I was chatting with my aunt this weekend about her upcoming wedding. If you're a fan of aisledash on facebook she's the fan who keeps spelling my name wrong.
Anyway, she mentioned that she thinks they'll do something small and maybe limit the guest list to immediate family. I said that if I'm invited than I can't make the 15-16 of May because of work and she was surprised that I phrased it that way.
To me immediate family means parents, siblings and children. As her niece I'm not one of those three so I didn't want to assume I'd be invited. She said of course I'd be invited, I'm immediate family.
Everyone has a different definition of who makes up their immediate family and where to draw the line as to how many branches of their family tree they want to invite. Some will stop at 1st or second cousins. Some may go as far back as 4th cousins.
When you're making up your guest list think about setting some guidelines for yourself as to where to draw the line: Singles with no guests, only first cousins, no work colleagues. And where to make exceptions: Singles in the bridal party can bring a date, the only single friend in a group of friends can bring a date.
While many people will ask you when your wedding is and tell you they are excited for the big day it's up to you and your groom, and your budget, to decide who is on that final guest list. Don't add someone who you don't want there because they think they'll be invited. And definitely don't add people you can't afford to have.
It's okay to tell people that you're sorry but you've decided to limit the guest list to close family -- you may offend them if you say "and close friends" if they think they are one. People will understand that the list has to get cut somewhere.