Seven Ways to Cut The Guest List

September 18, 2018

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There are so many things to consider when planning a wedding.  It’s pretty universal that one of the largest pain points when planning an event of this magnitude is the guest count. 

You would love to invite everyone you have ever shared part of your lives with.  Your college roommates, your friends from back home, your family, your parents friends, work colleagues, the list goes on.  These are all very important people in your lives, no doubt about it.  However, something has got to give.  There are budget restrictions, venue capacity issues, and quite frankly, even if all of those people can attend, you won’t get to spend any quality time with them.  There will be lots of people biding for your attention and it’s doubtful that you will get to everyone.

If you are struggling to reduce your guest count, here are some tips on how to make the process a bit easier.

1. Blame it on the Venue:  If you have found your dream venue but it is either smaller than you had hoped, or more expensive.  If this is the case it’s time to start whittling down your guest list.  If your venue can only hold 120 guests that is your max number.   If your venue can hold your guest count, but they require that you use certain caterers find out the per person cost. This will easily let you know how many people you can actually afford to host.  

2.  Ask your parents to not invite everyone they have ever known.  Talk to your parents.  Explain to them that that although you appreciate their input, and possibly their financial support, that you don’t want to dilute your guest experience.  The more people you invite, without increasing the budget, means that each person’s experience is now reduced.  Spend time curating a great experience for those people you know and who are important in your lives.  Your parents co-workers and those you have never met before will understand. 

3.  Say no to kids.  My husband and I had two children together before we got married, and we still did not allow kids at our wedding.  We had our children at our ceremony and then sent them back to the hotel suite with a nanny.   We covered the expense of the nanny and let our guests know that there was childcare available if they would like to take advantage of that.  Not only will this help reduce your guest count as some parents aren’t comfortable leaving their children with babysitters, but it will also allow the other guests to have an adult only evening.  Weddings are typically very formal events and it’s not a place where young children will have a good time.  Most parents will appreciate an excuse for an adult only night out, and those guests who don’t have children, or whose kids are grown, will also appreciate not being surrounded with young children.

4. Set Cutting Rules (and Stick to Them)  If you have people on your list because you feel obligated to invite them, or because they are friends with several of your guests but not really you as a couple, you can move them to your B list.   You don’t ‘owe” anyone an invitation to your wedding.  When your wedding day experience is on the line it’s ok to be pretty ruthless when cutting your list.

5. Follow the one year rule.  Have you spoken or seen this person in a year? No matter how close you once were in the past, chances are if you’ve not had contact in the last year then that isn’t likely to change after the big day. This doesn’t apply to office relationships.  Of course you see them everyday, but are you friends out of the workspace?  

6. Only invite people who will be part of your future.  You go through several seasons throughout your life, and marriage is one of them.  Once you are married, being able to chat about the newest dating app, and how horrible the dating scene is gets harder and harder.  The more distance you put between your single life and your married life the more friends you will grow apart from. If there is a possibility that you will be relocating after your wedding, will these people still be a part of your future?  You don’t want to look back at your wedding photos 5, 10, 15 years from now and not remember who those people in your photos are. 

7. Consider if this person will be a positive or negative addition to you wedding.  I have done weddings for many years now and although rare, there have been people who can ruin an event with the quickness.  Even if this person is your cousin, or college roommate, if they are going to embarrass you or cause a scene, it might be best if they aren’t invited.

One more thing to keep in mind is the cost of invitations.  Invitation suites and postage can be one of those line items that surprise couples with how expensive they actually are.  If you are mailing out invitations knowing, or hoping, that the guest isn’t going to be able to come consider what that is going to cost.  Is it worth it to chip away at the budget to send them an invitation even if you know they aren’t going to come?  


Photo: Shannon Moffit Photography


As always, I would love to chat.


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