Putting together the guestlist for your wedding can be a tricky balancing act. The most common advice is something along the lines of, “balance your available budget with who you want to attend”. This isn’t as easy as it sounds though – far from it. Here are a few tips on getting started with your guest list, refining it, and finalizing it.
Crunching the numbers
Unless your part of the one percent and money is no object, budgetary concerns are going to be the main factor in determining the number of guests. Naturally, the more guests there are attending the wedding, the higher the total cost will be.
It can be helpful to work out exactly how much one guest will “cost” – that is, consider how much per-person expenses add up to. For this, you’ll need to take into account things like venue capacity, food, and drinks as well as smaller details such as wedding favors and the cost of renting seats and tables.
Some venues offer package deals with certain aspects of the reception included, such as catering, seating, and drinks. Whether these are things you purchase separately or as part of a deal with the venue, space availability is another major factor when considering how many guests to invite. If the venue is small, then there will, of course, be a limit to how many people can comfortably fit in the room.
If later in the guestlist-making process, you find yourself struggling to cut down on the number of guests, consider other ways of lowering the price per head. In recent years, wedding trends have shifted towards DIY and customization options. These can be a great way to free up some space in the budget for additional guests.
You could ask guests to bring their own booze, or suggest they each bring a dish potluck-style instead of shelling out for catering services. And while wedding favors are a nice-to-have but not essential feature of a wedding, they’re very much optional, so think about either making your own or just forgoing them altogether.
Compiling an initial list of names
Once you’ve nailed down the numbers, it’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty of putting down some names. You can either start by jotting down names in no particular order or you can begin with the highest-priority guests (like the bridal party, groomsmen, and immediate family members). This should be done as a couple, with both partners having equal input in the discussion.
For the initial list, keep the ultimate number of guests in mind but you don’t need to stick to it rigidly in the first draft. Once you’ve put together the first draft, compare it with the capacity for guests you determined in step one. Make a first attempt to arrange a basic idea of possible seating arrangements.
Pay attention to which potential guests are easy to slot into the seating plan and those who aren’t. If you’re on the fence about inviting a particular person and there isn’t really any obvious choice as to which table they should sit at, chances are they won’t have a brilliant time if they don’t know anyone besides you. If you can manage to find space, think about allowing them to bring a plus-one for the company. If not, they may be someone to leave off the list.
Narrowing down the list
The hardest thing about making a guest list isn’t so much putting it together as it is cutting it down. Since weddings are such emotionally charged events, there’s always the chance that someone who isn’t invited may take it personally. Making these decisions can feel like navigating a minefield.
Types of people that fall into the “maybe” category often include distant family members, co-workers, acquaintances, or estranged friends (like people you went to high school with and have barely seen since).
A piece of wisdom that many married couples will preach is this: don’t invite someone simply because you feel that you have to. Firstly, your wedding day belongs to you and your spouse and that means that the two of you are the ones who get to decide who it’s shared with. Secondly, even if you do decide to invite someone you’re unsure about, consider that people can usually tell when they’re being included out of a sense of obligation. And that just makes it awkward for everyone.
If you still can’t make a decision about that one person, try changing your perspectives. When you think of this person, would you expect to be invited to their wedding? If you weren’t, how would you feel? Take it one step further by having an honest chat with this person. Explain your situation and you may find they understand your position. Find out if not being invited would be hurtful to them. Emphasize that you mean no hard feelings.
Throughout the process of putting together your wedding guest list, it can be helpful to picture your ideal wedding day. Think about the people in your life that you envision being there. Who do you want to celebrate your union with? This is what should underlie your ultimate decisions about who to invite.