Creating the wedding guest list is one of the most stressful moments in wedding planning. Ask any bride after her wedding and she will tell you that picking who could come, who couldn’t come and letting down those who ask was her most stressful moment.
Unfortunately, there is no way to sugarcoat the wedding guest list process. It will be tough – and we aren’t going to lie to you about that. But, there are ways you can make this process a little funner and not worry about offending family or worse, your soon-to-be husband.
It is important to start planning your guest list early, but not too early. Most experts recommend establishing it only after you have a venue and budget in mind. That is because you will need to have a head count for catering services, but also each venue has their own guest capacity – meaning you can only have so many people in the venue at once.
Tell Your Parents Early
Tell both sets of parents early about your guest list plans – that way they are not already calling distant relatives and coworkers to invite them to the wedding.
If parents are helping pay, get a firm number so you can plan your wedding budget.
If you want a small wedding, be very firm with parents and let them know that only very close relatives or friends will be invited – that means the cousin you have never met or your Dad’s old high school friend are not included.
Create Wedding Guest List Categories and Tiers
Sit down and make a list of names – including those names your parents want to invite. Make sure you and your fiance both do this part, because you each may have names the other person wouldn’t remember.
Then, once you have your draft of the wedding guest list, you will then create categories. The categories can include:
- Family and Close Friends – the absolutes
- Friends, Coworkers, Friends of the Family – the almost group
- Distant Relatives, Old Friends, Etc. – the maybe group
Put the names of each person from your draft list into a category. Then, count how many people per category. Those in the Absolute group will for sure get an invite. So, if you have extra room after that, you may add people from the Almost Group to your Absolute list – these numbers are all based on the maximum guest count of your venue as well as your budget.
Perform the One-Year Test
If you are not sure if someone should be on the list, you can do the one-year test. This is where you ask yourself when the last time was that you spoke to that person. Was it a year ago? Longer? When is the last time they even spoke to you or tried to make contact? If it’s been longer than a year, the odds are that you could leave them off the guest list and they wouldn’t be offended.
Remember the Guests of Guests
When you create your wedding guest list, are you remembering guests of your guests? For example, your husband’s single brother may want to bring a date – so you are not just inviting one, you are inviting two.
Any time you invite a person who has a spouse or significant other, you will want to count that “other guest” as part of your total wedding count.
Also, will children be allowed to come? While most couples find sitters for their children, others may be inclined to bring the kids to the wedding – which means if you are inviting couples with children, you will have to count those kids as “maybes” on your guest list too.
Don’t be Afraid to Limit Guest Allowances
Do not be afraid to limit who can bring guests. If someone asks you if they can bring someone they are seeing and you can’t afford another seat, gently let them down. Just explain it has to do with the budget or venue limitations or mention that plenty of people are coming without their partners.
Be Selective About When You Send Invites and How
Instead of talking about your wedding to everyone, keep it quiet. That way when you do finalize the list and start sending invites, you are not getting people who ask you where theirs is. By not mentioning the wedding planning, no one will think to ask.
This is especially perfect if you have coworkers you are not inviting.
And, if you are giving invites to people who will be around those who are not invited, make sure they know to keep it quiet – that way no one is offended if they aren’t invited.
Remember Not Everyone Will Show
Most couples get stressed about a growing guest list, but you need to realize that 20 to 30 percent of your invites won’t actually show. This is especially true for those who live a few hours away or in different countries. So, while you have invited them, keep in mind they may not actually show up.
When in Doubt, Just Go Small
Sometimes it is just too hard to narrow the guest list, especially if you have a large family. To avoid offending your large family, go with a small wedding. That could mean best friends, parents, and siblings. By keeping it small and not inviting anyone outside of your close relatives, you could avoid any family drama.
Consider an After Party
If you end up having a small wedding, have a big after party later that invites everyone. That way people feel like they were part of the celebration, but you aren’t paying a hefty fee to invite everyone to the actual wedding event. Consider doing a BBQ or cocktail party where people can show up and celebrate – and you don’t have to pay for a caterer either.
No matter what, don’t let the guest list portion of your wedding plans stress you out. While you may offend someone, remember that it is your wedding and you should invite who you actually want. Period.
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