Pep Talk Tuesday {The Guest List}

Gah! The guest list. I just gagged a little thinking of the guest list. Because making a guest list for a wedding is like the equivalent of throwing a party in high school when your parents go out of town; you know you won't have enough beer for everyone but if you invite Suzy and Sarah, then Tom, Dick and Harry have to come too. And if your uber sensitive bff isn't allowed to bring her on again off again boyfriend then you know the you-know-what is gunna hit the fan. So what's a girl to do when all she wants to do is throw a really rad party with all the right people and no hurt feelings? I say it's your day, do it your way. Isn't that a fast food chain slogan? Whatever I'm going with it. Oy! I present to you my personal thoughts on how to tackle the tedious task of building your guest list. (And remember you can always opt to completely skip the guest list a la this couple who were married in front of only an officiant and their photog, the fabulous Kate Webber. Seriously clever and incredibly romantic; I'm a fan). Happy Tuesday blogettes!


{Create a Preliminary Draft} Do this first. For example, once that sparkly is put on your finger, pool together the people you want at the wedding along with the people your fiance wants at the wedding. Remember to include family, from both sides, coworkers, neighbors, friends from extra curricular activities and anyone that if you were talking to them about your wedding before or afterwards you would feel shamed that you had not extended an invite to them. Allot each guest a plus one regardless of if they are single or in a serious relationship and even if you or your fiance don't personally know who the plus one will be. And then add up your numbers. Subtract guests you absolutely know will not come (like Great Aunt Hilda who lives over Ireland) and use your remaining total number for things like guiding your selection process for a venue. An increasing amount of venues require you to meet a minimum or stay under a maximum in order to have your wedding at their facility. A 300 person guest list would have never worked at our venue which had a cap at 90 guests. But we knew we wouldn't run into this problem ahead of time because we created a preliminary draft of our list. 

{Build Your Team} Yeah yeah, I just referred to your wedding guests as your teammates. But they do sort of serve as your team for the day. So get on your team captain face and make cuts as needed. This alone sounds pretty harsh but unless you have an orchard of plentiful cash tress in your backyard, more guests mean more cash and if those said guests are people you can do without then don't think twice about not inviting them. One of my brides was torn on the whole guest list thing because her Mom wanted to invite a bunch of her own friends to the wedding which as a result would bring the guest list up; so instead Mom is throwing an engagement party in her daughter's honour so she can celebrate the milestone with her own friends on a day separate from the wedding. This could very well just be my crazy thinking too, but it seems as if weddings these days are becoming increasingly smaller and more personal; people are cutting out guests who don't matter and as a result are saving money and stress. Even better, your preliminary guest list draft, which is a rough estimate of guests, will help you create your budget (or your budget will help you create your guest list). Cool.

{When to Make a Cut} Again these thoughts are completely my own and not the professional or only way to do things but here's what we did when we ran into road blocks; if we were stumped on whether or not to invite someone merely because we were invited to their wedding, then we went ahead and did so. In 99% of these situations their RSVPs were a no but at least we were being courteous by extending the invite to them. If we weren't sure if someone should be invited because we a) didn't really ever see them or b) had in recent months/years drifted apart we used the rationale I address above. If we were to run into said person months after the wedding and the topic came up, would we feel remorseful about not inviting them or would we be able to freely reminiscence with them about our day without feeling like total jerks. In most cases we were able to live with and happily move on from our choice to not invite specific guests and as a result cut out a huge chunk out of our guest list.

