In today’s episode, I’m giving you my honest opinion on who you should and SHOULD NOT include on your wedding guest list.
As a warning, this episode might annoy or irritate some people, and you could strongly disagree. And that’s totally fine.
But I want to make this a safe space where you know I’m going to be candid with you, and not just tell you what you want to hear, even if it’s an unpopular opinion.
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EPISODE 40 HIGHLIGHTS: How to Put Together Your Wedding Guest List
To fast-forward to a specific part of the podcast episode on putting together your wedding guest list, check out the timestamps below:
- Why you might want or need to trim your wedding guest list [06:59]
- 1. Relatives [10:55]
- 2. Friends [13:34]
- 3. Trades [15:54]
- 4. The Office [18:38]
- 5. The +1 [21:59]
- 6. Children [25:53]
- 7. The Former Friend [29:39]
- Conclusion [31:50]
Links Mentioned in the Episode
- Guest List Template
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- @AskthePlannerPodcast on Instagram
- Book a 90-minute Clarity Call to get wedding planning help specific to your unique situation
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And if you prefer to read how to put together your wedding guest list, here's the summary of the podcast episode!
Why It's Important to Think About Your Wedding Guest List
Today’s I will be sharing with you my tips for how to trim your guest list.
First, let’s talk about why you might want or need to trim your wedding guest list.
A lot of times couples initially put their guest list together and after they’ve combined their list with their parents’ lists, they’re at 250-300 or more guests. Now, I know the saying is, the more the merrier, but at some point, you’re going to have to draw the line and not invite everyone you would like to for a couple of reasons:
- Your venue can’t accommodate 300 guests
- It’s hard to spend quality time with 300 people. Yes, you’ll have more time to do so if you’re having a weekend affair that goes from Friday to Sunday, but it can still be overwhelming to a lot of couples.
- Your budget can’t fit 300 guests. Once you figure out all the costs, you realize each additional guest costs you between $250-$500 when you factor in the meal, tables, chairs, flowers, favors, etc.
How I Put Together My Wedding Guest List 12 Years Ago
When I got married, we chose a smaller venue so we could have a more intimate wedding (108 guests total), but refining the list was really challenging.
I invited my current boss at the time whom I thought I was pretty close to. I ended up leaving that position soon after we became engaged. She came to my wedding, but I wondered if she felt that attending my wedding was a burden or an unwanted obligation. To this day, I still wonder if I should have saved that seat for someone else. But hindsight is 20/20 so oh well.
Trimming the wedding guest list to a number that works for both of you (and perhaps your parents) is an unhappy chore but all engaged couples must do it.
So in today’s episode, I'm going to help you decide who you should invite and who you can let go of without feeling guilt or remorse. We’re going through the 7 different categories of guests and talking about who should make the cut and who should not.
My one BIG rule, which is going to apply to all of these categories, is to draw a line and BE CONSISTENT. When you make exceptions for one person or there’s a gray area, that’s when feelings can get hurt.
But I promise that if you’re consistent and you listen to this episode, you will feel better cutting down your guest list so that at your wedding, you can spend time with the people that you care about most.
Okay, the first category we’re talking about today is your relatives. The size of your wedding determines how far out the family tree you venture.
Immediate family is almost always a given. But for cousins and distant relatives, I recommend you pick a specific degree that you’ll go out to and stick to it. For example, invite first cousins only; no second cousins.
It is easier to feel confident in your choices if you are consistent where you draw the line.
The only time you can bend this rule is when you are talking about both your families. If you invite your second cousins, it doesn't mean your partner needs to if they never see them but you see yours every year.
Consider your individual family situations instead of comparing your family and your partner's.
Feeling comfortable you invited just enough people will help you trim your guest list to a manageable number.
When we were putting together our guest list, my husband comes from a really big family and they have a family reunion every summer with 80-90 people. So I was going to be seeing these people all the time and at least once a year. My family is also big, but we’re much more spread out and many live in the Philippines. A lot of my second cousins I rarely see, so I thought it was important to invite his first and second cousins, but not so much my second cousins.
However, because our venue was smaller, we didn’t invite the children of the second cousins because we just couldn’t fit them all.
Every family situation is different, but family is probably going to be the one that’s most difficult, so think about it carefully.
Our next category is friends.
Common questions couples ask are, “Do I need to invite all his [insert general friend group here]? He hasn't seen them in years.” This can be his college friends, his high school friends, his soccer friends, whatever it is.
For friends, a common rule some people go by is to ask yourself, “Have we had dinner with this person in the last year? Can we see ourselves going out to dinner with them in the year after our wedding? Are we certain we will be close in FIVE years?”
If it’s going to be awkward that you didn’t invite them and you’re going to see them all the time, consider putting them on the list.
If you were close before but have lost touch with this friend, put them on your B list. Now could also be the time that you start to distance yourself from people that you don’t see being friends with forever and ever.
When you’re putting together your list, focus on the quality of time you’d like to have with your guests, not the number of guests.
Our next category of people on your wedding guest list is the “trades.”
These are the people you feel obligated to invite to your wedding because they invited you to theirs.
For this, see Rule #2 that I just talked about in the Friends category. If you received an invite to their wedding, it doesn't mean you have to invite them to yours!
