Making the cut

Ah, the dreaded guest list. Trimming down your list of guests can be one of the most taxing parts of planning a wedding, but with a game plan, a good attitude, and some cooperation, it can be done! Coming from a large extended family, I understand how quickly your guest list can populate. It has been a running joke in our house by my dad to instruct my sisters and I to aim to marry “orphans with no friends” in efforts to keep down the guest lists for our weddings. If you seem to be struggling with putting together your guest list, below are some tips that will help guide you through the process.

Pick your venue first

Before you stress out about the a to z details of your guest list, make sure that first you choose and book your venue. When choosing the location for your wedding, be mindful of the available space and the maximum capacity that the venue allows. Once you have this information, then you can sit down with your fiancé/fiancée and begin the tough part: making a list of everyone you know!

Be considerate

When there are multiple parties picking up the tab for your big day, it’s important to be considerate of everyone who is contributing. While it may be less traditional nowadays for the bride’s mom and dad to take on the full cost of a wedding, many parents still choose to help out with wedding expenses in one way or another. If this is the case, couples should be respectful of both sets of parents’ say in the final guest list. With the addition of people paying may come extra guests that they would like to invite. If your list starts to get out of control, keep everyone on track by reminding them that the more people at the wedding, the less time they will be able to spend with each guest.


The easiest way to put together your guest list is to group your potential invitees into categories, i.e. co-workers, immediate family, extended family, college friends, etc. This will help sort out those that fall into the bride and groom’s sides and ultimately will help you determine who will make the final cut.

Create an A and B list

When putting together a guest list, it is very common for couples to have an A and B (and sometimes C) list. Statistically, 10-20% of your invitees will be unable to attend (don’t take this as gospel as this can vary), so it’s a good idea to have a back up plan, especially when you have already laid down money for the venue. If you are anticipating a decent percentage of your invitees to decline, then have a second list of additional guests ready. However, be sure to send out the first batch of invitations to your A list early enough so that the B list doesn’t perceive their invitation as being last minute!

+1’s add up

Guests of guests will pose a challenge when developing your list, especially if many of your friends and family are single and/or young adults. The best way to address the +1 issue is to create a rule of thumb and stick to it. Maybe you decide that it is reasonable for anyone single over the age of 21 to bring a guest. If your list is growing rapidly, you may even want to limit +1‘s to those that who are engaged or living together. A common rule that couples choose to follow is to just include anyone who is in a long–term relationship (i.e. have been dating someone for at least a year). Whatever you decide on, make sure you stick to it and try to avoid any exceptions so conflicts are averted.

Kids count

When making the decision of whether or not to invite children to your wedding, it is best to look at their relationship to the bride and groom. Is the child a cousin? Or is it your hairdresser’s daughter? There is nothing wrong with considering a child just as you would an adult— if you’re close with them then invite them! The good news is that generally venues offer lower prices for kids, so in the end you can end up saving some money. If you have a close enough relationship with the child, extend the invitation and then leave it up to their parents to decide if it’s appropriate for them to attend.

Be ready to answer

There is always that one friend that 1) tries to get their name on the guest list or 2) has the audacity to ask you why they weren’t invited to the wedding. If this happens to you, do not panic! Cutting down your guest list may lead to hurt feelings, but in the end you must remember that it is YOUR wedding day and that people need to be considerate of your plans and/or financial situation. True friends/family will understand that it is difficult to incorporate guests from both the bride and groom’s sides. The best ways to address these meddlesome guests are to have a courteous answer ready for them that lets them know your limitations. You don’t owe anybody an explanation and anybody who presses beyond that isn’t worth you worrying about.

The guest list may seem like a difficult task to tackle, but it doesn’t have to be if you follow some of these tips and calmly consider all of your options. Strike a balance and decide on a final head count that will result in a happy and harmonious wedding day for you.

Image © Coleman

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