{The Whole Plus One Issue} Hands down the plus one issue was one of the toughest issues we faced during our wedding planning process. All those plus ones can really throw off your almost finalized guest list and leave you scrambling to find extra room both in your venue's spatial capacity and your dwindling budget. For example if you have a guest list of 100 people with equal parts parties of two (like married couples) and single guests with a plus one, how can you possibly predict who will actually end up bringing someone and when your venue has a strict maximum capacity how do you make it all work together? In our situation here's one thing we did with plus ones: I have a very tight knit group of girlfriends who are for the most part all single. I checked with them ahead of time to see if they were all content with the idea of attending our wedding solo with the expectation that they would all be seated together thus creating a fun, enjoyable and comfortable environment (much like how it is when we get together for our annual reunions and dinner dates). I couldn't have imagined them all sitting at different tables around the room with dates who were unfamiliar with one another and I dreaded running into an issue where some friends brought dates and others didn't (the whole third and fifth wheel thing is never any fun). I remember how much fun they all had too, goofing off with one another and completely being themselves all evening and for that, I am happy with my decision. While this isn't the choice everyone would have made, that choice alone took a potential guest chunk down from 25+ to 12 people, a major win for us. A general rule however is that if the guest in question is in a serious relationship, is engaged, married, living with or in a common law relationship, the invitation gets extended to their partner. The partner may decline but it's considered good etiquette to invite them too

What problems did you or are you running into with creating your guest list?

32 Lovely Comments:

Megan said...

We definitely had some guest list issues. We wanted a smaller wedding and so we didn't want to invite some people that our parents wanted to invite...seeing as how we didn't really know them. Haha. Thank goodness we all reached a compromise and everyone was happy!

xxShivvyxx said...

I had a friend who also struggled with the plus one issue - in the end she told all her friends she wouldn't be giving them plus ones due to budget/space...but then she invited my boyfriend (as she had known him at school) and also another friend's boyfriend (as he was doing the video of the service) to the reception...needless to say there were a few unhappy people! I think the way you handled it sounds really great though! I'd have had no problem with my boyfriend not being invited if i had been sure i would be sitting with all my friends! xxShivvyxx

Megan said...

uuuuuuuuuuugggggggghhhhhhhh the guest list! HATED that part. we had to keep our wedding small because of a. budget and b. thats what we wanted. I also was ADMINANT about not having children at the wedding. no one under the age of 13 was allowed to attend. you can imagine the phone calls i got about that one. and the freaking plus one. i had so many whining people coming to me asking if they could bring their bf of 2 weeks. kill me now. its stressing me out just thinking about it again.

Piril Maria said...

Great, wonderful to read. =)




Love,
http://thebookness.blogspot.com

Megan said...

that word should of been adimant. glad i capitolized a word that i misspelled. awesome

HiLLjO said...

I work with over 200 people. A lot... A LOT of people from my work are assuming they're invited. If they are invited, they're asking others if they're invited, too. This makes it very difficult to be diplomatic while inviting people from work to the wedding.

bailey said...

This was seriously the worst part of wedding planning!!! Torturous! We had problems with inviting my husband's aunt/uncle/unmarried cousins as one family unit (as in, not sending an invite to each cousin individually) and one cousin 'informing' us his girlfriend was coming...who then broke up with him days before the wedding and didn't show up. UGH. My thing with the guest list was that I really only wanted those I loved and cared about there, not strangers - it's such a personal day! I think besides one or two stray plus ones, it worked out like that and I was so happy as I looked around the reception!! (We also got a group of my husband's friends to agree to no plus ones and they had a much better time, like you said!)

Great post - it's such a touchy subject!

{The Perfect Palette} said...

You're lucky that your single friends/bridesmaids were okay with going solo. I feel like all my friends/bridesmaids who didn't have a steady boyfriend were scrambling and trying to find someone/anyone to invite because they didn't want to be the bridesmaid without a date. some of them didn't let me know either way until the last minute. so frustrating. Maybe it's because I was 29 when I got married and all my friends were around the same age. As you near the 30's it seems like women put more pressure on themselves to find a + one and not be alone. Sad.

Mandy said...

This is the WROST part about planning a wedding! It doesn't help that my fiance and I both have HUGE immediate families. We currently have 357 on our list...that is immediate family, the wedding party and their spouse/kids (if they have any). 357. It doesn't include friends, co-workers, or neighbors, etc. Our church holds 230 and the reception hall holds 300. We are going to have to start cutting somewhere!

Question: What percentage of your guest list ususally showsup for the wedding?

April of A. Liz Adventures said...

We made the decision early on that we wouldn't invite any co-workers at all (I did have one ask me straight up a few weeks ago, "So... are we going to be invited to your wedding?" - I just explained the situation nonchalantly but promised tons of pics). We also left off good friends' parents. As far as the "+1" goes, we did add "and guest" to any friends of ours, whether we know they are dating anyone or not. Single cousins do not get a "+1" and neither do single aunts/uncles/older family friends. So far this has worked well for us!

