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The Gathering - How not to lose funds and alienate people

Thursday, 21st March, 2013 4:55am

We generally react badly to sudden dents in our finances, unless it is a self-inflicted shopping spree. Whether it's impoverished frontline workers or a wedding party questioning the levy of being part of your big day, this truth holds sway the world over. Oh yes, the only thing more divisive than a wedding is an Irish wedding.

In the ensuing excitement, small issues can be overlooked which can soon fester. With my own nuptial version of 'The Gathering' a mere four months away, let me relay a few of the pitfalls I've encountered, lest you trip as you saunter down the aisle.

Deciding who to invite

A big challenge is deciding who to actually invite. It is very much an Irish tradition to ask everyone and their neighbour to the shindig. Having to withdraw invites as you desperately rein in costs is best avoided however. Keeping in mind that those attending are supposed to be the most meaningful people in your joint lives, and actively weeding out anyone whose main concern is boozing it up, should strike the right balance.

Dealing with the expectations dictated by society can be trickier, such as blood relations run dry or once upon a time friendships.Since setting the date, I've been repeatedly told “Suit yourselves. You can't make everybody happy on the day”. Within reason, this is excellent advice.

Who's paying for what

Of course, throw in the cultural differences that accompany a bride and groom of different origins (the United States and Ireland in my case), and you may find that smaller guest list you dreamt of becoming too harsh a reality. Disagreement over who pays for elements of what will be one of the biggest expenditures in your life can also be a challenge. A combination of life experience and surveying your more seasoned family and friends is a good strategy. Until recently, I would have considered myself fairly clueless when it came to wedding etiquette (and I largely still am). My fiancée on the other hand is a seasoned bridesmaid, with six weddings under her belt. Not quite (the movie) 27 Dresses, but in the US it is generally understood that members of the wedding party pay for their own expenses (cue mumbled curses as the financial implications are totted up).

In Ireland, this is not so clear-cut, often depending on economic circumstance. Is it reasonable to ask members of the wedding party to pay their own way, or are the happy couple just being tight fisted sods? It is a delicate subject - you have to remember that your bridesmaids and groomsmen are facilitating you. The simplest way to defuse this is to budget and to then make it clear from the outset, allowing them to consider properly. Your biggest concern should be ensuring their involvement, even if it is just as a wedding guest. Compromising can go a long way towards generating goodwill too. You may not be able to pay their costs in full, but you can contribute. In my case, instead of getting my groomsmen a thank-you gift, I am contributing towards suit hire. We are also arranging a bus service for guests who don't want to drive.

Battle with the booze

A battle with the booze may present a third challenge. In the US, an open bar at a wedding tends to be the norm. When we suggested this to some of the Irish venues we approached, almost all of the owners' eyes widened in sheer fear. “Jesus save you…” one proprietor confided in us. “You'll kill someone. Cash bar all the way”. Yes, apparently our great thirst may also bankrupt us or worse. Again, compromising will keep the peace. Paying for a limited drinks reception on arrival and wine at the meal is a nice gesture, with a cash bar following dinner. You can also yield further savings by weighing up the cost of corkage (what the venue will charge you to bring in your own alcohol), rather than automatically opting for the often more expensive choices at your venue.

Like any gathering, you can't keep everybody satisfied. With a little forethought, you can hopefully find a happy medium.

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