We're paying for our own wedding (without credit cards or loans) and we already have two kids so that means we have a limited budget. I wish I could open up the invitation to anyone who was interested in coming, but that's not realistic (and I'm sure that kind of crowd is Mike's worst nightmare). Sometimes I've desperately wish I could whittle the list down to 40 or so people, too. In the end the guest list was a painstaking series of decisions and keeping on budget is an enormous challenge even with a set number of guests.
All the kicking and screaming about manner, smanners I want invite who I want to invite, aside I think we were reasonable and inclusive. Before the save the dates had even gone out I got two phone calls requesting that I add people. I told them both that I was at my maximum and was only inviting friends and family of the bride and groom. Obviously, I invited my friends' spouses and children (even those I don't know well). I'm referring to friends of friends or friends of family that I've never met or haven't seen more than five times, etc.
I'm told most weddings no longer allow plus ones. I think it's a combination of economic recession and how many couples are no longer asking their parents to fund their day entirely. It doesn't bother me a bit though. If you always invite spouses and long term loves and only leave out people you've never met. I don't think that's unreasonable at all.
I was reading a BBC article about The Plus One Dilemma and an etiquette expert (how do they make a living?) said if you're extended a plus one you may bring anyone you want with the only exception being an ex of the bride or groom. Can you imagine? What a sweet person.
The same article talked about not extending a plus one ending friendships. If your "friend" doesn't understand the economic, emotional and rational reason behind your decision and does something as heartbreaking as not only not attending your wedding, but ending your relationship entirely then you're better off without them. I love people and I have another 50-100 people I'd love to have with me that day, but it's not realistic. On top of which, the bottom line is we have to right to invite or not invite anyone we choose it's our party.
Manners and common sense dictate family being a priority, all spouses and long term partners as well as children being invited and that's sensible beyond that there aren't a tremendous amount of guidelines. A lot of highly charged emotional decisions in wedding planning end up being boiled down to dollars and cents (and common sense). So, although an epic entrance would be great you can not waste all that money on elephant rental for the 2min ride to the alter. Think of the poop! It's extreme example, but you see my point.
Besides, now it's not as if the friends and family who won't be there in person won't see pictures and videos in nanoseconds of the event, thanks smart phones, youtube, etc....