To-Do List: Starting Your Guest List
Sooner rather than later you’re going to need to start compiling your guest list. Sounds crazy doesn’t it? Believe it or not, the sooner you get this going the easier life will be. Starting it this early does two major things for you: shows you how realistic your ideal guest count is and who you’ll need to send save-the-dates to. You’ll be surprised how quickly your guest list can balloon, and you’ll be equally surprised how hard it is to cut it down. Realize that this is not your opportunity to connect with your best friend from 2nd grade that you haven’t seen in 12 years, but an opportunity to share one of the most special events in your life with the people closest to you.
There are a number of ways to go about starting your guest list. I recommend you, your fiancé, and your parents (because they’ll want a say in it too) each go off and make your own lists, and then come together to compare and discuss. Make two separate lists, one of family and one of friends, and within those label them A and B. People you can’t imagine not having at your wedding go on your A list. People you’d like to be there but it won’t be world ending if you can’t invite them go on the B list. I know it sounds kind of awful to have to rank the people in your life in terms of importance, but unless you have an unlimited budget it’s going to be nearly impossible to invite everyone, and you’d be lying if you said everyone you want to invite stood on level ground. It’s not easy, but you need to know where you can draw the line if your guest list starts getting out of control.
When you bring your lists together with everyone else’s be prepared for some surprises. There will likely be names on each list that make the others scratch their head and go “really? THAT person?” or “…who the heck is that?” Start making a “master” list out of these individual ones. Any overlap between your lists should obviously make it to the master (bonus points if everyone even agrees on A and B status). When you start hitting names that don’t make sense, whoever included them should explain why they feel that person should be included. Keep these people on a separate list, and revisit them after the names everyone agrees on are included.
After you get your list together, take stock of how many people are on it. Remember that if you invite someone who has a significant other (married, engaged, serious relationship; I’ll address this later) you must invite them as well. It is considered extraordinarily rude to invite only half of the couple. It is not required to allow single guests to bring a “plus one”, but it is a nice gesture (especially if the guest in question won’t know anyone else at the event). After you take into account how many people each name accounts for, look at the number of people on your list versus the number of guests you ideally want. If you’re lucky, you’re under that number. If you’re like 90% of couples out there, you’re probably over. This leaves you with some decision-making to do.
Talk about why you wanted that original number of guests. Was it wanting a certain size event, or was it cost related? If you only wanted a certain size (or you honestly didn’t know and picked a number out of thin air), and cost isn’t an issue, consider upping your number. Before making a decision to up the number, however, keep in mind the occupant restrictions of your venue(s) if you have already book them. If your guest count was a cost related decision, you’re more restricted and most likely can’t just increase your guest count. Remember that each extra person is not just an extra meal, but an extra seat, favor, piece of cake, drinks, invitation, etc. You’re probably going to have to start making cuts.
If you are considering cutting family members, this can cause a good deal of drama if not done carefully. Make a blanket rule, like no kids (I’ll address this later too) or no cousins for example. Pick a rule and stick to it. It’s easier to tell Aunt Susie she can’t bring little Jill and Bob if you can tell her Uncle Larry can’t bring Joe and Heather. Do NOT make exceptions to whatever rules you come up with, because once Susie finds out Joe and Heather are coming, she’s going to be offended and angry that apparently her kids aren’t good enough.
Regulating your friends list is a little more difficult, because people who are dating now might not be later and people who are single now might not be later, and people you’re friends with now might be distant memories in a year but people you’ve just met will be your best buds. This is more of an art of approximation. For now, people will serve more as place holders. Remember, this list is by no means final, but is supposed to tell you where you stand in terms of numbers. Do NOT go sending out wedding information to the people on this list unless you are absolutely sure they will be invited in the end and they absolutely need the information (like my uncle was already scheduling a vacation for next summer and needed to know what the wedding date was so he didn’t overlap it).
There are weird situations that pop up when determining the guest list (like kids, co-workers, significant others, and the dreaded ex’s), but I’ll save those for a later post.
Good luck, and remember this is not the end of the world. If you have to invite your fiancé’s frat brother you despise, realize he’s 1 out of some much larger number, and you probably won’t even notice him. You’d be surprised how well jerks can behave at a wedding.