If I had to choose a wedding venue all over again, I'd still pick the same one. It is the only venue out of 22 where my eyes actually teared up during the first visit. Because the mansion itself IS the reception area (as opposed to standard hotel ballroom partitions which can be expanded/shrunk), we have a numbers problem. The max we can accommodate is 242 people, and that's squeezing 10 people per 5' table (small!) with only a couple feet between each table. It also means having 3 tables with less than perfect views. In other words, it's a COZY 242. An ideal number would be closer to 200.
In trying to reach 242, we have performed several big wedding etiquete NO-NO's:
1) We polled guests early on over email to get an idea of who was definitely not coming. The way we phrased it was hey, please let us know your mailing address. But if you already know you can't come, please let us know as our venue has a strict capacity limit. I thought we were doing them a favor by giving them an out if they're for sure not coming. That way, we don't send them an invite and they don't have to feel obligated to give us a gift. Several people who weren't coming still asked for our addresses to send us a gift, but we replied politely saying thanks for the well wishes but a gift isn't necessary. In retrospect, I wonder how many of our guests felt we were rude for our preliminary RSVPs?
2) Our second no-no was polling parents with kids to see who wouldn't mind having their kids babysat in a separate room at the wedding reception (if it came down to that). While we could have made the wedding adult-only, we felt it was rude to turn away kids especially for friends traveling from afar. The answer depended on several components. Some kids are young enough to sit in parents' laps. Others are old enough to require high chair, yet too young to be left with a babysitter. Regardless of age, parents have varying degrees of attachment and trust for babysitters.
3) Early RSVP dates didn't seem to be a no-no at first, not until my parents said so anyway. They're forcing us to give their guests a later RSVP date just to be polite. Because of our tier system, lack of a save-the-date, and the fact that each invitation is handmade with lots of time, we have decided to invite guests in waves starting with guests who live far away. The first wave had an RSVP date of 3 months before the actual wedding date. I figured for those who have to buy international or cross-country plane tickets, they should know within that timeframe whether they can make it right? But is it rude? I'm not sure if I'll ever know what our guests really thought of this.
4) The biggest no-no is giving varying answers to guests with +1. Our general lines of thinking were: we don't want guests to be alone and not know anyone at the wedding, and we want guests with husbands, fiances, and serious boyfriends/girlfriends to be able to bring their SOs. But we've broken that rule a few times along the way (mostly to decrease our count except for one case), and I've had several awkward and hard conversations with friends. I have a group of 4 childhood friends in LA. I'm not close to any of their husbands/fiances/boyfriends, all 4 are local to the wedding venue (and don't have the trouble of traveling by plane), they're all good friends with each other, and I didn't want to play favorites by inviting one of their SOs and not the rest. Because they come as a package of 4, it actually could make a difference in meeting our max. I let them know early about the space issue and that I may not be able to invite their SOs. I told them I'd send them invitations last in case we have space. I've also had awkward conversation with someone who wanted to bring a date just because their ex was bringing an SO, and another friend who wanted to bring a sibling. It was really tough to explain that I would rather have one of *my* friends attend than a stranger or acquaintance who's not even an SO. Maybe I'm not sympathetic enough to know why certain people feel the need for a support system at our wedding, but sometimes I wish they'd put themselves in my shoes and trust that I *would* let them bring a date if we have space, but just please don't force a space from me now. On the other hand, I have one friend who I couldn't make a bridesmaid due to some girl politics (she had a falling out with another bridesmaid, and I wasn't made aware of how much she really wanted to be a BM until too late). I felt bad about the whole bridesmaid thing, I know she can't really drive long distances by herself, and she doesn't have any close friends attending my wedding. So, I've decided to let her bring a +1 even though she doesn't have a boyfriend. I know it sounds like a double standard, but it's sort of like college admissions--we have general guidelines but each person needs to be considered on a case by case basis, with the overall goal that we can't accept more than 242! Or maybe it's more like college financial aid. :)
So for the past 6 months or so, and especially now that invitations are starting to roll in, I've been tweaking my excel sheet numbers to see how close we are to the maximum, at the same time trying to predict who will actually RSVP yes and no from the remainder. My hope is that we'll be able to invite my childhood friends' SOs, accommodate all kids in the same room, allow friends who want to bring that +1 that is not an SO, and maybe even fit in a few of our tier two guests (highly doubt it though). While I know we absolutely need at least 10-20 NOs, I know I'll still be really sad if/when people respond "regretfully declines".
I wonder from a guest's point of view, how serious these no-no's are?