Jamie said...

Rhi, the plus one issue was easy for me. Yes I saw it as being difficult but because we're 23 and we are still close with most of our high school friends, 30 friends and a date would make 60 people -- thats nuts since 85% of those plus ones, would be random dates they found for the wedding, and I wouldn't know any of them - and lets be real - I cannot afford to spend $100 a plate on someone I have never met before, and may never see again. But if you say no to one person, you have to say no to them all. I looked at it as this - we all know each other - it wont feel lonely, uncomfortable or 5th wheelish. Those friends who were coming from out of town or do not know anyone else but my fiance and I, I extended an invite to their significant other, or allowed a plus one.
It gets tricky when you have a bunch of cousins who are dating people, but you dont know them that well, or its a new thing.
Where I am stuck now - after finalizing my guestlist is that I have siblings, and so does my fiance who are recently in a new relationship - do I wait until closer to the wedding and extend the opportunity for them to bring their date, or should I just say no...?
Another issue of course is family members (such as a mother in law) who wants to invite their friends -- A rule of thumb I have been told is if your mother in law is paying for half or more of your wedding - give her a table that she is welcome to invite whoever to sit at. In my case, mine hasn't offered anything, and therefore my mother and my fiance and I don't feel obligated to fork out an extra $600 so that some of her friends we dont even know can be at our wedding.... Agree??

Something Old, Something New said...

There is always lots of stress with the guest list! Great tips for getting the guest list done and keeping sane while doing it.

Tucker said...

Rhi you have no idea how i wish you were around when i was making our list. The GL single handedly almost cost me my sanity.

Great tips!

Anonymous said...

Ugh, this was the least fun part of wedding planning for me. We kept our wedding on the small side, but I wish I had guts to make it MY guest list. It wasn't too horrible on my husband's side to make his list.

I was somewhat gutsy in not inviting any of my first cousins on my dad's side since they are all out of town and have kids. I was not able to invite a few friends, coworkers and some local second cousins, but they understood the space constaints we had. I would've preferred to invite them over my table of obligatory local, first cousins.

Megan said...

The guest list wasn't too big of a deal for me. We got everything to a reasonable number early on. It was only when 2 weeks before the wedding that my mother in law remembered 6 new people she wanted to invite, including hubs aunt. Seriously, who forgets to invite your husband's sister?!

Marcie said...

Great advice! Why weren't you around when I got married ? ;)

The guest list is one part of the planning process that I don't miss!

xo Marcie

Miss K said...

So far we haven't had a problem with +1s but guests have been and issue between his mom and i and who is invited. They have more guests coming than my side (friends/family) so the extra seats we have (from rsvp regrets) should go to me...however there's been some drama and I'm hoping to get it settled this week.

Kelley @ Kelley Maria said...

Wow, I am so relived and happy to know that I was not the only crazy bride-to-be with guest list issues. This was pretty much the one and only issue we had during the entire wedding planning process and I honestly almost quit. Our issue was that we could only fit a certain amount of people and our guest list was overwhelmingly larger. A few family members had a really really hard time removing people from the list and just didn't understand the need to do so?!?!?! I get flustered just thinking about it. Thank goodness I did let a stupid guest list ruin everything (because that would NOT have been worth it). Thanks for sharing

Ashley said...

Ugh... the guest list. We had a tough time, but I think everyone got over it quickly if they weren't invited. We had a really tight budget and a guest list of about 40 people. It was really tough deciding who to invite.

Someone told me that you should think about whether or not you'll keep in contact with someone, and if you don't think they're someone who'll be in your life in the next few years... then don't invite them. If someone is seriously hurt by not getting an invite you just have to hope that it won't kill your friendship.

You have some great advice for how to deal with guest list issues!

Brooke said...

ugh we had troubles with our guest list too I mean his mom wants me to invite her friends and stuff when we don't really have room or enough money too and then there's the whole plus one. It's nice to bring someone but it just keeps adding up. It was so difficult to narrow it down and we still have too many! ha

BridalHood said...

