Be Our Guest

Finalizing the social Rubik’s Cube known as our guest list is underway. Glenn and I are shooting for about 85 attendees, a relatively small number. Fortunately, we each have small immediate families. And yet, the negotiating and logistics involved make me feel like I’m planning a presidential inauguration.

If it’s been fairly smooth sailing up until now, brace yourself. Here there be drama. No one really cares about the flowers except you—people care about who’s invited, who they’re sitting with, and who they get to bring.

Having spent months on color swatches, dress lengths and buttercream, I was ready to apply some cold, hard reasoning to the situation. Among other things, I write about litigation. It occurred to me that I might be able to apply to my guest list the same criteria that is used to certify class action lawsuits. (Just stay with me, people.) The criteria are:

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Numerosity (in other words, who makes the cut?) First decide who gets the final say on who is invited. Then ask yourself some questions about who should be sharing your special day. Do you really need to invite the whole fraternity? Parents’ business associates? Your favorite public servants? Be realistic, if not ruthless.

Adequate representation (can you swap out some cousins for a few college roommates?) This is about family. Even if you or your parents don’t have siblings numbering toward double digits, things could get ugly. What degree of blood relation do you need to be in order to score an invitation? How often do you see these people? How many future generations will a rift affect? Weigh the history of intra-family strife and proceed accordingly.

Commonality (who do guests have in common? Who sits with whom?) Fun forays into this area include remembering who hates whom. Should you invite both halves of a divorced couple? If so, who gets to sit with which friends? Can you invite some friends in a group and not others?

Typicality (typically, there are a bunch of minefields that the first three categories don’t cover.) Cold, hard reasoning typically and quickly falls by the wayside in the face of some big questions.

Some of the Big Questions are:

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Kids or no kids at the reception? Or some kids but not others? It doesn’t have to be all or nothing but choosing this option largely depends on the amount of flak you will get for it.

Do single guests get to bring a guest? Again, this is not necessarily an all-or-nothing proposition. Personally, the secret formula I am using for this will go with me to my grave.  

Are you playing a game I call “guest chicken”? This dangerous game involves people that your parents or parents-in-law will insist on inviting for form’s sake, saying, “We have to invite them, but don’t worry, they won’t come.” Are you sure? Can I have that in writing?

So have everyone draw up their lists and start cutting. Just be prepared for some turbulence. Putting together the guest list is nowhere near as simple as interpreting the law.


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