Shannon and Ben Part 3: Guest Lists and Saying “I Do” to the Venue

Earlier this month our 2019 Couple of the Year Shannon and Ben shared tips on making a budget (then sticking to it…) and savoring the engagement process. With that solid based all set, this week the happy couple is talking about guest lists and venues. These two major pieces go hand in hand and are both a crucial part of your early planning stages. Scroll down to hear Shannon and Ben’s advice on how to draw the line when it comes to guest lists and just why they fell in love with their barn venue.


Guest lists are one of those things you’re expecting to be a breeze. I mean, how hard is it really to determine who needs to be at your wedding and who doesn’t? Much to our surprise (& dismay), it was extremely difficult narrowing down our list. There are the people you think should be there… and then there are the people your parents think should be there.

Guest list politics can be tricky. Ben and I are in the mind that we don’t want to have to introduce ourselves to anyone at our own wedding. Trying to get our parents on the same page hasn’t been easy. My Mom is one of my best friends and arguing about guest lists numbers didn’t make either of us happy. Something we’ve learned in the process is that while it is our day, we’re also sharing it with our parents. Our advice to other brides & grooms going through the process? Be flexible yet firm on your guest list numbers. It’s natural for your parents to want to invite some friends, but the line has to be drawn somewhere. For me, I compromised to have my parents’ “Friday Happy Hours” crew in attendance. I was not ok with coworkers they have known for a year or a distant friend they see once a year at a mutual friend’s Christmas party. For us, the key message we had to get across was that we only wanted people in attendance who would be involved in our new life, in some way shape or form, moving forward.  

You also need to deal with the sheer number of guests adding up quickly. One day you have a manageable population, and the next day you have “guest listed” yourself out of another 10 venues. Ben is (for lack of a better term) obsessed with barns in general and I’ve always loved the way barn weddings look on social media, so we already knew long before getting engaged that we wanted to have our reception take place in a barn. Our biggest issue with the venue was that there are hardly any barns in New England that can seat 200+ people within their main event room. We found some absolutely gorgeous venues in Maine, but we would have had to rent a tent outside the barn for the dinner portion of the reception, which financially didn’t make sense for us.

I had been really “down” in the wedding planning process when we stumbled upon the Barn at Gibbet Hill in Groton, MA. I was still mourning the loss of a Portland, ME wedding (due to the venue size restriction mentioned before) and wasn’t in the mood to see another venue any time soon. My Mom, knowing me better than I would like, insisted that we go look at Gibbet Hill. Before visiting, I was originally turned off by the venue, since it’s an extremely popular spot for couples in Massachusetts to get married in. We eventually gave in to my Mom’s peer pressure, and I’m so thankful we did. Gibbet Hill’s popularity is well deserved. The venue is an absolutely gorgeous upscale barn, the food they serve is amazing, the staff is extremely helpful & responsive, and the booze options are fantastic.


A great resource that Gibbet Hill provides is an event coordinator (ours is Bree Oates). This is a little different than a wedding planner. For one, it’s built into our wedding package and doesn’t come at an additional cost. The coordinator does play a similar role; obviously, she is our main resource for everything relating to the venue, but she will also manage our day, making sure things move along as planned. The coordinator is also there as a resource for us to bounce ideas off of. The biggest difference between an event coordinator and a wedding planner is that a wedding planner assists with external vendor research/vetting. While a wedding planner would be a fantastic asset to have, we ultimately decided to not spring for one. For us, it just didn’t make sense financially or logistically. Between the event coordinator the venue offered and me being extremely organized and detail oriented (& admittedly a bit of a control freak), we figured we were all set. If our wedding had been in Maine as originally intended, then we probably would have hired a planner. With our wedding happening in Massachusetts, it means we can access our vendors on our own fairly easily. With an out of state wedding, it’s nice to have someone to share the responsibilities with and lean on, since they’re familiar with the market.   

A couple weeks back we participated in the food tasting with other couples who are hosting their weddings at Gibbet Hill in 2019. I had printed out the menu options beforehand and brought along pens for us to make notes as we tasted our way through the evening. We probably looked like nerds, but our notes have proved helpful weeks later when trying to reflect back on our thoughts and especially while making decisions on our menu for the reception.

In the next post, we’ll be covering some of the “fun stuff” of wedding planning, like bridesmaid proposals and wedding websites, as well as family traditions/expectations and how to handle. Looking forward to catching up with you all in a few weeks!

–   The Future Holts


Honorable Mention Reception Venues – All of which we LOVED

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