Updated: Mar 12, 2021
It seems like it should be so simple, but drafting and finalizing your guest list can be one of the most stressful parts of planning a wedding.
How do you stay within budget, invite everyone you want to be there, and not step on your great-aunt’s-second-cousin-once-removed’s toes in the process?
Well, have no fear!
Here’s our top five tips for trimming down that guest list!
You’re going to be so sick of this by the time this is all done, but, like all parts of your wedding...budget, budget, BUDGET. This is a party you’ve invited your guests to, with the expectation that they will be fed and cared for. They’ve taken time to come and be with you on your special day, be sure to thank them by taking care of them. Every guest should have a seat during your ceremony and every guest should be fed. Vendors who spend the day with you (photographers/videographers, officiants, DJs, planners) will often write a meal into their contracts for themselves and their staff as well. If you know what you’re able to spend before putting together a rough draft of your guest list, you’ll be in a great position for any planning decisions.
Who would your special day just not feel right without? These are your “Must Haves!” If you had to limit your guest list only to the most important people in yours and your partner’s life, who would you invite? Write them all down first. Some couples find it helpful to create a kind of tier system for this process - with Family and Friends Who Are Family (this should be your Core group), and moving outward to friends and possibly coworkers. This is where any sort of organizational system comes in handy! Some people use flow charts, others index cards, or an Excel sheet. Whatever helps you visualize a hierarchy will be helpful in creating your guest lists. *A note about coworkers - unless you’re very close to them i.e. hang out with them outside of work, it’s best not to invite any. If you do, don’t make a big deal of it at the office, so as not to hurt anyone’s feelings.
Will this be an adults-only affair or are children allowed? Every couple and every wedding is different and, while some want the ceremony and reception to be a truly family-friendly event including children, others find that the presence of kids (even the sweetest ones!) can complicate what is an already hectic day. Whatever you and your partner decide, stick to it, and don’t feel that you need to apologize to anyone for your decision. This is your day, after all! If you decide not to allow children and are able to afford it, offer on-site child care such as babysitters or a nannying service for those guests who may have to travel a long way and so might have to bring their children. Of course you may have children in your processional, and an exception can and should be made for them, since they’ve helped make your special day! But don’t feel pressure to save a seat for your cousin’s toddler just because you have a flower girl.
No one wants to go to a wedding alone, but contrary to popular opinion, you do not have to offer every guest the option of bringing a plus-one. If you’re on a tight budget, you may only offer the option of plus-ones to those who are already married or in committed relationships, and to your bridal party. Even if you’re not on a tight budget, your wedding is a day for you to be with your close friends and family, and you don’t need to include the guy or gal they only met a month ago. One exception you may make (if you decide not to allow plus-ones for most guests) is for friends or family who are coming from far away and may not know anyone at the ceremony.
Have a talk with your parents about their friends. In some ways, this is as much as your mom’s day as your own (and your dad’s!). Your parents helped you get here and no doubt, they’re proud and they want to share this moment with special people in their own life. Set limits with them on how many friends of their own they can invite, and be sure to stick to it. You may even find some of their friends in your own Core group; but any extras they feel are important should be discussed before invitations go out.
In many ways the guest list is the least fun box to tick off of your wedding planning to-do list. It can be tedious, stressful, and you’re often relying on the feelings of other people to make it all come together. But arming yourself with these five tips should make the process easier and, dare we say it, maybe even a bit fun?