Trying to work out how to put together a wedding guest list that makes everyone happy?

In fact, making a list that works for you and your partner should be simple: write down everyone who you want to be with you on your wedding day, and disregard the rest. Sounds easy, right? But somehow, in practice, things are never quite this straightforward. 

Here’s everything you need to know about building your wedding guest list from start to finish, including who to invite and who to say ‘sorry, you’re not invited’ to, and plenty of tips  to keep everyone happy along the way.

Putting together your wedding guest list is one of the first jobs on your wedding checklist, usually before you’ve even thought about booking a venue. You’ll need to know rough numbers, you see, to start thinking about your budget and looking for a venue that’s the right size.

Initially, it seems fun – what could be bad about the thought of everyone you love joining you to celebrate your big day? But phrases like ‘well, we did go to their wedding’ and ‘she’ll be so upset if I don’t ask him’ start creeping into the conversation and, all too soon, things descend into chaos.

If this sounds like you right now, know this: you are not alone, and other couples have faced the same dilemmas for decades. Don’t know where to start? Don’t panic, here you have some tips you can consider.

Photo by @Bridal Moments
  1. Write a List of Everyone You’d Even Consider Inviting

Sometimes, you have to go big to get smaller. Sit down with your partner and compile a list of every single person who you would invite to your wedding if money and space were infinite – spreadsheet, pen and paper, however it makes sense to you most.

Start with immediate family and really close friends and work outwards, including colleagues, school mates and distant relatives, down to fair-weather acquaintances, their partners, children, the lot. This is your master list; but now it’s time to start trimming it down.

  1. Separate Out Your Top Tier Guests

Call them whatever you want to: the A-list, the non-negotiables, the must-haves. However you shape it, the message is the same: you simply wouldn’t get married without these people there. You know who they are. Highlight them somehow and know that no matter how the list goes from here, they stay very firmly on it, no exceptions. Everyone else gets an invite if space and budget allows – and don’t be afraid to allocate some as evening guests only.

  1. Work Out How Many Guests You Can Realistically Afford

Deciding on a venue and a guest list go hand in hand – you can’t fully figure out the latter if the vision for the former isn’t set. Even if you don’t have an exact location locked down, you probably know what kind of day you want – will you be at a big country house, a cosy barn, on the beach? How many people can your dream setting feasibly hold? Can your budget stretch to that many?

If you’re having an intimate ceremony or a destination wedding, maybe the answer to that question is just the A-list, and that’s okay – it’s your day, and your choice. Where possible, start mentioning to those who might think they’re getting an invite that your wedding will a very small one as early as possible, before their expectations get out of hand.

Try not to feel guilty – remember that every guest is an extra chair, dinner, slice of cake and favour that you’ll have to pay for. To soften the blow, you could arrange a more relaxed dinner or a low-key party after the main event so that everyone who wants to celebrate with you gets the chance – if you haven’t had enough of wedding planning yet.

Photo by @Bridal Moments
  1. Consider Your Parents’ Input

Traditionally, both sets of parents get a say on who is invited to a wedding – particularly if they are contributing to the wedding fund. It goes without saying that when it comes down to it, it’s your decision and not theirs, but to avoid unnecessary friction, it usually makes sense to loop mum and dad in early, and certainly before you consider posting any save the dates.

The best way to approach the conversation is to be upfront: once you and your partner are in agreement, show the parents the plan, and let them air any concerns in a respectful way. It may be that you can resolve them between you, or you’ve already thought of the same issue but worked it out yourselves. Alternatively, some couples reserve a portion of their guest lists for their parents to allocate themselves – they can ask whoever they like, as long as you all get on, but it’s a set number of seats that works for your venue and budget, and no more.

  1. Be Fair With Family

If four of your cousins are coming, the fifth will probably be upset if they’re not, and if your partner’s great grandma gets a front-row seat for the vows, yours might be miffed to have been dropped altogether. It’s not obligatory (or indeed, fool proof), but one effective way to avoid hurt feelings is to ensure you treat members of different families in the same way. Even if they’re disappointed, they’re much more likely to understand an all or nothing approach – ‘sadly we haven’t had space to invite any of the aunts and uncles’ – than an uncomfortable explanation of how you’re closer to one side of the family than the other.

  1. Stagger Your Invites

Your first draft of the ‘final’ list probably won’t actually be final. Etiquette dictates that you should send your wedding invitations at least eight weeks in advance (or ten, if your ceremony is taking place out of town and guests will need to travel). When you start posting them and the RSVPs start trickling in, you will probably get a handful of regretful nos.

This doesn’t mean you’ve been snubbed, it means life got in the way somehow – and the silver lining is that you now have space to ask the people you would have loved to have included if you’d had room the first time around. Consult your original master list and work with your partner to fill these spots – just be sure to send this next round of invites ASAP, because no one wants to feel like a second thought.

  1. Remember How You Feel When You Aren’t Invited to a Wedding

This point is mainly to help you maintain a healthy perspective during what can be one of the most stressful times of your life. If you don’t get an invite to someone else’s wedding, how does it affect you, and for how long? Even if you think you’re definitely on the list, you might be a bit let down for a day or two, but you’d do your best to understand and move on, and it’s very likely your potential attendees will do the same.

A wedding is one day, and anyone who truly cares about you will be there for you well after it takes place, whatever you decide. Take a deep breath, a step back and remember: it will all work out in the end.

Photo by @Bridal Moments

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