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Wedding Guest Lists | Planning Tips

How do I narrow down my guest list?

The wedding guest list is a funny thing. Every wedding planning checklist has this task as one of the first things to decide on and yet the ‘finalization” is much later. First things first, it is paramount to have in your mind or in contract the limitations of space for your event, the food budget, and who is paying. These three limbs of wedding planning don’t always talk to each other and it may lead to a lot of conflict and hurt feelings if not addressed early on.

Once you have a sense of money, space and expectations of the key persons, there are a few approaches you could take. One approach is to collect the people they want to invite (when they realize each name is going to cost $50 and just because they write down a name doesn’t mean they are for sure invited) and then run the numbers. Working backwards it may be as simple as having to remove 30 names and being able to do that easily with or without a lot of conversation and negotiation.

Another approach is to write out all the obvious people from all sides – usually family and some key friends. Then see what is left and start adding slowly from all the categories for each person until the numbers work out. This is a careful dance to ensure nobody feels slighted but is in some ways a very logical way to go about things since we can’t control how many people are in our families and nobody wants to feel slighted because either they have the large family or the spouse-to be comes from a tiny family and therefore gets to invite a ton of non-family friends.

Lastly, don’t forget to COMMUNICATE the guest list! You could inadvertently end up with much drama when invitations are ordered, being sent, and even weeks before the wedding when couples learn that grandma has gone ahead and invited her 10 neighbours. Once the guest list is established every key person needs to be made aware of the finality of the guest list, given their list of people they are inviting as a reminder and confirmation, and, if necessary, reminded there is no wiggle room, financially or logistically with space, to invite anyone new, no matter how important they are or pressured they feel socially. This time, early in the planning, is when its best to hash out the emotions and assumptions that are creating any tensions. The result may be someone increases their financial contribution, or the wedding location is changed to accommodate a different number of guests.

Some advise to invite 10-20% more people than you want because not everyone can make it. This is where you have to play out the best and worst case scenarios and plan the best approach. Nobody wants an empty ballroom because so many people couldn’t make it and nobody wants to be elbow to elbow in a small space. Consider sending out Save-the-Dates to notify guests as early as possible.

What is your approach and how is it working for you? Let us know!

Happy Planning,

Joyce & Samantha


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