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Your Wedding Guest Lists

The guest list affects many of the wedding decisions the engaged couple will make, including the selections for wedding stationery. So, before any of the invitations, stationery, and so on can be purchased, you both have to set the guest list and determine the total number of guests. We'll walk you through the process. And remember, you can click on the links for worksheets to help you with each step.

The Guest List

Your guest list generally drives other decisions, so it's often smart to write the list sooner rather than later. Two of the earliest concerns dependent on final guest count are the total budget and the invitation requirements.

The guest count has a trickle-down effect on just about all matters related to the wedding. If your list is extremely long, you both may want to ask only a handful of close friends and family to the ceremony and invite everyone to the reception. The size of the guest list can also affect the mood and tone of the day, as well as the size of your wedding party.

There are three steps to making a guest list:

  1. Do first things first: Some couplels like to set a guest count first and then set the budget accordingly. This is appropriate if they know upfront that they'll have a generous budget. Other couples like to set the budget and then determine how many guests can be invited. This is appropriate if they think funds will be tight.
  2. Divide the list by five: Divvy up the guest list between five categories: the bride's list; the groom's list; the couple's list of common friends; the groom's parents' list; and the bride's parents' list. (Sometimes it's easiest to allocate all family guests to the respective parents.)
  3. Whittle: Now begin removing names until you both hit your mark.

When it comes to the guest list, you both are likely to have some sticky situations. Remember, this is your party; within reason, the guest list is the bride's and groom's decision. But if you both find yourself growing weary or confused, here are a few hints:

  • If you both haven't seen or spoken to someone in over a year, he or she can probably come off the list.
  • If you both need to make cuts, select an entire group, like all business associates or all book club members. If anyone complains, simply explain that you're planning a small wedding.
  • If you both decide against having children at the ceremony, and the Smiths respond that they are coming with all four kids, handle it tactfully and directly. Call them up and say, "I'm sorry, but we simply can't accommodate children at the wedding."
  • If there is an "ex" in the bride or groom's background (this could mean girlfriends, boyfriends, in-laws, or stepparents), ask yourselves if everyone in the extended bridal party would feel comfortable about this person being invited. If you or anyone else might feel uneasy with this guest present, then he or she should be dropped from the list.