If there is one thing I’ve learnt in my 6 years of running Knots & Kisses it’s that the guest lists are invariably the most stressful thing about organising a wedding! Now I’m not a wedding planner but I can’t begin to count the times I have had clients apologise for not getting back to me with the names they want printing on their invitations because they have been struggling with finalising the guest list, and don’t get me started on people who don’t RSVP and leave couples high and dry weeks before the wedding when their caterers, venue and me are all pressuring them for final numbers for reception stationery and food!
So where do you start with trying to decide on a guest list for your wedding?
I think the first thing that inevitably causes problems and is the main thing to think about is who is paying for the wedding ?
If you are going down the traditional route and the Bride’s parents are paying for the whole thing then you may have to consider that they may feel they are entitled to have a fair amount of say over the guest list. They may even want to invite one or two friends of their own that you may have not seen for a very long time or even feel that close to. Hopefully in most cases there will a fairly honest discussion between you all at the very start as to what they feel they are ‘entitled’ to. I would say though that if they are paying in full it’s probably worth being as understanding as possible over the guest list.
When it gets a little less clear is when parents and the couple are all contributing to the wedding, and therefore how much say they will have. I think, again, it’s really worth sitting down and having a full and frank discussion about this at the very start of the wedding planning process so everyone knows what their expectations are and whether these fit into your vision of your day.
Make a decision early on about the ideal number of people you would like to invite. If you have a very specific venue in mind from the start then this will obviously influence how many people you can fit in and make deciding on a guest list number much easier. Alternatively you may prefer to put together your guest list first. Make sure you have a list of those people it is essential are there, another list of those people you would like to invite if there is room, plus a list for possible evening guests. Once you have all this you can then look at venues knowing exactly how many people you are looking to accommodate and cater for.
The next thing which often causes problems and headaches for couples planning their guest list is Plus Ones! If there is one question I have read on more forums than any other with regards to weddings its ” do I have to offer everyone a plus one?”. The answer quite simply is no! Unless your budget is limitless … in which case lucky you! … you are going to need to set some rules and have a cut off point when it comes to plus ones. My general rule of thumb would be that you only offer a plus one when you have met the partner in question and they are in a serious relationship. Now I’m not going to set a time limit on what constitutes ‘serious’. Many people say when the relationship is over 6 months, but people do fall in love and move in together immediately on occasion. Only you can judge whether or not your friend or family member is in a serious relationship or not. But if you feel they are and you have met the person then you may want to consider adding them to your invite list. When it comes to single friends or family members then you need to ask yourself whether they know anyone else at your wedding? If the answer is yes and you have a limited budget then as far as I’m concerned a plus one isn’t needed. If the answer is no then it seems only fair to give them a plus one so they don’t feel awkward and like Billy No Mates for the entire day!
On a small side note to this I’m afraid you are probably going to get a few guests who assume they have a plus one when they don’t! Be firm and just explain that you can’t give everyone a plus one due to restricted numbers and/or budget.
When it comes to inviting colleagues from work this is a tough call. If you work within a small team or section of a larger company, those closest to you are probably going to hear a lot about your wedding planning, so it may feel awkward not to invite them. I generally think this is where evening invitations come in to play. Its much easier to give out a few extra evening invitations to be polite without it adding drastically to your budget and people feel much more at ease declining an evening invitation to a wedding if they know it really is just out of politeness. Of course if you are very good friends with people from work then absolutely invite them to the whole day!
So that just really leaves the question of people who invited you to their wedding but you don’t really want at yours! Everyone is bound to have a couple of these sorts of issues lurking in the background. You were invited to their wedding but have since lost touch and don’t really see each other anymore. Here I would say honestly don’t feel pressurised to invite them to your wedding! It will be fairly obvious to them why they are not invited if you really have lost touch and to be honest if you have lost touch does it really matter if they are offended if you don’t invite them!
I hope this has covered many of the issues you may be having if you’re at the guest list stage of planning your wedding or preempts a few if you haven’t started yet.