Committed to each other, and to making your wedding day a special event, you have likely begun to assemble a short list of attendees for your event. Many couples find themselves arguing over the appropriate number of guests, or the control that parents try to have over the invitation list. You and your significant other are in complete control over the guest list, and will likely want to approach the task with a little know-how in your back pocket. Before you let emotion take over, consider the following points.
Before doing anything else with your guest list decide on your overall wedding budget. While it might seem nice to invite friends from kindergarten you haven’t seen in a decade, or family members who you know by name only, it may not be practical or feasible. Venue costs and catered food are charged on a per person basis. In addition, wedding favors and wedding party welcome bags are costly and may put a dent in your anticipated budget. Set your maximum budget for the festivities and begin your list accordingly.
Vision & Style
You and your partner likely have a vision for your wedding day. When you think of your ceremony and reception, how do you picture it? Longing for a small intimate soiree? Hoping for a family affair? Desperately longing for a large dance floor and plenty of space to cut loose? It’s your special day, so incorporate all of the elements that speak to who you and your partner are as individuals and as a couple. The key is to plan ahead for a successful event.
Venue Restrictions and Capacity
Whether you choose a traditional venue (such as a hotel or country club), a restored barn, treasured historical building, have it beachside or in the backyard under a tent, be mindful of the maximum capacity. Confirm that capacity will not change with the addition of a dance floor, live entertainment, custom decorative elements (such as an arbor) or photo booth. Adding large scale items may decrease the number of people the space can hold.
Target Guest Count
Once you know your limit for the venue or tent size, you can determine your invitee number. If you are seriously limited in capacity, you may choose to only invite immediate family and close friends. If you have more leeway then it may be appropriate to include more extended family, college roommates and co-workers. The best thing to do is for each of you to make a list of the “must-haves”, then the “nice-to-haves” and spend time paring the list down to meet your target number. Do not invite more people than you have room for based on the venue regulations or the tent size. This can backfire and leave you scrambling just weeks before the wedding.
Often, parents want input on the guest list. Unless your parents are paying for the entire wedding and reception, you will need to set some ground rules. You may decide to limit the number of guests that parents can request to a fraction of the total invited. Have a conversation with each set of parents and set the expectation. Perhaps you are only inviting people that you keep in touch with on an annual basis. Decide what is right for you as the guests of honor, and stick to the rules that will keep you on track.
This can be a difficult decision. Do you allow children at the ceremony, the reception or both? Many couples fear the potential disruption and chaos that the addition of kids may cause. Perhaps a compromise is to allow older children, twelve to eighteen years of age as an example, but exclude the younger ones as they tend to have a shorter attention span and may need more direction from parents and other adults. Keep in mind that some people may view a wedding as a family affair and take offense to the “no child” rule. Still others may simply have babysitting challenges that keep them from attending. Whatever you decide, stick to the final decision, as making even one exception to the rule will certainly upset those that were on the wrong side of that omission.
Family, Friends & Co-workers
Assuming you have already planned to include extended family, casual friends and colleagues, you will inevitably need to draw the proverbial line somewhere. Choosing those that make the cut is often harder than it seems. Unlike your decision to rule the attendance of children in or out, the rest of your guest list should be considered on a situational basis. For example, you may have a great aunt who is extremely important to you, while your significant other has 30 first-cousins that they haven’t visited in years. You may both opt to leave out the cousins and invite a set of close friends instead. Just remember, this is your special day and you will want those people who have held significant roles in your life to be present. It’s perfectly fine to trim the list to meet this need.
The addition of plus-one guests can really skew your number quickly. Make it clear from the beginning what the expectation is with add-ons. If you have invitees who have been serious with their significant other for years, or rely on an aid for mobility and transportation, then you would include their names on the invitation. A tip to ensure no write-ins are added to the return card is to have them pre-printed with the expected invitees’ names. This helps to eliminate the guess work, and allows you to track the reply card, since ultimately several guests will forget to write their names in.
Make sure when creating your guest list, that you remember it should be a collaborative effort between the two of you. The bottom line is, both you and your significant other need to feel happy and confident in those you have selected to attend. Do not make it about family politics or one-up-man ship. Instead focus on those people who have an impact on you or your significant other individually, and those that have supported you as a couple. This day is about your commitment to each other, and that is what matters most!