How to Form A Guest List

Brian Lovelace

Posted on April 25, 2020

Today we're gonna talk about your guest list. This can be a big stressor, so hopefully these tips can help you feel more at-ease for your big day. 

Many couples need help figuring out who they should or should not invite to their wedding. It can be super stressful. Don’t fear, you can use these tips to help figure out who you should invite to your wedding, and who you can leave out.

These rules absolutely do not apply to everyone, so if any of these don’t apply to you, feel free to skip over it. Now, here are few etiquette tips that you can follow if you’re having some difficulty deciding who should be invited and who shouldn’t… 

 

1. Come up with rules on who to invite, who not to invite, and where do you draw the line.

Here are some examples… 

Extended Family: If you invite one cousin, you need to invite all the cousins. If you leave one cousin out, it will make for very awkward family relations and well... it's just not worth it.

What it comes down to is that if you invite one aunt or one uncle, you need to invite them all to avoid hurt feelings later down the road. If you need to cut your guest list, you can cut elsewhere. Trust me.

 

2. Is it okay to not invite children to your wedding? Is it expected?

To keep it short, no it is not expected that you invite children to your wedding.

There are some caveats to this, especially if children are a big part of your family and if you feel like some family members or close friends that may not be able to attend if their children can’t be present.  This is something you need to keep in mind when deciding whether or not you want to invite children. 

You again need to set a boundary and keep it! If you want to enforce this rule, my suggestion would be to avoid inviting children under 12 (unless it’s a newborn), and allowing those 12 & older... A good rule of thumb here is if they can order from the children’s menu at a restaurant, they can’t come.  

If you decide to make your age cutoff 18 or 21, you are more than welcome to do that -- after all, it is your big day and you deserve to make it exactly what you want. But again, if you allow one kid then you need to allow all kids. The one exception to this rule would be your flower girl, your ring bearer, or maybe you have nieces and nephews that you want to attend, but not extend the invitation to any other children. This is okay as long as you do the following...

Be honest and frank with your friends and other family members who have children. Let them know that they are going to see a couple kids running around, they belong to your sister, and to please not feel offended for not inviting their children. Frame it apologetically, and ask for their understanding. An easy way to make them feel better is to express how you can’t wait to hang out with them all in the future.

But how do you frame this on your invitations? No matter the number of people, needing to reach out to each individual you invite to impose this rule could be very overwhelming. 

It’s simple, on your invitation just put “As much as we love children we are having an adult only event so please grab your dancing shoes and hire a babysitter, we can't wait to see you.” There are a ton more ideas on how to frame this on Pinterest. Google is your friend here; do a simple search to help find wording that works best for you and for your particular situation. 

 

3. If somebody has invited you to their wedding, do you have to invite them to yours? 

A good rule of thumb here is if their wedding was in the last 18 to 24 months, you should probably invite them to your wedding and return that favor. If the wedding was say, five years ago and you guys don't talk anymore, you don't need to invite them, especially if you don't have room on your guest.

 

4. Should everyone get a plus-one to your wedding? 

This question comes up a lot… Can I pick and choose who I want to give a plus-one to? The answer is simple, if you don't have a whole lot of room on your guest list, do not give out plus ones to every single person who could be attending your event. Instead, reserve plus ones for anyone who has been together for six months or longer. That usually means that they are living together or are in a long-term committed relationship. Also -- if they're married you can’t invite the wife and not the husband, you absolutely must invite both of them together. Another thing to consider regarding plus-ones is your bridal party. They're already doing a lot for you, so show your appreciation by letting them bring a buddy, or just someone to hang out with throughout the evening. Also, be considerate of your friends if they don’t know many other people at your wedding. Consider offering them a plus-one to help them feel more comfortable around so many strangers. It's just one friend, one extra person so it shouldn’t be a big deal. Just don't give plus ones to everybody, especially if you’re on a budget and looking to keep a concise guest list.

