After getting engaged, one of the first things you should do is figure out at least a rough estimation of the guest list as the number of prospective attendees will greatly influence most of your planning decisions. The venue is the first thing you should book, and you’ll need to know how many people you want to invite before making that decision, as it can deeply affect your options.
Unfortunately, creating your guest list is also often the most contentious stage of the planning process and can regularly lead to resentment and hurt feelings. You have probably heard friends and family who were wed before you complain about how much their parents tried to add to the guest list – and if they’re paying for the wedding, it can feel unavoidable! We find the best way to combat issues involving the guest list is by setting some ground rules before getting started.
Below are our tips for creating a guest list that you won’t regret.
Photo by Adam Barnes; Floral & Event Design by Amaryllis Floral & Event Design; From Real Wedding: Rustic-Inspired Waterfront Wedding in Small Town Maryland
It's a good idea to split spots on the guest list evenly between both sets of parents, even if one side is paying, to avoid any ill feelings. If you are covering the wedding yourself, it's fine for the couple getting married to have a bigger portion of the guest list filled with their friends versus their parents' friends.
List everybody you would possibly consider inviting, then mark them with levels like A, B, and C. Depending on your venue and budget, you may only be able to invite those ranked A, or you may have the freedom to add more people. Do this before actually sending out wedding invitations. Sending the invites in stages is a very risky move as you don't want any of your B or C guests to have hurt feelings should they find out they were a last-minute addition.
Keep in mind that you must invite the spouses or live-in significant others of each guest. Even if you don't know them personally, it's the right thing to do! Put yourselves in your guests' shoes.
It is also nice to let all bridal party members have a plus one, regardless of their relationship status. Otherwise, your plus-one rules should be consistent to everyone to avoid hurt feelings.
Make a decision early about whether kids are invited, and consider having an age cutoff to avoid any uncomfortable situations and questions from guests.
Include everyone from the same group, i.e. all first cousins, every aunt and uncle, etc. Exceptions can be made if some live in a different country and you've never met, or haven't met since you were children. You and your sweetheart can have different rules on each side, depending on the closeness and size of your family.
This is often a personal decision, but if you invite your coworkers, it's considerate to invite your entire department or not invite anyone. Alternately, stick to inviting people you regularly see outside of work, not just office happy hours! For more tips, discover the people you and don't need to invite.
Don’t invite people who you haven't talked to in over a year, as well as those you only see at other friends' events. If you wouldn't hang out with them one-on-one, you don't need to invite them to your wedding. You want those attending to be your dearest loved ones!
For more advice, discover what to decide in the first few days of wedding planning, find out how to balance your guests' needs with your own, and learn how to address invitations for unmarried couples.