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The Who’s Who of Guest Lists-Tips

1. Be realistic about your guest list count

If you think crunching the numbers isn’t the most glamorous part of wedding planning, then you are definitely correct, but there is a figure you really can’t avoid: your guest list count. The guest list takes into account several big hurdles including venue size and catering. Your budget is another main factors that should play into this decision! As we all know each guest adds to the number of plates your caterer will prepare, favors, chair & table rentals, decor and how much cake you’ll need.

In my previous blog post I gave the major tip prior to finding your venue obtain a guest list count, this is the number of people you think you may want to attend. We start dwindling this number down as this list goes on! You should choose a number that’s within your venue’s capacity and you won’t be holding your breath every time you open an RSVP. It’s much better to keep your number on the conservative side. If there’s room in the budget or you end up having more space than you thought you would, add later on.

2. Create Cut Down Rules (and follow them)

This statement is so true, often times I come across people who just don’t know how or where to start with cutting the list down after they have come up with the count. I tell them to use the below tips as a starting point and stick to it. Otherwise you will find yourself in an uncompromising guest list situation. I promise it’ll be easier in the long run and you’ll avoid potential drama down the line. Here are a few common ones:

Tip 1: If neither of you has spoken to or met them or heard their name before, don’t invite them.(This is an issue with parents I will say that now) Tip 2: Not crazy about inviting children to your party? Don’t feel bad about having an adults-only wedding. (I will say this is a very unpopular one) Tip 3: If neither of you has spoken to them in three years and they’re not related to you, don’t invite them. Tip 4: If there’s anyone who’s on the list because you feel guilty about leaving them off (maybe because you were invited to their wedding or they’re friends with lots of people who are invited), don’t invite them.

Tip 5: If they didn’t even know you were getting married until you told them, don’t invite them.

Tip: I have heard just about every guest list horror story, and through experience, I know the only way to make this process go smoothly is to be as fair as possible when you’re making edits. It’ll be difficult at first, but for each person you take off your in-laws’ or parents’ list, take one off your own as well.

3. Decide how to divide the guest list early on

First off, I won’t tiptoe around the truth: Making a guest list can get messy, especially if one or both sets of parents are involved in the planning or contributing financially. That’s why you should be concise about your expectations before you accept help from them. Make sure you are communicating with all parties involved, that will help any issues that may arise. Even if you’re paying for the wedding yourselves, it’s a good idea to get the parents together and talk about the guest list. Once you’ve started putting down deposits with someone else’s money, you’re in a bind, whereas before you start spending, you can still negotiate or in some cases respectfully decline help, however I think these tips will keep everyone happy!

Tip:In a traditional fashion the couple gets half the guest list, and each set of parents gets a quarter of the guest list. So if you’re planning to invite 100 people, you’d get 50 guests, your parents would get 25 and your fiancé’s parents would also get 25. The most drama-free approach is to split the list evenly three ways. This is not always the case and there are exceptions to this idea!

4. Create your ideal dream list

To start building your list, create a spreadsheet or use a wedding list system, I recommend writing down the names of everyone you could ever imagine attending your wedding, from old sorority friends, to that hilarious Uncle you never knew you had, until that family reunion where you met them once lol. For this part alone, take your budget and venue out of the equation. You’ll have to do some trimming later on, but for now, think on a larger scale.

Tip: If you’re tempted to invite even more people on a whim later, go back to this list as a reality check. If they were never on your dream list, are they really crucial now?

5. A-list and a B-list Tips

This is a little secret I have used with weddings, having two lists is how you’ll be able to invite the most people without raising your budget or having to find a larger venue. For example: Your A-list consists of the people you couldn’t dream of having your wedding without their attendance. They’ll receive your first round of invitations. Your B-list is made up of guests you really want to be there, but if they didn’t make the A-list then this is where they will go, so don’t put just anyone on it. If you start getting RSVPs and it turns out you have enough “regrets,” then start sending invites to your B-list (in order of importance).

Tip: Send your A-list invites 10-12 weeks in advance (a little earlier than usual), which will give you time to send invites to your B-list 6-8 weeks before your wedding. Also when sending response cards ensure the RSVP dates are concurrent with the invites, you wouldn’t want a B list invite to receive an RSVP that has passed the due date!

6. Include names of only invited guest/guests for RSVPs

This is a big thing, I know what happens, you send out the invitations and then all of a sudden your invite of 2 turns into 4 RSVPs! Yours wouldn’t be the first wedding where a guest slips in two (or three or four) names, even though the invitation was made out to one person. The way to avoid this problem is to print the guests’ names on your RSVP cards, this way it is near impossible for a forced invites, this also is a more formal approach and will be seen as such!

Tip: If for some reason you still get an extra write-in, it could just be that the guest doesn’t know the protocol. Politely call and let them in on what’s happening: You’d love to have everyone, but budget and space just won’t allow it.

7. Don’t let the parents (yours and your in-laws) dictate to a failure.

In these situations you must have hard boundaries, this in itself is difficult because you don’t want to disappoint anyone but you have to stand firm. When it comes down to it, this is your wedding. If budget is the issue, then the solution could be as simple as having whoever wants more guests chip in extra to pay for the overflow. In many cases, the venue or space caps the guest list. If your mom wants to invite every co-worker at her job, (which I know can happen). First compromise using the A-list B-list method, that usually works. If this doe not work then that means you will need to start having those hard conversations, if that doesn’t work, don’t waiver. It won’t be easy, but bend now and you’re going to end up with even more requests down the line.

Tip: I recommend having any hard conversations face to face versus text messaging! You want to make sure you’re sending the right signals, and when there are emotions involved, things can get misconstrued! You want your point of view to be heard and understood.

8. No last-minute add-ons.

This can create an added budget and issue with your guest list, all the things you have done above to ensure the easiest list set and then BOOM! Sometimes people automatically assume they are invited and its to no fault of their own, unless you have had to plan and pay for a wedding yourself, it doesn’t seem unfeasible to be “auto-added”. Just make sure you steer clear of wedding specifics while you’re still in the early planning stages.

Tip: Prepare yourself for potentially awkward conversations by coming up with a polite but firm response that can’t be misinterpreted. Something along the lines of, “Of course we’d love to invite everyone, but unfortunately, with the venue space and our budget, we aren’t able to.” Most people will understand and if they don’t, well they shouldn’t have been on the list to begin with!

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