Congratulations on your engagement! Now that you’ve dipped your toes into the world of wedding planning, it’s time to start on one of the biggest aspects of wedding planning: the guest list. Getting your wedding guest list right can be challenging, and it’s often one of the first steps you’ll take when planning your wedding. You likely feel overwhelmed at where to start or have a guest list that has grown out of control, and you’re looking for advice on how to pair it down. Below, you will find some thoughts and tips on refining your guest list to a more manageable size.
Split the Guest List
One of the first decisions you and your fiancé must make is how to divide the guest list. Generally, couples split the guest list into thirds, with you and your fiance, your parents, and your future in-laws each allocated a third of the list. While an even split may seem fair, practical considerations like venue capacity might require a different approach. Discuss this with your partner and determine what works best for you. Remember, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer regarding the right-sized guest list.
Create a Wish List
Begin by compiling a wish list of everyone you’d love to celebrate with on your wedding day. Start with immediate family and close friends, then expand to extended family, colleagues, acquaintances, and others who hold a special place in your heart.
Consider the Budget
As you draft your guest list, remember that each guest has a price tag. Consider your venue, food, and beverage costs per guest when determining the number of attendees you can afford.
Refining your Wedding Guest List
Ask yourself the following questions, as you pair down your guest list:
1 | Plus-One Policy
What is your policy for plus-ones? Will everyone receive a plus-one, or should you have met the guests before they attend your wedding? A common guideline is to extend plus-ones to married couples, engaged couples, couples living together, members of your bridal party, and couples in serious relationships. Define your threshold for considering a relationship “serious.”
2 | Children
Is your wedding family-friendly, or do you prefer an adult-only affair? Decide whether to invite children of all ages or set a specific age limit and stick to that boundary.
3 | Obligatory Invites
Are you inviting certain family members out of obligation? Or friends that you’ve fallen out of touch with in hopes that you can restart your friendship? Remember that your wedding guest list should reflect the people currently in your life. While it’s wonderful that you want to rekindle relationships that have fizzled out, I urge you to find the time to devote to those people before your wedding day. If your friendship feels like it’s on better footing when it’s time to mail your invitations, and there’s room on the list, consider sending them an invite.
4 | Reciprocity
If an old friend invited you to their wedding, but you’ve drifted apart, don’t feel compelled to use your wedding to rekindle that connection. However, do extend invitations to friends who have invited you to their weddings in the past 12 months.
5 | Neighbors
For neighbors, consider the depth of your relationship. If you regularly socialize with them, they’re a natural addition to the list. But, if your interactions are limited to small talk on the sidewalk, there’s no obligation to invite them.
6 | Work Colleagues
When inviting colleagues, assess whether they’ve met your fiancé outside of work events. If your relationship mainly revolves around lunch dates and office gossip, consider leaving them off the list—especially if you’re planning a more intimate wedding. Alternatively, you can invite your entire department or none at all. In small organizations or teams, inviting your boss is usually a wise choice.
7 | Parental Friends
Discuss guest list boundaries with your parents and future in-laws. Consider the significance of their relationships in their social circles and whether they play important roles in business relationships.
8 | Gift-Givers
Receiving a wedding gift doesn’t obligate you to add the giver to your guest list. Express your gratitude with a thoughtful thank-you card instead.
Save the Date Etiquette
Remember that if you send someone a save the date, it’s considered a significant social gesture. It’s generally expected that those who receive a save the date will also be invited to the wedding. So, think carefully before sending out save the dates, and ensure you’re committed to including those guests on your final guest list.
See More: Save the Date Etiquette
A Note on B-Lists
Some couples consider creating a B-list, which includes people they would like to invite but have yet to make the cut due to venue constraints or budget limitations. However, I typically encourage couples to avoid this approach. It often results in ordering extra invitations, leading to unused invitations and added costs at best. And friends with hurt feelings at worst. Instead, consider refining your guest list to maximize your budget and add on embellishments, such as wax seals or envelope liners.
Creating your wedding guest list is a significant step in your wedding planning journey. You’re doing great!
If you’re looking for additional guidance or need a place to start, download my Wedding Guest List Template. For more insights into wedding stationery and the etiquette of addressing your wedding invitation envelopes, check out this informative blog post series, Wedding Invitation Etiquette.
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