Be Our Guest — The Reality of Putting Together the Guest List

You’ve found the “who” and chosen the “where” and “when,” but adding the other players to this wonderful production – also known as your wedding – is not always as much fun. By choosing a ceremony and reception venue, you’ve zeroed in on the style and size of your celebration, so now you’re thinking food and seating. Putting together your guest list is the catalyst that affects all those other elements, and that’s where many couples worry and agonize, often facing tense conversations with parents over who makes the final cut. But, a few reasonable rules, some civil give-and-take and honest communication (see below) can ease your path to a finished guest list.

  • Family always! Besides your immediate families and grandparents, that includes aunts, uncles and cousins even if you don’t see them regularly.
  • Start with a dream list of whom you’d like to include. Make a note of everyone you would ideally have sharing your special day in that perfect world where catering charges and rental fees don’t exist.
  • Then, as you start to think more realistically and narrow it down a bit, delete friends you haven’t spoken with in the last two or three years. If you aren’t really part of each other’s lives, off they go.
  • Believe it or not, having an “A” list and a “B” list has its advantages. But, you must send out your invitations even before the suggested eight weeks in advance, or you won’t have time to make adjustments based on the number of regrets. Mail invitations 10 weeks in advance to give yourself a safety net. Sending those “B” list invitations too close to the day will alert guests they weren’t on the priority list. (Major hint alert: Make sure you order extras of all the pieces of your invitation!)
  • If you are close to only one or two co-workers outside the office, it makes sense to invite only them. If you work in a large office, sometimes it’s best to invite all or none – with the logical reason that you’d like to include everyone but budget and space just don’t allow for it. The same is true for your boss. If you’re close with them socially, an invitation is probably expected. If not, it’s a nice gesture which they will probably decline but will graciously send a gift.
  • Let’s not even mention the phrase “and guest” because if you’re inviting someone’s fiancé, live-in partner or long-time significant other, put in the extra effort to find out their name. You’ll want the correct spelling for place cards, too.
  • If your space can’t accommodate dates for all your single friends, do at least include a plus one for your attendants. They are supporting you with time, energy and love, and it’s the right thing to do.
  • Kids or no kids can be a tricky issue, but the choice is completely yours, and one you shouldn’t feel uncomfortable communicating. You can also set an age limit for children/teens and make that clear by actually including older children’s names on the invitation. (You’ll probably find that young parents are happy to have a night out, so don’t worry about hard feelings.)
  • Traditionally, half the guest list should be the couple’s choice, while each set of parents contributes one fourth of the list. However, who’s paying for the celebration can affect the equation. Even if the bride and groom plan to cover all the expenses themselves, both sets of parents need to be included in creating the guest list. Ideally, once your “dream list” begins to whittle down, if your parents are asked to cut a few names, you and your fiancé need to cut a few, as well. You’ll find that conversations about cutting the list are best held face-to-face with generous doses of compromise sprinkled in!
  • Never invite someone just because you attended his or her wedding unless your budget is unlimited, and you’re hosting a huge event. This is not first grade (remember, where everyone needs to be invited to the birthday party, or there are hurt feelings?) This is – we hope – an adult party where the love and focus is on your wonderful new life together!