Creating a Wedding Guest List
Tired of wedding planning yet? It's time to chill out, take a minute and breathe--and then plug away with your next task: the wedding guest list. Sorry, folks, no one ever said planning was going to be easy, but with a little foresight and a whole lot of patience, you can take the guesswork out of the guest list. We'll help you tackle this process one step at a time and deal with some of the more controversial points.
What to Consider
Questions to ask yourself when creating your guest list:
- What are your dreams? Do you prefer a small, intimate wedding comprised only of your closest family and friends? Or are you more interested in throwing a giant party, complete with DJ and coloured disco lights ? Make sure you and your fiancé(e) are of the same frame of mind.
- Who can't you imagine getting married without? This point is very individualized. For instance, maybe your Aunt Mildred is on the fence in your mind, but your University flat-mates are a must-have at the ceremony.
- What can you afford? Do you want to lavish all the trimmings on a few special guests, or hold a more general-invite party?
- Do you have your heart set on a specific venue? Find out how many people the site is able to accommodate. Also, keep a few wedding dates in mind so that you can make sure the essential invitees are able to attend.
Benefits: Big vs. Small Wedding
- Everyone who wants to attend can be invited, and you'll be surrounded by people you enjoy.
- You can mingle and spend time with friends and family you haven't seen in a long time.
- Let's face it: people have the big weddings because they tend to be a lot more fun. That kind of party atmosphere can be euphoric and exciting, and it will allow you to celebrate your union in a big way.
- You can have the six bridesmaids, the big beautiful dress , and all the traditional trimmings and pomp you'd like (if it's in your budget, of course).
- A big wedding means you can comfortably invite those whom your parents and future in-laws desire, without breaking the bank.
- Small, personal, and intimate.
- There will be a larger number of venue options, and more interesting ones too: bed and breakfasts, art galleries, and restaurants are a few non-traditional places for a small wedding.
- Fewer guests means that your dollar goes further and you can extend your budget...
- ...Leaving you the money to get creative and give your guests a wedding they'll remember forever.
Rules of Thumb
Once you've decided the general size and tone of your big day, you'll have a better idea of how many people you can include. At this point, you and your betrothed (and likely your parents, if they're footing the bill) should each create a first draft of a list.
You should typically try to keep your lists of about equal length, but bear in mind that if one set of parents is paying for everything, that side of the family is typically permitted to have more guests than the other. As always, there will be a few extenuating circumstances.
- If you and your fiancé(e) are financing the wedding yourselves, you are under significantly less pressure to include your dad's old golfing buddies.
- If you have a huge family and your spouse-to-be does not, an even split may not be fair. Each side of the couple should feel equally represented on this most special of days.
- Brides.com suggests that if you two have lived away from your folks for a while, you'll likely have a larger pool of friends to invite. In this case, you might want to split your guest list into thirds: one-third for the groom's family, one-third for the bride's, and one-third for mates.
The more information you can get down on paper or in a spreadsheet, the easier your life will be, especially since you'll have to manage everyone's guest lists.
- You'll have up to four lists (from the bride, groom, and each side of the family), so group everyone by their relationship (Hint: these groups will keep you from improperly seating people later on).
- When it comes time to revise the master guest list, charts like this will help you immeasurably. The more "connected" a potential guest is (for instance, he's a friend of the bride and groom, and also very close to the groom's family), it becomes less and less likely that he will be cut.
- Use this chart as an example.
Over the course of structuring your wedding, planners , charts, organizers, and graphs will become your best friends and most useful allies. (They can also make great wedding keepsakes ).
Pen and Paper
Go old school style and keep your information on squared notebook paper , but be prepared for things to get messy in a hurry.
If you love working on paper but need a bit more structure, a wedding planning book will help you figure out what's what. For more information, see below.
Microsoft Excel or another spreadsheet software is a fantastic way to get organized, but unfortunately these methods are not as portable.
Google Documents just launched a series of templates designed to help streamline wedding planning, including a guest list and seating chart. Check it out!
Recommended Planning Books
If you need more help, below are a few things you may want to pick up.