 

5. Co-workers, friend-groups, people from church, etc…

We’re going to be making rules again. Think about the groups of people in your life the same way you did for your extended family. If you invite three of your coworkers instead of the ten people that you work with, that can make things extremely awkward. Fortunately, there is a loophole to this rule. You can invite just those three co-workers rather than all ten if you hang out with them outside of work. You should encourage them to not share that they're attending your wedding to avoid any hurt feelings. This will make sure you have a boundary between the group as a whole and those who you’d like to invite. 

Here are a few questions that I encourage you to ask yourself as you're going over your list. 

Would you take them to dinner and pay for it? 

That's exactly what you're doing at your event, you are taking them to a very fancy dinner and probably paying close to $100 per person, so if you wouldn't pay to take them to dinner, then you probably shouldn't pay to have them at your wedding.

As always,  there are exceptions to this rule, but it's a good thing to attach a dollar sign above their head... and if it isn’t worth a hundred bucks to have them there, maybe consider cutting them.

When was the last time you saw this person? 

How long ago was the last time you hung out? 

Have you seen them in the last two years? 

If you weren't getting married would you see them in the next 12 months? 

If the answer is no to most of these questions, then you shouldn’t feel bad for not putting them on your guest list, especially if you're trying to stay within a budget. 

The last question you should ask yourself when looking at this guest list is, 

Has this person had an impact on your relationship whether directly or indirectly?

Family members were obviously present when you were being raised and had an influence on your life. Your friend groups helped form who you are today, whether you like it or not... so those people should be considered when making your guest list.

The person who introduced you to your partner should almost certainly be invited, unless you're not on speaking terms... If so, don't invite them. Many of these rules cross over into each other, so if it doesn’t feel right inviting someone, then just don’t. Stick to your gut, if they have not impacted you as a person, your fiance, or your relationship, then you do not need to invite them.

 

A-List vs B-List

A-Lists & B-Lists suck. Here’s why. First, it’s crazy difficult to manage and track people across two different categories. Unless you’re an administrative, spreadsheet genius, it’s just not worth it. Let me tell you some other reasons why it’s not worth it… 

Besides confusion with save-the-dates and invitations, people do not RSVP on-time. So if you’ve reached your A-List RSVP date and only 50% of the MOST important people who you want to attend your wedding have RSVP’d, chances are you can’t even send out your B-List invitations because you don’t know who truly can’t make it from your A-List. 

Then there’s the emotional factor. If you haven’t gotten this from this post yet, weddings and planning are emotional. If somebody on your A-List gets an invitation and asks someone on your B-list if they’ve received theirs, chances are that the B-List person is going to be very upset. A-List/B-List is just a mess. It’s 2020. Don’t do it, it’s not worth the mental and emotional stress that it causes. Send out all of your invitations in one round. This prevents hurt feelings and makes for happy family/friends/coworkers/etc.

 

Some tips on social queues and wedding planning…

I know you’re super excited to be getting married and getting everything planned out. It’s natural to talk about it constantly, but if you don’t think you’re going to invite someone, don’t talk about your wedding in front of them. It gets extremely awkward when they think that they’re going to be invited and the invitation never comes. Dangling a carrot is never cool.

 

Remember who is paying for your wedding…

If you’re not footing the bill of the event yourself, you need to be considerate of those who are paying for it. If your mother or father are paying, chances are they’re going to want to invite people. Unless they are planning to invite somebody you absolutely cannot stand, you may need to bite your tongue and keep your chin up. The least you’ll come away with is a beautiful wedding and the joy of being married to your partner.

 

Final tip -- tables!

As you’re building your guest list, try to think of people as groups. This will dramatically help you when it comes to putting together your tables later down the road, if you decide to use a seating chart. If people aren’t grouped by job or mutual friends, consider grouping people by other common interests to help spark small talk and make your guests feel more comfortable with each other.

In closing, these are not hard rules. They may apply to you, or they may not apply to you... it's just a good rule of thumb to go off of if you're struggling to figure out where to make cuts on your guest list. I hope this helps you! If it did, please consider checking out my photography and reaching out if you have any questions! 

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