I’m going to say it now. After finding and negotiating the venue and food, the guest list is going to be one of the most stressful aspects of your wedding. All of the other aesthetic stuff is fun and generally low-stress, but most of your wedding planning issues will begin and end with who you’re inviting (or not inviting for that matter). No matter what, KEEP YOUR COOL. WE WILL GET THROUGH THIS TOGETHER.
Now that that’s done with, let’s get down to business. Who gets to be there? Who gets cut from the list? Do they get to bring a plus one? Does your family get to have any say in the matter? A lot of this depends on the size of your venue, but if you’ve booked something already, you likely have a ballpark idea of how many people are coming to your soiree. If you’re just figuring this out now, TAKE A DEEP BREATH. IT’LL BE OKAY. (Sorry. This can be really stressful.) The best place to start is by jotting down a list. Everyone who immediately pops into your head is likely to be at the top of the list. If there is even a smidge of hesitation because you haven’t seen/heard from/spoken to this person in a while, then put them on the maybe list until you have all the VIPs down. Based on my experience, here is the order of importance for your guest list:
1. Immediate family and close friends
Mom, dad, aunt, uncle, grandparents, brother, bestie, etc.
2. Extended family and friends you see once in a while
Cousins you maybe don’t see that often but grew up with, high school friends you have stayed in touch with and talk to on a semi-regular basis. The best way to determine if you think you should invite this person: ask yourself if you would be upset if they didn’t invite you and go from there.
3. Very extended family and family friends
Your second cousin once removed. Your great uncle who you haven’t seen since you were a kid. Your mom’s friend that you met a couple times at a tupperware party. This is going to be the portion of your guest list when you’re going to have requests from your parents or future in-laws (and if you have anomaly family members that don’t get involved, good for you. tell me what that’s like). If your mom/dad/MIL/FIL are requesting extra people at your wedding, get them to write their list in order of importance. In some cultures, it’s customary to invite
everyone and their cat a friend if you’ve been to their child’s wedding or if you’ve done business with them for a very long time. That being said, it is your day and you do get to be the one to make the final decision, HOWEVER, if your mom/dad/MIL/FIL are helping you pay for the wedding, unfortunately, you may just have to suck it up and let them invite whoever they want. At the end of the day, is it going to affect you? If you have a large enough venue to fit these extras and your VIPs, you’re going to be less stressed if everyone else is there and happy, too. And if you really don’t want these people coming, have a bottle glass of wine and calmly tell the requester there just isn’t room.
4. Work peeps
…Unless a particular work peep is an out-of-work friend as well, in which case you can bump them up. If you work in a small office, you need to make a judgement call about this: You may want to consider inviting everyone or no one at all. It may seem like a lot of if your co-workers have significant others, but small office environments are like families and how would you feel if only one of your siblings went to one of your other sibling’s wedding? Exactly. Plus, you saw how fun the office holiday party was… multiply this by 10 because your boss can’t get mad if you drink too much.
5. Everyone else
We’re including plus ones and kids in this category, because it really comes down to numbers and personal preference. If you have a friend who is maybe perpetually single, but you don’t see them that often to know if they’re dating anyone particular at that given moment, maybe offer them up a plus one, ESPECIALLY if you know you have the room (we booked a large hall = lots of room = everyone gets a plus one) or if they might not know anyone else there (because no one wants to go to a wedding alone when they don’t know anyone but the bride and groom… even if it is open bar). As for kids, you decide, just make sure you’re very specific in your address on the invitation (we’ll get to this in a later post). Some of your friends might just be happy to have the night off, but if your cousins have kids and they’re bringing them, you might want to tread lightly and just allow them to bring their one-year-old that is an angel and actually sleeps all the time.
The Wedding Planner is an ongoing series where we give you some real-life wedding planning advice, from finding the dress to dealing with that ever-growing guest list, over the next few months as we figure it out ourselves.