Guest lists can be tricky but they don’t need to be. I put together a list of the 6 worst guest list mistakes and how to avoid them. I frequently get asked about wedding etiquette when creating a rough draft of “the list”. Of course, one key resource would be Emily Post’s Dos and Don’ts of wedding invitations. The Huffpost has also created an essential guest list guide. I am going to use these two sources as references for 6 wedding guest list tips. Please keep in mind, these are my own opinions. Essentially, that is all weddings are. People pushing their opinions around. Some people have had years of experience (planners, coordinators, photographers, etc) who have seen what works. Other people are moms, aunts, grandmas who got married 30 years ago and only remember what they did. Or think they remember. On the other hand, they might be pushing an agenda because they are financially contributing. None of which is okay.
Several things can skyrocket the overall cost of a wedding. Two of these things include the wedding date (holidays or holiday weekends) and the number of people invited. Here are some of my opinions on how to narrow down the guest list by avoiding the worst guest list mistakes!
If you only talk to this person once a year, they might not be an ideal guest. It shows that you might not have a strong relationship with this person and in turn, they might feel obligated to attend. A lose-lose for both of you. If you have to choose between your second cousin once removed that you see at Christmas and a college friend, think about who you will have more fun with.
Ask yourself the question, “if it were not for my job, would I be friends with this person?” Do not feel obligated to invite all of your coworkers! On the flip side, your boss might not normally socialize with employees and it would make an awkward “does my boss, not like me?” conversation. If you have weekly cocktails after work with a few of your colleagues, feel free to invite them. However, if you have no social interaction outside of the workplace, do not invite these people. Save those few coveted spots for friends with whom you do normally go out and socialize.
Your family should be able to invite a handful of their friends. It is a very special day for them as well to share their joy with a few of their closest friends. However, when your family is dictating more and more of the guest list, it is time to put the brakes on. Have the conversation upfront and prior to the creation of the guest list. If your parents are contributing financially, they may feel entitled to sway the guest list to more of their friends. This is a tricky topic and one I will go into in more depth later. However, discuss with your family how many guests they can have. It is YOUR wedding. Not a reenactment of their special day. They had their turn, and now, it’s your turn. One easy compromise might be to allow them to have two tables. One table for the bride’s parents’ friends and one table for the groom’s parents. The rest of the guest list can be your friends and family!
Children. I have a love/hate relationship with children at weddings. My number 1 worst guest list mistake! Often, parents use a wedding as an excuse to “completely forget they have children” and let their kids run wild. This is not only completely rude to the bride and groom but a huge safety issue. Kids are just that. Kids. They can get into mischief, or worse, get hurt without proper supervision. One easy way to eliminate guests, who you don’t really want to invite, is to say “no children”. Either they will have to hire a babysitter (yay!) or decide not to attend the wedding (double yay!). You are providing guests essentially a fun, and free night of food and drinks. The atmosphere might simply not be child-appropriate. Kids are not required to attend every event adults attend. There are polite ways to kindly ask children not to attend. I can talk more about the proper ways to include children later!
Another way to increase your guest list is by allowing every guest a plus one. If your friend has a new “flavor of the week” you are not obligated to include them. Each person attending the wedding (plus ones included) should be a known guest. In my opinion, gone are the days of “no ring, no bring”. That is an outdated piece of advice. People are waiting longer to get married or might never get married but have a domestic partner. If either one of you has not met the “plus one” then you might want to save that spot for a guest who you do know. It can be super awkward to meet the flavor of the week at your wedding. Save that for beer and pizza another night.
Easy answer. No! You should not have a backup list. This usually never ends well, and the people on the backup list always end up finding out. Have the hard conversations, decide how many guests you can afford to invite and stick to that number. It is kind of a slap in the face to the people who are on the backup list. It can almost imply that you do not like them enough to be automatically included. You are only inviting them because people you like more couldn’t attend. Conversely, do not let extended family members try and pressure you into including more. Unless they are willing to foot the bill for the extra guests they want to be invited you need to stick to your guns and include people who you both truly want there.
While I feel this should be an easy answer, (worst guest list mistake!) modern times have made this a grey area. Relationships come and go and you might still be friends with someone you had a romantic relationship with PRIOR to meeting your spouse. If the relationship was a long time ago and you and your soon-to-be spouse are BOTH friends with this person, then feel free to invite them! If one partner is trying to invite an ex, it really leads to a larger conversation. Perhaps, your wedding is not the best place to surround yourself with old flames.
The next and often final step in the wedding guest list creation is the invitation timeline. The how, when and why of creating a wedding invitation suite. Feel free to check it out and put into context all of the necessary paper goods for your invitation suite. In the end, it is your special day. Do not feel pressure to cave to each whim of your family. At the end of the day, no one says that a large, lavish wedding is mandatory. If the guest list is causing too many issues, you always have the option to elope!
Planning: Ashley Nicole Events
Photography: Being Joy Photography
Venue: Fairlie Chicago
Floral/Design: XO Design Co
Hair: Marifel Westa
Makeup: AG Skin Atelier
Invitations: Emery Ann Design
Bride: Delilah Owens
Bridal Gown: Maggie Sottero provided by The Crystal Bride
Groom: Connor Gray
Suit: Formally Modern