PODCAST: Guestlist and Bridal Party: Who’s In and Who’s Out?

May 21, 2019

We had the great pleasure of chatting with former bride Rhiannon about one of the biggest challenges when planning your wedding. The bridal party and guestlist.

Rhiannon and Youssef had a spectacular wedding, and now having been through it all, here she is offering some great insights and tips.


Rhiannon  Hi Anthony.

Anthony Good morning Rhiannon. How are you?

Rhiannon Good. How are you?

Anthony Yeah. Pretty good for a Thursday.

Rhiannon Hope we didn’t get you up to early to get to work today.

Anthony No not at all. I’m actually quite a morning person. I do like getting up early.

Rhiannon Oh that’s good! I just heard Joe complaining because he’s on stand by today and you have to keep his phone on. But he wanted to get a sleep in and some telemarketers just called him and he’s not happy.

Anthony Bad timing on their part. How’s he going? All good?

Rhiannon He’s really good. He’s just working a lot.

Anthony With Tiger Air still?

Rhiannon  Yeah. So doing a lot of flying hours which is obviously good. But you know it’s tiring for him too at the moment.

Anthony  I flew Tiger Air recently and I thought of him. I actually tried to sneak in or have a peek at the cockpit to see whether he was flying.

Rhiannon Oh if you end up having to fly just  let us know and we’ll let you know.

Anthony It’s really good to hear your voice again and thanks for making the time.

Rhiannon You’re welcome.

Anthony Today we speak to Rhiannon. It’s a pleasure to speak to you of course Rhiannon. You got married last year in November. You know, tell us a little bit about the day and how it all panned out and then we can roll in to some questions about how you went about planning for the big day.

Rhiannon  I think when I look back on our day it was better than I could ever imagine. I think as little girls you grow up with that image of what your wedding is going to be like. And I have to say it wasn’t anything like that. But in a really great way. I hope for everyone it was as much of a party as it was for us because that’s what we wanted and I think that’s what we were able to achieve. It was very much ‘us’ as well. So we didn’t do anything that you know was necessarily about being traditional. Everything we did I guess, meant something to us and for us and for our family.

Anthony Definitely. And I think you know that party vibe that you had, and it was a great party, was really born out of your own personalities. It’s kind of like your guests went into it knowing that that’s what it was going to be and they certainly made the most of it. That was my impression. Is that how you see it too?

Rhiannon I think so too. I think definitely. I mean I can’t take credit for the party vibe. I think my husband being Lebanese, I think the party vibe is just built into them. And I’m of a different cultural background and so we’re really conscious about being able to throw a big party and enjoy our day with people from all different backgrounds. A lot of people had traveled interstate. And so I think there were some people who probably had an idea of what to expect in terms of going to particularly say a Lebanese style wedding. A lot of people on my side probably had no idea. And I think and I hope they were very pleasantly surprised.

Anthony And it certainly was a massive party. In terms of planning for a wedding. I mean it can be overwhelming because there is so much to organize. If you can maybe reflect back on the first hour of going ‘okay this is real now, I’ve gotta start preparing this wedding,’  I mean do you remember that and how did you proceed from there?

Rhiannon I think planning a wedding I found was much harder at the start than it was sort of leading into the actual day because you’re a bit ‘deer in the headlights’. And everyone wants to give you their opinion which is so beautiful but it’s also a little bit overwhelming. So I found that the first few hours where I sat down and we tried to talk about what we wanted was actually really hard because we were planning something we’d never planned before. And you know for me, I liken it to inviting 350 people over for dinner. Well, how do you entertain them? You know, so I think I was a little bit nervous at the start. And I think the first couple of months of planning was challenging I won’t lie. It really was challenging. But once you have the main suppliers booked in and I could talk about our supplies all day because we were really careful with who we chose to work with and they were amazing. But once you have those supplies booked in, it’s incredible how much help they can actually provide you not just for whatever service they’re providing but you know recommendations or ‘I’ve seen other people do this and it worked really well’ or ‘I’ve seen people do that and it didn’t work so well.’ That became a wealth of knowledge far more broad than I would have expected. And so I found that as we got closer to the wedding I was actually pretty calm and relaxed. I knew it would work out.

Anthony Absolutely. And it certainly says a lot about hiring professionals who have years of experience that they can offer you and like you say it’s so much more than  the service they’re providing. But you know their wealth of knowledge is what you’re buying into as well. I know that you know one of the things that you did do, and reading over some of your e-mails you say that your sister… That you were useless at organizing but your sister was amazing and she helped yourself and Youssef with this planning. How important was your sister in the end?