Guest List Quandaries
Once you have your preliminary list established, you'll probably find that you'll need to trim it down at lease once or twice. At this stage, you'll want to examine the invitees and make decisions appropriately.
Does Everyone Get a Guest?
- According to MarthaStewartWeddings.com, inviting a married person and not including his or her spouse is simply not done, and this courtesy is generally also extended to couples who live together.
- Boyfriends and girlfriends who live separately are not a package deal, but if you would like to invite them both, they should receive separate invitations.
- It's a nice thing to offer your single friends the chance to bring a date to your wedding, but it's just that: a nice thing, especially if they won't know people at the party or there won't be many other single people attending. If you're keeping things small or are under budget constraints, these guest options will probably be the first to get cut.
Co-Workers and Supervisors
Unless you've been completely stealthy with your planning and have made your guests swear an oath of secrecy, it's usually best to ascribe to the all-or-nothing rule when it comes to colleagues. If you think you can get away with picking and choosing which team members you'd like to have at your wedding, you're going to run the risk of hurt feelings and alienation. There are exceptions, of course: if you have an extremely close friend whom you see socially, it certainly makes sense to invite him or her; it's also fair game to extend the offer to just your boss.
The Question of Children
This can be a big issue: some people don't want children at their wedding due to the noise they may bring to the ceremony, but others more than welcome tots and may even enlist their relatives' and friends' children to be a part of the wedding, for instance as a ring bearer or flower girl.
If you do not want children to attend the festivities, you should address the invitation to the parents, not to the entire family. Alternatively, you may indicate on the invitation that the wedding is to be for adults only. Be aware that, in this case, some of your guests might not be able to attend as arranging for childcare presents its own challenges--and you do run the risk that some could be offended and therefore will choose not to attend.
If you will have children at the event, TheKnot.com has a couple of tips to ensure success.
- No kids' tables! It's usually best to seat little ones with their parents so they will be supervised. Barring that, think about hiring a caregiver to look after younger guests for at least part of the evening--this way Mum and Dad can still cut a rug without having to worry about Junior getting into the cake.
- Age-appropriate meals: Children can have picky palates, so consider having a menu just for them. Bonus: caterers will often charge a cheaper rate for these dishes.
- Provide entertainment: See if your venue will let you set a room up with toys and games so kids won't get bored. If that's not feasible, you could provide goody bags with small favours or arts and crafts projects.
Bones of Contention
Communicate and compromise. It's inevitable that you'll hit a few snags as you're devising the guest list, so make sure to be tactful and open to negotiation.
- Speak your mind when you feel it's necessary but realize that there are two people (or more, depending on who's helping you to fund the wedding) to make happy on this very important, once-in-a-lifetime occasion.
- Know when to voice concerns and when to give your sweetie what s/he wants.
Who shouldn't be there? Speak now or forever hold your peace.
- Exes: This can be a squirmy subject. If it's someone either of you dated a million years ago in high school and it's now a great friendship, then this is probably not an issue. Any ex that you invite out of spite or as "revenge" is certainly a problem. If you have any other concerns about inviting an ex to your wedding, check out this comprehensive article, "6 Questions to Ask Before Inviting Your Ex to the Wedding."
- Estranged or difficult relatives: The decision of whether or not to invite feuding family members comes down to the circumstances behind the rift. If you want to restore the relationship, their behaviour is something that you can overlook, or you just really want to have your whole family there, you should extend the olive branch; otherwise, it may be better to leave things as they are. For more advice on this topic, see these suggestions from TheKnot.com.
- Weird friends or relations: We've all got them: chums who can't just have one drink, colleagues who hit on anything that crosses their paths, and hippie uncles who like to howl at the moon. For advice on how to deal with these folks, take a read through "8 People You Don't Want to Invite to the Wedding (but Have To!)."
Keep Calm and Carry On
Here's a wedding planning tip free of charge: keep calm and carry on. To coin a phrase, this will be the first day of the rest of your life, and you want to enjoy yourself, not be mired in stress. It's so important to communicate with your partner throughout this process, especially if you're having a difficult time making the numbers work. Be sure you are both comfortable with any compromises. Remember, how you tackle issues now is indicative of how you'll deal with problems once you're married, so put your best foot forward. Good luck!