I know this can be hard to hear. But this is your wedding. Your priorities and resources are different. The vibe of your wedding is different.
If the person or couple in question gets upset they weren't invited to your wedding because they invited you to theirs, they weren’t as good of a friend as you thought. Having just gone through the whole wedding planning process themselves, they will be the first to understand how stressful it is to put together the guest list and they will likely be very understanding.
The one caveat to this “trades” category, which also applies to the “friends” category or those people who are mutual friends of people that are invited.
Make sure your friends who ARE invited are aware of the situation and know who isn't invited.
In these kinds of situations, it’s best to spare both parties awkward conversations down the road if they know if someone is or isn’t invited.
And if you’re worried that they might talk, it wouldn’t hurt to have a conversation with the friend that’s not being invited to say, Hey. We had to make some really tough choices and unfortunately, we’re not able to invite you to our wedding. I would still love to celebrate with you at a different time though if you’re up to grabbing dinner or drinks with us!
That way it’s out in the open, it’s not like a dirty secret, and people will be very appreciative of the fact that you took time out to call attention to the situation and address it.
4) The Office
Our next category is the office co-workers! This may be a lot easier during a pandemic when a lot of people are working from home or you’re seeing your co-workers a lot less.
However, it should still be addressed. Like I mentioned already today, it’s important to be consistent when it comes to inviting coworkers.
Either invite your whole department or no one at all. If you have that one person that’s kinda nosy and is always in everyone’s business, just try not to share too much so they don’t get super excited and emotionally invested in your wedding.
The exception is if you hang out with a coworker outside of work. If you go to brunch or dinner with this friend, then they're a friend and the coworker rule does not apply. For example, if you have 1 or 2 besties that everyone knows you’re definitely going to invite because you guys are connected at the hip, just invite them, but limit your discussion about the wedding at work so coworkers don't feel invested.
The sticky part about this is whether to invite your boss. If your boss is someone you work with on a daily basis and see often, they might feel slighted if you do not invite them if they hear you’re inviting a ton of people from work.
However, if you’re planning a more intimate affair and this is well-known among your colleagues, your boss will appreciate the pass so they don't have to make small talk all night with someone they just met. That’s also not fun for your guests, too.
5) The +1
Our next category is the +1.
This is often the first place where couples go when they want to shorten the guest list. Whether to allow unmarried guests to bring a guest is an issue most couples agonize over. On one hand, you don't want to risk your friend or family member feels left out if they only know you and (maybe) your fiancé. However, writing “and guest” feels a bit impersonal, not to mention you could be spending a lot of money on a stranger you’ll never see again.
In this case, my “stick with your line” rule applies again. Make sure you are consistent with who receives a plus-one and who does not. If you choose not to give most guests a plus-one, give them special attention during seating. Seat them with someone that will engage with them and make them feel welcome.
However, I do strongly believe that if a friend or relative is engaged or they have a long-term or live-in partner, you should invite them.
Be careful who you give a plus one and who you don’t and be consistent whatever you do. Also, if your guest doesn’t know anyone else at the wedding, the kind thing would be to give them a plus one. Maybe they won’t bring a date but as the host, you should also want your guests to have a good time, too.
Our next category is Children. Ohhh the children. It's pretty common to have a kid-free wedding for a number of reasons. Especially during this pandemic / post-pandemic world, the question of bringing children is a hot topic that’s often debated among couples getting married.
Yes, it’s obvious that a great way to trim your guest list is to exclude the children. Like I mentioned earlier, we invited second cousins but not their children.
If you do not want children at your wedding, make sure your invitation clearly indicates who you are inviting. For example, only the children in the wedding party, or children over 13 or only adults over 18 and babies under 6 months. However, many couples have more than one child and they will have a hard time separating them if one is invited and one isn’t. So keep this in mind.
After you mail the invitations, call couples with children so there are no surprises or misunderstandings. Say something like, “We mailed our invitations and hope you can join us. We want you to be with us, so I wanted you to have ample time to arrange for a sitter.” If guests are not local, provide a list of babysitters so it's easier for your guests to attend. The gesture will go a long way.
On a personal note, my husband and I love any excuse to go out without our children. You all know I love my kids but an adults-only night is always welcome. Luckily, my in-laws live 5 minutes away and our kids are at the age where weekends with the grandparents are a treat. Unfortunately, not all couples are as fortunate as we are. So keep that in mind.
7) The Former Friend
Our last and final category is the former friend.
What happens if you send a save-the-date to someone and you have a falling out? It's a pretty big deal to tell someone about your wedding and then change your mind. Before you uninvite them, consider your friendship and how you want it to move forward.
Also, think about the message you want to send. If you don't invite them, you are saying, “Peace out. Friendship over.” If you do invite them, you are taking the higher road and leaving the decision to them. Plus you’re leaving the door open to a possible reconciliation. Of course, it’s up to you if you want that or not.
In conclusion, I want to remind you that your wedding is a very important day.
I want to make sure you spend it with the people you care for and want to connect with. If you were on the fence about inviting someone, I hope this gives you clarity and takes away the guilt from enjoying your wedding, whatever size it is.
Make some rules about who you invite and don’t invite and stick to them. Be consistent with who receives a plus-one, or which kids may attend.
If you need help organizing your guest list, get a free copy of my Guest List Template at verveeventco.com/guestlist.
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