How to Conquer the Stress of Guest Lists in 4 Steps
Starts With Event Type
If you already have a venue in mind, check with them about capacity. If it’s a destination wedding, you might also need to consider accommodations. Think about the sort of wedding you want – is it a big blowout with hundreds of people, a medium sized bash, or an intimate affair with just your nearest and dearest.
- Private/Destination – with immediate family and a few of your closest friends, under 50.
- Intimate – a small affair with around 50 – 75.
- Bash – average with around 75 – 100.
- Blowout – a large event with 150+
Then Your Budget Per Head Count
Many of the costs for a wedding are determined by the head, so figure out how many “heads” you can afford. Did you know that in California the average wedding can cost upwards of $30,000+ with 136 guests?
That’s $220 per head! Here is a quick overview of how your budget should be divided.
- Ceremony/Reception 60%
- Bridal Party 14%
- Photo/Video 18%
- Stationery/Gifts/Favors 8-12%
Stress Less Guest Lists Step One: Draw the Line
Now that you have your max head count here are a few areas you need to discuss before drawing the line for your guest list:
Will you have children at the wedding?
If yes, include all children, only children over a certain age or just those in the wedding party?
Who can invite a plus ones?
I’d recommend including partners where the couple is married, engaged or in an otherwise long-term relationship, but depending on your age and your friends’ circumstances, you might set a different rule.
Are exes invited?
The etiquette is generally: hell no, but of course you may have a drama-free relationship with an ex, especially if children are involved. I’d advise giving your bride or groom-to-be a veto here; basically, if they’re uncomfortable, don’t invite them.
Whatever your rules are, there is a lot less room for hurt feelings if you apply them across the board.
Stress Less Guest Lists Step Two: Dream Big
Write down everyone you can possibly think of that you might want at your wedding, if numbers and budget weren’t an issue. Go through your contacts, think back to the friends you have from different times in your life, including colleagues and distant relatives. This will ensure that you don’t forget anyone. Later, if you suddenly start wavering over an acquaintance, go back and consult this list. If someone wasn’t on it, they definitely shouldn’t make the final cut.
Stress Less Guest Lists Step Three: Divide & Conquer
Both you and your fiancé will want to invite important family and friends. On top of that both sets of parents will have their ideas on who should be invited. One way to fairly decide would be to divide the list up. Start by dividing the list into groups: immediate family, extended family, close friends, co-workers. Then, place each group in order of priority. For example, it may be more important to you to invite close friends than extended family.
Once your priorities are established and you have set some rules, divide the guest count among each family/group.
- 1/3 bride guests | 1/3 groom guests | 1/3 mutual friends
- 1/4 bride guests | 1/4 groom guests | 1/4 bride’s parents’ guests | 1/4 groom’s parents’
- 1/2 bride & groom guests | 1/4 bride’s parents’ guests | 1/4 groom’s parents’ guests
Stress Less Guest Lists Step Four: Make Deeper Cuts
You may be able to eliminate whole categories (for example, if you make a blanket rule ‘no coworkers’, that’s a whole group cut, and they’re sure to understand if you say you’re keeping it to friends and family only). If not, remember your priorities.
Then when it comes to the crunch on individuals, ask yourself:
- Have I spent time with them in the last year?
- For coworkers, have you ever spent time together outside of work?
- Has your fiancé ever met this person?
- Would or did this person invite you to their own wedding?
- Would your wedding be the same without them?
- Are they likely to be in your lives going forward?