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Comprehensive Guide in Making a Guest List

Weddings are a time to bring family and friends together, but deciding who you want to witness the happiest moments in your life can be challenging. Figuring out how many people you can afford and creating a guest list that won’t offend anyone gives you and your partner a serious headache. Narrowing down the guest list is one of the most stressful parts of planning a wedding. It might not be quite as fun as tasting cake flavors.

Truthfully though, your wedding guest list should be one of your top priorities. Not only will it play a big role in your budget, catering, seating plan, and venue selection, but more importantly – these are the people who will be joining you for one of the most memorable days of your entire life! But when a couple is asking themselves whom to invite to their wedding, they shouldn’t feel obligated to include someone they’ve never met on their list.

Does the thought of sitting down to create your wedding guest list give you stress? Not to worry! Wedding Secrets put together a comprehensive guide that can help you and your partner in making a guest list less stressful.

Step 1 – Determine the wedding size you can afford

This is something you must consider as you begin creating your guest list. When it comes to weddings, more people means more money, it’s as simple as that. This is because venues and caterers typically charge you a certain amount per person. It is important you understand how the number of guests you invite to your wedding has a direct impact on the amount of money you will spend on your entire wedding. So, once you’ve crunched the guest count numbers and determined a size that you’re financially comfortable with, you are ready to move on to step 2.

Step 2- Decide how you’ll divide up the list

Both you and your partner will want to invite important family and friends. Furthermore, both sets of parents may have ideas about who should come. Let them know upfront what kind of wedding you want. Tell them how many people they can invite. Be firm about your boundaries. A good way to fairly decide is to divide up the guest list amongst you, your partner, and both sets of parents. It’s a good idea to get the families together and talk about the guest list so there are no surprises.

Step 3 – Create an A + B list

Consider creating an A and B-list. This is pretty common practice for wedding invitations and allows you to prioritize your list to send a second round of invites if you receive any declined RSVPs. Having two lists is how you’ll be able to invite the most people without raising your budget or having to find a larger venue. Go over your draft guest list and divide it into your A-list (people you can’t imagine getting married without) and your B-list (people you’d ideally like to have there but aren’t absolutely necessary). If you start getting RSVPs and it turns out you have enough “regrets,” then you’ll start sending invites to your B-list (in order of importance). Send your A-list invites 10 weeks in advance (a little earlier than usual), which will give you time to send invites to your B-list six to eight weeks before your wedding.

Remember that you don’t want your B-list to find out that you’ve sent them a second round of invitations, so pay attention to your invitation etiquette.

Step 4 – Categorize your A list

In this category, you should always begin with your innermost circle or your closest family members. Parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins might be at the top of the list. Unless you are having an extravagant affair that is unconcerned about money, try to keep the wedding guest list to family members who are involved in your life. The general rule of thumb is if one aunt gets an invitation, all of your aunts and uncles need to get an invitation. The same goes for cousins or second cousins too. However, if you and your partner have a large extended family, you must decide whether to invite everyone or none at all.

Step 5 – Friends category of a wedding guest list

The close friends who have known you the longest should be at the top of your list. One major thing to think about when it comes to inviting friends is, how well do they know your significant other? While this isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker (if your lifelong BFF lives across the country they may not have met your future spouse yet, but of course your bestie is still invited!), it’s definitely a factor to consider. Think about how well they actually know your fiancé(e) and how much it means to you two as a couple if they’re in attendance. Try to keep your list of friends down by considering those you still keep in touch with regularly.

Step 6 – Remember reciprocity

This one’s tricky. If a friend invited you to her wedding five years ago, you’re not obligated to invite her to yours—even if you were a bridesmaid. However, if you attended a wedding in the past 18 months (and especially if you or your partner was at the wedding party), that couple should be on your guest list as well. But if you find yourself debating whether or not to add someone to your guest list merely because you attended their wedding long ago, then consider leaving them off. Your invite list should reflect the people you have relationships with now, not people you feel obligated to invite.

Step 7 – Follow modern Plus-One protocol

Plus ones might be the most common topic when it comes to wedding guest list etiquette. Keep in mind, you’re not obligated to offer every one of your guests a plus-one to your wedding. One rule of thumb is to give a plus one to anyone who is married, engaged, living together, or seriously dating. But before you send an invite with only one name on the envelope, check in with your friend. If you’re not sure about her status, just ask. You never know when the person you thought she’d only dated once or twice might have just moved into her apartment.

Step 8 – Create a kid policy

Children are a complicated topic. However, deciding to make your wedding a kids-free zone can help you cut down your guest list and save money. It’s totally acceptable (and common!) to leave kids off of your wedding guest list entirely, especially if you’re planning a formal or local dinner. To be safe, you can include a little note with the invitation or have family members spread the word that you’re trying to keep the numbers down. When it comes to inviting some kids and not others, opinions vary, so choose a clear rule and stick to it. But if you do decide to host a kid-friendly wedding, you need to think about where they will sit, if you’ll have kids-only activities prepared, or if you’d offer a babysitting service.

Be mindful of the people that you invite. Try not to invite those from past relationships. Invite people that are close and supportive. If they do not have business in your life, they do not have business at your wedding. Finally, once you’ve created your wedding guest list and sent off your wedding invitations – stick to it! Saying “yes” to an extra guest here and there can actually throw off your budget altogether if you’re not careful.

By following these tips to create your wedding guest list, you’ll ensure that your wedding day is filled with the people that make your heart happy while avoiding any emotional conflicts along the way.


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