Rhiannon My best friend Elena. She was incredible. She was my maid of honor. She is my best friend. She just gets me. She was one of the few people that I really kind of sort of tried to draw from experience from and advice and recommendations. I did try to limit who we would talk to about it. But in terms of asking for advice and that sort of thing we tried to limit it so that we didn’t have too much information to make us feel a little bit confused. It’s important to have people who are honest around you. Because yes it is yours and your husbands day but sometimes you can get a little bit of tunnel vision so it’s nice to have good supportive people who can you know really diplomatically say  “that sounds great but have you thought about this?”

Anthony Definitely. Yeah. You can get lost in all the options and you need someone to pull you back sometimes too don’t you?

Rhiannon Absolutely. Because you could go on and on forever and you could throw money into the air and you need someone who is going to just go “hey let’s have a little bit of a reality check here.”

Anthony Yeah definitely. So reach out to a sibling or a a sister from another from another mother so to speak in your case.

Rhiannon  Yeah! That’s exactly what she is.

Anthony Looking back,your wedding came together perfectly as you know, and it was a great party. You chose a guest list really well of course and for most couples you know, writing a list of guests is probably and I’d be interested to know your thoughts on this, one of the most stressful parts of organizing your wedding. Was that the case for you and Youssef and how did you go about saying you know, yay or nay for each person?

Rhiannon  That was probably the hardest part. You want everyone who means something to you to be there and enjoy it with you but there is always a limit. It was probably easier on my side because I have a smaller family. I’m not originally from Melbourne so I had a lot of people who are travelling interstate and I knew therefore they were going to be some people who unfortunately couldn’t come so that kind of made it a little bit easier for me. But for Youssef, he has an extraordinarily large family. People who have been family friends and friends for many many many years and it was really hard. So, we had an idea how many we thought, well we probably started with a broad brush idea of how many people we would love to invite in you know, the perfect world. And then what we did was we started to look at venues and that helped us to sort of narrow things down and give us the boundaries. Our perfect reception which was White Night Receptions in Maidstone, we loved the venue and we talked to them about what their capacity was not just their capacity in their room but what was comfortable for people because that’s also very important.

Anthony Yeah definitely. People understand that there are limitations and if they weren’t invited. You know generally you know, they just understand. Was that your experience?

Rhiannon I think so. I mean we were really worried about because its always that idea of not wanting to offend anyone but I honestly believe in this day and age people understand you know, how if it can be to have a wedding and so I really honestly feel that people are much more understanding than what we think. We always feel like what we’re going to offend somebody but I think 9 times out of 10 we don’t. And for those people who do get a little bit upset one thing you have to just accept is you can’t please absolutely everybody and if you try you’ll only end up not pleasing yourself.

Anthony Yeah. And the task of you having that guest list becomes a whole lot more stressful which you don’t want. I think it’s important to you know, some couples make the mistake of kind of doing the unofficial invite to a wedding. You really should try and avoid doing that, is that something you experience?

Rhiannon Definitely. I think for for us we we  sort of set the expectation very early on that we were going to do formal invites for absolutely everybody and we really wanted to get written RSVP’s back from everybody because, with the sheer number of people we had, which ended up being over 300, it would have been too difficult to track. So I think having that paper trail and knowing that there’s an exchange of invitation and the return of an RSVP card was really helpful. That allowed us to keep track of who was able to join us and who wasn’t. So we largely avoided those problems but we really set that expectation early.

Anthony So you’ve got your guest list which is fantastic. You’ve finally got through it all and you got your you know your replies and you know who’s attending. I think you know where I’m going with this question perhaps but then the next part is deciding who’s going to sit where and with who. How did you work that out?

Rhiannon  Because we had a Lebanese wedding and we had the big entry into the reception and I am not Lebanese. We started off by saying ‘okay well we would like Joe’s side of the family to sit closest to the doors because they will know what to do in a Lebanese entry’

Anthony Yeah right.

Rhiannon That was the first like step we took was just to say ‘okay we’re going to try and situate certain groups of people in certain parts of the room just so it really brings the most energy’. And then my side could really follow on. Then it was really about the closest family and the closest friends and sitting them closer to the dance floor. It wasn’t even about being close to us we just wanted everyone to be on the dance floor. Then we just sort of had to work backwards. It’s hard because you are like ‘ah I really dont want that person to be sitting at that table, you know, towards the back’ but somebody has to sit there. To be perfectly honest, Anthony you could correct me if I’m wrong but I don’t think many people were sitting at that table at our wedding.

Anthony I was just just going to say that I like your thinking. The truth is that everybody was on the dance floor anyway so it didn’t matter. The other part of course is deciding your bridal party and you had an amazing bridal party. Again, it can be tough. How did you go about meandering or even choosing your bridal party?

