How Much Say Should Your Parents Have in the Guest List?

Learn how to get things back under control.

Determining the guest list is usually the most contentious part of wedding planning. The couple may have different ideas of how large or intimate of a celebration they want, as well as lopsided sizes of their respective families. What tends to create the biggest issue, however, is when the parents of a bride or groom want to have a say in the prospective attendees. The general philosophy for couples is “no pay, no say,” but it’s not always that simple. Read on for more information about how involved your parents should be when it comes to the guest list. 

how involved should parents be in a wedding guest list
Photo by Amanda Donaho Photography 

One thing that can help is to set expectations from the beginning. If your dream is to have a small wedding at the courthouse or a tropical locale, let both sets of parents know as soon as possible. With any luck, this will help curb their instincts to add everyone they know to the guest list. It is true that you will have more leverage if you are paying for the event yourself, so that is another way to prevent unwanted influence. Be prepared for pushback, however, if you’re planning to exclude family members who would normally be considered a given at such occasions. 

In the most traditional of weddings, the bride’s family is expected to pay. If this – or any situation where only one side is paying – is the case for your big day, the parents may feel they get to have control of the guest list. If you truly don’t have a strong opinion on the matter, it may be easier to let them run wild and invite whomever they choose. However, it’s much more likely that you and your future spouse will in fact care quite a bit. Longtime family friends are one thing, but everyone who works with your parents might be a bit much. There can also be tensions if the parents who aren’t paying want to add an equivalent number of guests in an effort to keep things even. Not all families are the same size, so often the simplest approach is to offer both sides a set number (i.e. 25) of invitees after must-haves such as family members have been added to the list. This way everyone feels involved, but it keeps the number from getting completely out of hand. 

For more advice, learn about tipping your wedding vendors and when to write thank you notes

Authored by: Emily Lasnier