Wedding Guest Lists: What to Choose, Avoid, Remember & Let Go

Let’s face it. Making a wedding guest list is not easy. Even the most diplomatic individual dislikes hurting someone else’s feelings, but if your vision of a dream wedding does not include 500 guests and your Grandpa’s third cousin-twice removed, tough decisions will likely be necessary to ensure YOUR day is YOUR dream wedding. Here are some tips for setting your guest list and what to avoid.

1. Set Your Plans in Stone and Only Then, Verbally Invite Others.
Certainly, this is an exciting time in your life and also in your parents’ lives. Take time to stop, breath, set your location and your budget before shouting your wedding plans to the world. This will help you to begin a guest list of those closest to you and ensure no hard feelings from your closest inner circle. If you must, implement a gag-rule on your wedding plans until the planning is well on its way (locations are booked, budget is firm, etc.).

2. Not Giving an “And Guest” Option on Your Invitation.
Etiquette dictates that every single guest over age 18 should be permitted one guest at a wedding. Yet, if you are planning a small or scaled back ceremony and reception, you can make your own rules for the plus one. For an idea that may be suited well for all, including elderly guests, create a plus one that allows ALL single guests, regardless of circumstance, to bring one other person. Regardless of your decision-making regarding guests, you may face controversy; yet, you can rest assured that the hurt feelings will fade long before your second anniversary.

3. Remember No Kids Means NO Kids.
Pressure is often the #1 happiness stealer when planning a wedding. If you stick to your budget, your plan, and your dream for YOUR day, you will be a lot happier. Do not make exceptions in any situation (unless a flower girl or ring bearer is a part of the actual wedding). If you and your future spouse have agreed to have an adult-only wedding and reception, maintain that stance. You can be sure to tell your friends and family that they can bring their children to the hotels and town where your wedding will be, but not to the wedding or reception.

4. Do Not Allow Others’ Guest Lists Steal Your Own.
If your parents are paying for your wedding, they may feel entitled to invite their closest friends. Remember it is YOUR day, regardless of who is paying for it. When your guests’ guests take away from you and your future spouse’s ability to invite those you want in attendance on YOUR day, put your foot down and say “Enough.” Set a ballpark figure, early on in your wedding planning, for how many “friends of friends” you will permit (i.e. 12) and stick to that figure.

5. Do Not Give into Pressure from Friends for Obligation Invitations.
A good rule of thumb that I feel is best for invitations extended to your wedding is this: If a person is not incredibly close to you personally, does not contact you at least once a year, forgets your birthday or does not send a Christmas card, they are not likely close enough to warrant an invitation to what is the biggest day in your life. A wedding should be about those closest to you in your life now and in the future – not about your kindergarten crush, his wife and his four children because he gave you an Oreo at age 6.

6. Expecting No Friendly Exes on the Guest List.
This is often an unrealistic, unnecessary source of issue. You or your spouse to be wants to invite an ex to your wedding. The bottom line is, you don’t want your future spouse reminded of a vacation with the ex on YOUR day. This topic can create a roller coaster of emotions for you if you allow it to bother you too much. Instead of bickering about this, however, look at it this way – the ex is just a person your current love knows. If he’s engaged to someone else or she is married with three children, the person poses no threat to the love that you and your future spouse obviously have. You’re loyal to each other; you’re committed to each other. At the end of the day, do the exes really matter? Be grateful that put you in a position to find the love of your life every time you look at an ex at the wedding.

7. Beware of Mishandling the Office Invite.
When inviting co-workers to your wedding, you can set yourself up for hurt feelings if the entire office is not invited. It is perfectly acceptable to invite co-workers with whom you socialize or consider friends beyond work and not the entire office. There is NO need to invite the entire office and do not ever invite too many people from the office, just to obtain more gifts. Proper etiquette, however, suggests inviting your current boss, regardless of how long you have been employed at the company or how professional your relationship is.

8. Do Not Invite People Thinking They Won’t Attend.
No one wants to offend anyone. But if you do not want a large wedding of 300+ people, you also do not want to invite too many people. Weddings are at the top of most individuals’ lists of events they will travel to attend. Do not ever assume that someone will not attend your wedding or invite them just to be nice. They might just attend and blow your budget out the window. Only invite the people you truly want to be in attendance on YOUR wedding day!

9. Do Not Focus Too Much on Thinking Too Much.
Worrying about your cousin’s behavior issues, your co-worker’s attitude, your family member’s illness and how all of these things may converge to upend your wedding day? Stop worrying. Even if you must invite someone who is not always pleasant or may cause a hiccup, the likelihood of this occurring in a crowd of people that are there to wholeheartedly respect, love and support you on your wedding day is remote. Focus on the positives of the loved ones there to support you, not the chosen few that may pose an issue. Years from now, you’ll remember the good memories and the issues will be long forgotten.

10. Don’t Crop the Guest List Too Short.
One of the top regrets of many brides and grooms is that they cut their guest lists so short that they could not afford a better cake, a more brilliant flower display or an amazing get-away ride. What makes your wedding day special is not just the delectable food, your favorite music, the fragrant flowers or the fancy car. Your wedding day is made special by the close friends and family that you love and that love you. The memories made on your wedding day, even if the day is not perfect, are what is of the utmost importance. After all, you can eat a cake anytime; the memories made with family and friends are once in a lifetime.

Good luck with your wedding guest list planning and best wishes for a stress-free lifetime of happiness!

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