How to Finalize Your Wedding Guest List

Short of eloping, there’s just no way around the difficult task of finalizing your wedding guest list. You and your beloved undoubtedly have an abundance of wonderful people in your lives with whom you want to share your special day, but even the biggest, most lavish affairs do have limits. Realistically, if your last name isn’t Kardashian you might have to trade in the massive guest list of your dreams for a more practical figure, and that means making some tough decisions.

Who you invite to your wedding sets the tone for the first moments of your marriage
Who you invite to your wedding sets the tone for the first moments of your marriage

Real Simple magazine recommends creating your guest list nine to 16 months prior to your wedding date, and because your guest list determines the size of the wedding and/or reception venue that you need to reserve, it’s important to work this out right away. Because these preparations can get overwhelming, it’s a good idea to compile and organize your guest list in a program like Excel, or one of the online guest-list-creator features on wedding planning websites like WeddingWire or The Knot.

So far we’ve only talked about you, but at this point there’s another person that needs to be part of the conversation: the person you’re going to marry! This decision is about who both of you choose to make a part of this very important occasion, and there are a few questions on which you’ll have to reach an agreement and make your needs and expectations clear to have a stress-free wedding day. Sit down individually and make your dream guest lists, and then compare them together while going over the following:

Where do your dreams and your budget meet?

First, make sure the two of you are on the same page. If one of you wants a tiny celebration of 20 guests and the other was hoping for a soiree with that many people just at the head table, a compromise is going to have to be reached. Similarly, if the guest list you’ve been making in your head for the last three years has broken 500 invites but your funds stop sharp at 250, you’ll need to re-examine your plans.

How many guests will each partner have?

Some planners simply split the number of guests exactly in half and instruct each partner to invite no more and no fewer guests for their respective sides, but this is a somewhat dated, reductive plan that fails to take a lot of things into consideration.

No couple is made up of identical people, and a 50% split of the guest list is not always the best or fairest choice. If one partner is more reserved socially or comes from a smaller family, the two of you should talk about who can fill those seats in a way that will contribute to your shared happiness– you’re not going to be splitting that 50/50, right?

Who are the absolute most important guests to include?

This should be an emotional choice. Discuss and make a list of people who are so crucial in your life that you can’t imagine getting married without them there, and you’ll probably be able to fill most of your spots right away. Don’t worry yet about who you’re “supposed to” invite– this stage is about the closest, strongest bonds of family and friendship with these special individuals.

Don't invite anyone who makes you or your partner uncomfortable
Don’t invite anyone who makes you or your partner uncomfortable

Who are the deal-breakers?

At this time, communicate honestly with one another and lay some ground rules about who absolutely cannot be in attendance if you’re to have a happy, positive wedding day experience. For example, many people find it inappropriate to invite ex-partners to the wedding, even if everyone is on generally good terms. Others may be estranged from family members due to abuse or abandonment, and they shouldn’t be pressured or questioned about inviting these people regardless of how traditionally expected it is for them to attend or participate. Some couples decide to have child-free weddings and receptions with no guests under 21 or 18. And still others simply have that rude relative or friend belonging to one partner who will be huffy about not being invited but makes the other partner upset or uncomfortable. With any luck, you’ll spend the rest of your lives protecting and considering one another above all others, and cutting out the “friend” who insulted your partner’s weight or job is as good a place to start as any.

Who else gets a vote?

This is the part where things can get complicated. If one or both sets of parents is paying completely for the wedding, they may have their own ideas about the type and size of your wedding and who they feel they’re entitled to invite. While it is a day for the two of you and not very nice on the part of controlling parents to offer a gift with so many strings attached, there unfortunately isn’t much you can do if, at the end of the day, they are footing the bill and refuse to budge. If you and your partner cannot afford to pay for the wedding you want, you can still try to pay for extra guests, a particular venue, or the cake of your dreams as a compromise with parents who won’t accommodate your wishes. If the two of you are already chipping in some along with parents, the process becomes much easier because you do have a vote in how funds are allocated. If your parents hate your venue but love your caterer, for example, keep records showing that their funds are earmarked to pay the caterer and write one of your own checks to the venue. If there’s no compromise to be found, it may be necessary to postpone your wedding and save up the money to pay for it yourselves. That’s a drastic decision, but it’s also quite freeing and often for the best; no one wants to remember their wedding day with discomfort or resentment.

Who gets the remaining invitations?

Now that you and your partner have worked together to determine who absolutely must and must not be invited, and which guests if any will receive “and guest” invitations, you may now be left with a sizeable group of people you care more or less the same amount about. To finish narrowing things down, cross off anyone to whom any of the following applies:

  • If you never see a potential guest outside of events organized by or for mutual friends . . .
  • If a potential guest knew one or both of you at the time of their own wedding and didn’t invite either . . .
  • If either of you have co-workers you’re considering inviting, ask yourselves if you’d still remain friends and see them regularly if your companies were to dissolve tomorrow. If you’re not sure . . .
  • If you aren’t sure a potential guest will still be in your life in five years’ time . . .
  • If you haven’t seen or spoken to a potential guest in more than a year . . .
  • If you’re not sure if they’d make a good guest (Would they drink too much? Are they good at making conversation with new people?) . . .
  • If a potential guest is someone from your social circle who actually makes you uncomfortable but whom you often put up with for “political” reasons . . .

. . . then these guests do not need to be a part of your wedding.

For the remaining list of guests, consider how long you’ve known each party, what kind of life events you’ve shared, how sincerely hurt or confused each individual might be to not receive an invitation, and your simple gut feeling about who really should be there. Weddings are special, and it would be wonderful if every person with whom we’ve ever shared a smile could be there to celebrate, but refining guest lists is a necessary skill for someone without unlimited resources and space. Take all of these questions, tips, and guidelines into consideration, and together you and your betrothed will be able to agree on a guest list that will bring you joy and celebration.

Surround yourself with the people you love most to create the happiest memories
Surround yourself with the people you love most to create the happiest memories

De Luxe Banquet Hall’s three venues accommodate parties from 50 to 420 guests and offer options for custom color schemes, catering, live entertainment and more, making your dream wedding possible whether it’s a small, intimate affair or a large 400-guest event. Contact us to request a quote, reserve event space, or schedule a tour!