October 3, 2013 at 9:52 am

Have you reached the point where you now remember all of their names?


TTMK October 3, 2013 at 9:49 am

Sounds like a great way to include more people, and a creative approach to being inclusive. I’m sure the kids were probably happy not to sit through a ceremony and the more formal part of dinner. At that age, wedding cake would be a highlight!


Kevin @ Growing Family Benefits October 3, 2013 at 7:15 am

We set a wedding budget and invited the number of guests that fit what we decided to spend. Both sets of parents wanted to add to the guest list. We told them about our budget, and they chose to contribute to those extra expenses.


TTMK October 3, 2013 at 9:50 am

That sounds like a fair approach. If others want to add to the list, they pay. Seems mature.


Michelle October 3, 2013 at 8:44 am

We are having a fairly large family. We just added up how many family members would be coming and it’s at 203. We would cut some but we see these people all the time, and since we are having the wedding on his family’s estate we would feel bad excluding some.

So, a huge wedding it is!


TTMK October 3, 2013 at 9:51 am

Wow, 203 family members! That’s great to have such a big combined family.


Little House October 3, 2013 at 8:47 am

We were lucky that no one dictated what kind of wedding we could or should have. Instead, we had a low-key, traditional wedding on a shoe-string and continue to have fond memories of the event. We kept it simple (I created my own bouquet and my mother-in-law-to-be prepared the flower arrangements) and found a very inexpensive venue that offered an outdoor area for the ceremony and an indoor area for the reception. It was just what we wanted. Neither side tried inviting additional relatives or friends. It was lovely.


TTMK October 3, 2013 at 9:53 am

That’s awesome. One doesn’t need to spend an arm and a leg on a wedding to make it special and memorable.


zimmy@moneyandpotatoes.com October 4, 2013 at 12:40 am

My wife and I just went to the Justice of the Peace and had the thing done in short order. You can spend the money you would have spent on your wedding on a nice honeymoon.


Katie August 31, 2015 at 12:54 am

When it comes to a wedding…. I think it should be between two people.
Two people who want to spend the rest of their lives together.
Of course, their going to think about their friends and family for the occasion. But there’s no reason for the two love-birds to go into debt over it.

I will be going to a wedding soon that I’m super excited for. We received an invitation to go camping and for these 2 people to get married! It’s a pot-luck, camping wedding. Bugs and all.

Love that!


Eliza January 3, 2018 at 4:15 am

I was pressured into having a big wedding by my future in laws and my family. 2 years later I’m still married and my wedding remains the biggest regret of my life. It literally makes me physically ill. My fiance was decending into drug addiction and no one would take me seriously when I said anything. I tried deperately to stop the wedding but once the big machine started rolling…..no ones hears what you say. I cancelled bridal dress shopping…..told everyone it was cancelled only to have it rescheduled for me. So my advice is….trust your gut and listen to it …only do what you want….i sure wish I had.


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