Establishing and managing the guest list for a wedding is one of the hardest things a couple has to do. Let’s face it, every person at your wedding costs money, takes up space and will impact your day (hopefully in a very positive way). You have to decide whom to include based on those constraints. Developing a strategy at the start of the planning cycle and sticking to it will serve you well.
Why you have to limit the guest list:
Guests costs money: The cold hard fact is that the more people you invite, the more your wedding will cost. So unless the budget is limitless, the guest list needs to be limited.
Guests take up space: Your venue likely has a maximum capacity but there is also a realistic capacity. Be sure to take this very seriously. I’ve seen situations where the guest list grew to the point that there was not enough space in the venue for dinner to be served and the dance floor. The venue strategy was to seat guests, then move the tables and put down the dance floor – bad plan. Another challenge created by having the maximum number of guests is you might not have room in the venue for added items like the cake table. When discussing capacity with the venue, be sure to explore what is realistic and ideal vs. what is the maximum.
Guests impact your day: You may have a vision of a small intimate gathering, one where you know everyone in attendance intimately or you may have a vision where everyone you have ever known is there to celebrate with you. Regardless of your vision, it’s important to identify that up front and align your guest list with it.
Communication about your guest list strategy to everyone involved is key. A lot of awkward moments are created if invites are made informally and those individuals are then not included in the final guest list. Or worse, the guest list grows by mistake and your budget cannot handle it or your venue isn’t big enough.
Why it’s important to establish a strategy early and STICK WITH IT:
Family expectations: Some families assume that the invite list will be based on family ties, vs. how close the individual is to the couple. You are the only two who can make the decision that is right for your special day. Would you prefer to include your great aunt’s cousin’s nephew or your friend from college?
Everyone who “has a say” generally “wants a say” in the guest list: There are people who are important in some way to you, your future spouse, the families, etc. You have to clearly decide who gets to add names to the guest list, how many they can add and stick to that.
Awkward moments: There are many awkward moments during the planning phase where people you know might assume they are going to be invited. You don’t want your guest list to be built by accident.
What is your strategy?
No strategy at all – let the list run your wedding (and your budget)– BAD IDEA
Make a short list; keep it short and stick to it.
Make a long list, pare it down and stick to it.
Make a long list and use tiering. Planning The I DO has helped couples effectively use this strategy.
Tier 1 – Guests you wouldn’t dream of not inviting, you desperately want them to attend and are willing to accommodate them in your budget and in your venue space. You invite these first.
Tier 2 – This group you would like to invite if there is budget and space. You hold off on these invitations until you see RSVPs from Tier 1.
Tier 3 – This group would be included if there were unlimited budget and space. These will likely not be invited to the wedding but could be invited to showers and other parties (Yes that is socially acceptable these days).
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