Our guestlist is lopsided!

Updated Sep 26 2019
findyourafterglow

My fiancé has a very small family, while my family is ridiculously huge … do you have any ideas on how we might be able to help his family (of about eight Polish immigrants with limited English speaking abilities) be not so intimidated by my family (of about 50 festive Mexican Americans)? We've already decided that having the guests split up into a groom's side and a bride's side is just ridiculous and we're not having any of that. However, I am at a loss as far as how to diplomatically integrate our very different families. —Veronica

First, I have to take a second to say that Veronica and her fiancé Luke are one of the cutest couples I've ever seen at an Offbeat event. Look at how adorable they are in their matching little veils! So much of teh kyoot™!

But anyway, onto the question at hand: how to deal with enormously lopsided family guest-lists …

When it comes to a wedding where the guest-list is lopsided with a little island confused Polish-speakers floating in a vast sea of Mexican-American revelers, it makes sense to have a small, casual rehearsal dinner the night before the wedding, where perhaps the family representation won't be quite as lopsided. Say, maybe eight Poles to 12 Mexicans? This way you give Luke's small family the opportunity to meet and get comfortable with your large family before the wedding, in an environment that's a little less overwhelming. In the context of a small, casual rehearsal dinner, you and Luke will also have more time to make introductions and bridge the language barriers where you can.

An option for your wedding day would finding a couple gregarious Mexican-American family members who could "adopt" Polish guests at the wedding, making a point to engage them in language-neutral moments like dancing, pouring drinks, raising a glass to the the two of you, hugging, etc. By doing this, you're in essence electing your own little family ambassadors! Granted, this would be dependent on finding just the right family members to act as ambassadors, but in a large family you're bound to have at least one chatty, super-friendly auntie or cousin somewhere.

How cool would it be if everywhere Luke's family turned, your family members were saying "Cześć!" (Hello!) or "Na zdrowie!" (Cheers!)?

You could also coordinate with your family to teach everyone how to say "Milo Pana" — Nice to meet you in Polish. How cool would it be if everywhere Luke's family turned, your family members were saying "Cześć!" (Hello!) or "Na zdrowie!" (Cheers!)? You could even go so far as to create a few cards with phonetic Polish phrases for key family members like your parents. This would go a long way towards showing Luke's family that while they might be outnumbered, your family has gone out of its way to make them feel welcome.

I'm also reminded of a wedding that Kelly from Closed Circle Photography recently told me about — the bride's family spoke Spanish, while the groom's only spoke Croatian. "No one over 35 could speak more than a few words to one another," Kelly said, and when I asked her if it was awkward, and she shot back, "No, it was great! It was a big party where the only forms of communication were dancing, grinning, booze, and shouting happy things at people who couldn't understand a word the shouter said." She also explained that the Croatian DJ mixed in Salsa tunes, which got the bride's family shaking it on the dance floor. Any chance you could pull in few Polish cultural traditions to pull Luke's family members into the spotlight?

Hope this is helpful — and be sure to keep in touch! I can't wait to see pictures of the wedding. Will Luke wear a veil, too? He's so cute in one!

  1. Thanks super lots for getting back to us so quickly and with such great advice. We were thinking we wouldn't have a rehearsal dinner because 1. we don't know what the point is of rehearsing, I guess and 2. We heard they're expensive. However, a nice informal dinner with just the closest of my relatives and with his relatives should be fine. I love the idea of including cards with phrases on them. I'll have to ask about any Polish traditions that maybe we could incorporate.

    Luke says he doesn't think he'll be wearing a veil to the wedding… (but I'll be sure to snap shots of him in mine at some point, just wait~!)

    Thanks for the fun times at the event. Yay love!

  2. There are tons of great Polish wedding customs, though many of them are specific to certain regions, so having him check with his mom makes sense.

    Two things: consider serving a Polish cocktail such as żóbrówka (an awesome vodka with bison grass) and apple juice. The cocktail is either called a "tatonka" (as in "Dances with Wolves"…seriously), or szarlotka (because it tastes like Polish apple cake). Or you could serve some krupnik if you want everyone HAMMERED, or make your own lemon vodka. Sounds like the perfect favor to me :).

    You might also want to play Chopin at some point and announce or include in the program that Chopin is Poland's most famous composer. I think that little touches like this really make a difference to family.

    Polish weddings are generally pretty crazy affairs that traditionally last for days, so it might go more easily than you expect.

    Gratulacje!

    "The three most astonishing things in the past half-century were the blues, cubism, and Polish vodka."
    ~Pablo Picasso

  3. First off, Felicidades and Moje Gratulacje!!!

    I think these ideas are awesome! I'm having a Slovak-Pittsburgh/Irish-Newfoundland wedding in a mere six weeks and although everyone speaks English, they can hardly understand each other with the accents! 🙂

    We're incorporating things from both traditions and hoping it all blends together well, including the Redovy (bridal dance) with some modifications (no money, just dancing, waving hankies, singing, and forcing the groom to fight through my female friends and family to steal me away!)

    And OMG, those veils are cute! Best of luck and have a wonderful time!!! I know it's going to be awesome!

  4. I'm in a similar boat- I have a huge southern family while my fiance is part of a small Swedish family. Since we are having the wedding in Georgia, there won't be a whole lot of Swedes who can travel that far, which cuts his side of the guest list even more.
    The language issue, though, is all on my side of the family. The Swedes speak excellent English, very proper. I am going to have to make them cards with all the Southernisms that come out of my family's mouths so they can understand what in the world my dad means when he says, "Tryin to jerry rig that tater cannon on tahm made me more nervous than a long tailed cat in a room fulla rockin chars."
    Good luck Swedes!

  5. A neat way to let them show their culture is to welcome them to perform an oczepiny ceremony for you – it's a tradition where the bride's veil is removed and replaced with a cap while the family sings songs. If you don't mind sitting in front of the family for a few minutes it's a lot of fun. My family usually puts a funny hat on the groom then and you have to do a dance together. But we are strictly third generation Buffalo Polish so this may vary from place to place. 🙂

  6. We had a majorly lopsided guest list, and decided not to worry about it. We took care of things with the seating chart. People form my side seated with people from his side who had common interests. After the reception, some of our combined guests went off and had after-parties together and have been friends since! No party the night before needed.

    Things will work out fine.

  7. We had this issue – no language barrier, but 60 people from my side, and 9 from his (not including 3 or 4 family friends on his side). It was amazingly lopsided. I can see how the language barrier would make it that much harder!

    We ditched the bride/groom's side, seated my husband's two aunts and uncles with my grandmother, aunt and some of my family, sat his cousin who is our age with friends our age that he already knows (he moved for grad school to where we used to live), and filled in the wide gap between the families with lots and lots of friends. We had that same cousin do a reading as he's a mutual friend, and each made our younger sibling an honor attendant so they processed together, which gave a nice veneer of evenness to the whole thing.

    With a huge number of friends in attendance, and seating people not just by family but by general age/interest, we turned it into a HUGE PARTY instead of a lopsided family event.

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