We figured it was about time we tackled one of the most contentious parts of wedding planning, the dreaded guest list. Our main goal with this list of top tips is to de-stress the guest list and make sure you’re focussed only on smooching your honey when it comes to the big day!
We’ve all heard the horror stories about arguments with in-laws over guests or avoiding acquaintances for weeks because they weren’t invited. Planning your wedding guest list certainly isn’t easy, but with these tips we know you’re going to be looking out at your guests after you say “I do” with a big old smile!
Before we get down to the nitty gritty, let’s start with our biggest and best tip: communication. Successfully planning your guest list is all about communication – with your partner, your parents, your partner’s parents, people who are coming, people who aren’t coming. Start with your partner and make sure you are both on the same page when it comes to the size of your wedding. If you don’t start on the same page, try to work together to come to a solution you can both be happy with. After all, you both want to look back on your wedding and be glad all your guests were there with you to celebrate the start of your life together.
2. Give parents guidelines
Traditionally, parents like to be able to invite a few of their friends or colleagues to the wedding. Before you start planning your guest list, approach your parents and have a chat with them about how many people they envision inviting. Be clear with them that you haven’t started making your list, and you’re not sure how much room there will be, but that you’d like to try to accommodate their friends. It may seem strange to have your parents’ friends at your wedding, especially if you aren’t close to them yourselves, but keep in mind your parents will likely be talking about this day with their friends for months before and after the big day.
3. Start big
One of the best ways to start your guest list is to make a list of everyone you ever imagined inviting to your wedding. Sit down with your fiancee, pour a few glasses of wine, and separately jot down any and everyone you’d each like to invite. Then share your lists, without judgment or making disgruntled faces. Count up those two lists, then add the number of invites your parents requested. Is that a number you can live with? Is that a number you can afford based on your budget? If it’s too big, work together to start whittling it down.
4. Consider venue and budget
Have you always wanted to have your wedding at an estate in the country? Or in your parents’ back yard? If you’re set on a specific venue, find out how many people you’ll be able to hold and the cost per guest. Likewise, if you know your budget can’t go over a certain amount, you’ll need to make sure you can afford a venue that fits your list. These are the tough considerations to make, so try to keep our number one rule in mind – communicate with your fiancee about what you both desire for your wedding day and try to come to a solution that makes you both excited for your big day.
5. Make some rules
If you and your partner are having a hard time getting your guest list to fit your budget or your venue, make some rules. Need to cut out a swath of people without causing a major argument? No co-workers. No second cousins. No children of your parents’ friends. It’s perfectly acceptable for you to decide how close or removed you want your guests to be and draw a line.
6. Consider tiered invitations
It may seem a little strange, but if you’re finding it impossible to shrink your list, consider sending two tiers of invitations. Divide your list into guests you desperately want to have at your wedding, and the alternates. Print two sets of RSVP cards with two different dates, and when you start to receive responses that guests on the A Team can’t make it, send out your batch of invites to the alternates. As a general rule, if you send first invitations three months in advance of the wedding, you can send a second wave six to eight weeks before the wedding without it being obvious that they’re not your top priority.
7. Be direct
There are very few weddings where every single person who thinks they’re going to be invited gets invited. No matter what, there is a chance you might hurt someone’s feelings when making your guest list. The best way to deal with those awkward, uncomfortable conversations, is to be direct. Explain that space is limited, or that you’re only inviting family and close friends, and move on to another subject. But keep in mind, if you aren’t inviting someone to your wedding, they aren’t the person you should be agonizing over every last detail with.
8. If all else fails…
We have several friends who decided to have destination weddings because they would have felt obligated to invite the entire town if they had their wedding at home. And it works! Destination weddings quickly cull your guest list, but keep in mind that the people you really want to be there might not be able to make it either. Another option is to have a very small wedding with only immediate family and close friends. Of course, if you’re really at your wits’ end with your guest list, there’s the last resort. You could elope!
We hope these little tips will come in handy as you’re plotting out that guest list for your dream day. We’d love to hear what worked for your or advice you’ve received that might be helpful to those planning brides out there!
Emily Westbrooks is an American-born writer and blogger based in Dublin, Ireland. She is the Online Editor for Confetti Magazine, one of Ireland’s top bridal magazines. She also writes her own lifestyle blog, From China Village, where she chronicles her adventures in Dublin, travels around Europe, DIY projects and Irish design. She shares her home with her husband, one cat, and four sassy chickens!