We had a small wedding so just kept our to really close friends and family. For me - I made it a point to introduce Keith to all the friends that were important to me so my rule of thumb was if they hadn't met Keith I probably didn't need to invite them to the wedding (with very few exceptions). The other rule was anyone we hadn't seen or talked to in over a year probably didn't need to be invited either (again with a few expections). I really wanted an intimate wedding with only those I really loved and saw as a part of our future at our wedding.

Anna said...

the guest list head ache was the #1 reason we chose to get married in cancun. 28 of our closest friends and family made it to our big day and i couldn't be happier with the decision! best of luck, brides!

bonafidebride said...

This is a GREAT post. Are we the same person? We had all the same challenges for our wedding, too!

Nikki said...

We had a destination wedding. Elminating most of the problems. We were able to say "Oh we're keeping it small"...even though we had 60 something people ;)

I realize this isn't an option for everyone, but it was lovely. Really.

Great post!

Claire Gallam said...

This is a really great post. The guest list was not as daunting for us as it could have been because we had a destination wedding. We invited everyone in our family list and friend list who is closest to us, even though we KNEW some of them wouldn't be able to travel. But it can be a very stressful time, especially if you are looking to stay in a certain budget and there are people, whom you love and wish could be there, you just can't afford.
But really, great tips! Building a draft is so key, especially one that you can edit with your fiancee, your family and his family.

Jessica said...

When we got engaged my mom gave me very simple advice on the guest list... "Don't invite anyone whose presence will detract from your happiness on your wedding day." It sounds negative, but when we decided to go from 200 guests to 100 guests it made it a lot easier for us to "cut" certain relatives we aren't close with, co-workers we would have invited only by association, etc. Great post!! :)

jessica said...

i know a lot of people have issues with the guest list... but we actually had an easy time with it... we were pretty strict with it and wanted to keep it small and only invited the "important/special" people... it all worked out and we couldn't have been happier...

Nicole said...

I am not even engaged and this is the one wedding issue I am CONSTANTLY thinking about. Seriously. Several times a week. I am a bit wedding obsessed! Haha! I will definitely lean towards a small, intimate wedding one day. These tips will help! So glad I stumbled upon yor sweet blog weeks ago- it's become a favorite!

Naomi said...

Ahhh the infamous guest list...at first we wanted to elope and come home to Atlanta {where we lived at the time} and have a part...but no! Loose lips Louis {hubs name is not Louis} had to open his mouth and tell everyone that we were going to elope to Puerto Rico then come home and have a party. When everyone found out that we were going to be in PR our elopement became a destination wedding! Soooo there went the guest list...however destination weddings are a great way to whittle down the list...in most cases! Not ours. I do tell my brides that if you aren't going to have a conversation with anyone on the guest list on a regular bases or invite them to your kids parties, or send them holiday cards...skip them. Co-workers you aren't close to, OUT! Third cousins on their third marriage that you've never been invited to, OUT! Your mother's cousin's sons daughter who you happened to have met at camp one year but never talked since then, OUT. Love this post, Rhi! So informative and real...like you!

Alisha said...

Oooh the guest list. Where to start? B and I had a hard time getting all the addresses for all the people we wanted to invite. It worked out well tho. We sent out over 300 invites (that's at least 600+ people if they bring dates, then family members, eek!!), but there was another wedding that same weekend in B's home town, so that kind of helped with the amount of people that actually attended.

Great post love! xoxo

living well said...

The plus one issue is so hard! I'm kicking myself because before I was planning a wedding, I used to say "Oh of course people should be able to bring people." I take it back!! Ahh so difficult!

Kirby said...

creating our guests list went fairly smoothly. our problem came about with my fiances mother feeling obligated to invite her cousins and their spouses... 22 of them in total plus some of their grown children. I told her that we would have to have a plated reception if we invited all of them because it would push us past having room for the buffet table (which I didn't mind at all!). I totally agree about the plus one debacle. we gave plus ones to everyone invited that was in a serious relationship. the only thing left to finalize is the kids... which you already know my feelings about ;)