Rhiannon  I think that was probably one of the easiest. Maybe it’s because we had talked before we got engaged. We talked about how one day we would get married and I don’t know about him but those thoughts certainly sort of started circling in my mind. But for me, those three women that were in my bridal party, it was a no brainer. Straight away. It wasn’t even a decision to be made.  I knew who I wanted to ask and the only I guess question mark to me was that one of my bridesmaids lives in London. And so obviously I wanted to ask her but I didn’t want to put any pressure on her if that was going to be too difficult for her to come and she was so beautiful and gracious and she came and she had the best time and yeah. I think Youssef would say the same, that those three men that he had standing next to him are the three most important men in his life probably apart from his his dad. So like, it was sort of a pretty easy decision I think.

Anthony Yeah sure. While you’re fortunate because some couples have you know, always the one person that they wish could have been but for whatever reason just wasn’t really possible.

Rhiannon  Yeah we were definitely the lucky ones because I had heard that. And we were also very lucky that our bridal party was just so supportive. I have heard people have struggled with one certain person in their bridal party. We did not experience that at all. So I can’t even offer any advice about because it was something we were so fortunate not to experience.

Anthony Cool. Excellent. Some good tips there. What was one of your favorite moments thinking back on the whole day?

Rhiannon I think one of my favorite moments, I kind of feel bad because this was at the reception and not at the church, and I feel we forget that getting married is about actually the act of getting married now. But we’ll just skip over that for now! For me it was our entry into the reception. We had drums. We had, I think I counted, 16 musicians, 7 from interstate, a live band, a singer, we had pyrotechnics. It was, and this is all my husband’s doing, I had no experience planning something like that so I really you know, tentatively left that in his hands. And I was really worried  that my guest on my side might not understand what was going on or you know, because it’s so different from other weddings I’ve been to before. So I was just a bit nervous that maybe they might think that this is all a bit over the top. But walking in, and dancing in and the flames going off and the drums surrounding us and seeing all of those people on both sides, on the dance floor yelling and screaming and clapping and stamping their feet and that was hands down the best moment of that day.

Anthony  Yeah definitely. Definitely a very special moment, in particular when two families come together like that.

Rhiannon So true. That’s really what it was. It was it was no longer my side or his side. It was ‘these are our guests, these are all our family and friends.’ It was ours and that was really special.

Anthony Yeah and captured by us of course! Tell us how you felt watching it all back.

Rhiannon  That was quite emotional and really funny, because there is so many things you miss during the day. Just watching it back and feeling those feelings again. I watched the moment my Dad and I walked down the aisle and that’s quite emotional because it’s a really special moment. And I’m an only child so that’s the only time my Dad’s ever gonna do that and so knowing that was really special and to watch it back from a different perspective was really nice. Seeing our beautiful flower girls in our page boy and how cute and excited they were and then getting to that, you know, the dancing and and everyone really letting loose…It evokes so many different emotions as you got to different parts of the day. And so we really enjoyed it. I think we cracked open a bottle of wine. Or two, I think. And we watched it all and it was so great. It was so fantastic.Loved it.

Anthony Now you know you have planned your wedding. You got through it all, still smiling of course. And I know you’ve got some really great tips for couples who are currently planning their wedding.

Rhiannon  I think my first and if I could only give one tip this would be it and that is, to choose your suppliers really carefully. And when I say that, you must do your research and that’s really important. Go and meet with them because you can meet with a supplier who has the most amazing work and has the best recommendations, but you have to be able to connect with that person on a personal level for sure. You are spending the day with that person or you’re working with that person in the lead up to probably the biggest day of your life. So there was not a supplier that we chose that we didn’t have a really great personal interaction with. Every single one of our suppliers, we would highly recommend to any person because they were really really great people not just great at what they do, but really great people. The second thing I would say is just to remember that everything will work out in the end. I can sit here and say my wedding day was perfect. That doesn’t mean everything went absolutely perfectly, you know, to what I imagined or what I thought I wanted. It was the little random things that happened during the day that you don’t account for that can really make things special. One of my favorite moments was when I was dancing with my Dad, Yousseff was dancing with his Mum and my goddaughter Ivy, just like came out of nowhere and interrupted the dance because she thought it was time for her and I to dance.

Anthony Yes I do remember that.

Rhiannon  I loved that. Like I know it wasn’t planned. You know I wanted that moment with my dad, but it was so special and beautiful and unplanned. And so  just make sure that you try and relax and remember that because if you don’t you’re going to miss the day. It’s going to fly by. You’ll miss it and that’ll be a shame because a lot of work and a lot of planning and a lot of energy to just miss being in that moment.

Anthony Thank you so much. Rhiannon those are some really great responses.

Rhiannon l feel really flattered that you asked me to be involved. Thank you so much.

Anthony  No worries at all. Thank you again and say a big hello to Youssef as well.

Rhiannon I will I will.

Anthony  So there we have it. Some really great tips from Rihannon. We of course really appreciate her time and I hope that was helpful. Reach out to us if there’s anything in particular that you’d like for us to discuss and we hope that you will listen on to next week’s podcast which is going to be super interesting. We can’t wait to get it out to you. Stay tuned. Thanks guys!