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Tackling the Guest List (While Keeping Your Sanity)

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Tackling the Wedding Guest List
Photo credit: Felicia Perry Photography

Unless you’re one of the lucky few who has an unlimited wedding budget, or you’re smart enough to run off and elope, tackling the dreaded guest list is something you and your betrothed are going to have to do at some point. The guest list can be the cause of a lot of fights, between you and your partner, you and your parents, you and your partner’s parents, you and your parents and your partner’s parents, and so on and so forth.  Even the most laid-back couple with the most relaxed parents ever can find themselves with at least a teensie bit of guest list troubles.  Today I’ve compiled some tips for you to hopefully help you navigate the rocky guest list seas.

  • When discussing the guest list with your partner, eliminate all other distractions.  Turn the TV off, hide the phones, lock up the dog.  Do whatever you have to do to focus on the task at hand.  Maybe go out to dinner so you are forced to stare at each other until you hash out your guest list plan of attack.  Then celebrate with a bottle of champagne.  You’ve earned it.
  • Talk to your venue about minimums and capacity.  Hopefully you thought about this before signing a contract with your venue.  If not, call them right away!  Make sure you know if you’re expected to spend a certain amount on food and drinks, or if there is a guest limit for the reception space you’re interested in.  (PS – Having a venue that only holds 50 people is a great excuse for not being able to invite everyone in your mom’s bridge group.)
  • Figure out your budget FIRST, then tailor your guest list to fit your budget.  Don’t do it the other way around, it will only make you sad.  Set a dollar amount you don’t want to go over for food and drinks, and don’t forget to factor in anything else that is head-count related, like tables, centerpieces for those tables, fancy chairs, and favors.  
  • Sit down with the parental units and give them some straight talk.  If mom and dad are paying for the wedding, they may feel entitled to have complete control over the guest list.  This is a totally normal reaction so treat them kindly … but, remind them that this is a very important day in your lives and you want to be sure the people who are most important to you can be there.  And no matter who is paying, both sides of the family should be treated equally – if one side has a say in who gets invited, then the other side does, too.  Set some firm deadlines for everyone – they need to submit their guest list desires by a certain time, preferably a few weeks before invitations need to go out, just in case there’s some disagreements to iron out.  Make it clear that you and your partner have final veto powers over the guest list, and remind the ‘rents that it won’t be the end of the world if your childhood dentist doesn’t make the cut.  And then once invites go out, THAT’S IT.  No last minute additions. Get it in writing.  You may laugh at this idea, but I’m serious. Weddings make people crazy.
  • Dealing with divorced parents and step-families is going to suck, sorry.  Some people luck out and have divorced parents that are friendly with each other, but that is certainly the minority.  Prepare for some drama as you hash out which step-cousins are going to make the cut.  But overall, remember this is stressful for everyone, and all parents and step-parents should be treated equally and with respect.  Besides, if people can’t put aside their differences for five hours to celebrate this happy moment in your life, should they really even be invited?  Every family has a unique history and circumstances, but don’t let some drama that happened 15 years ago overshadow this happy moment in your lives.
  • If you are having trouble narrowing down your list, create an A-list and a B-list.  I know it feels weird to designate your friends and loved ones to the B-list, but they don’t have to know.  If you have old college friends that you haven’t talked to in years but feel obligated to invite, put them on the B-list (or perhaps even a C-list).  Send out the invites to your A-list, and as you receive RSVP declines, start mailing out invites to your B-list. Just make sure you won’t be super disappointed if someone on the B-list ultimately can’t make the cut.
So, do you agree that figuring out the guest list is one of the most dreaded of wedding planning tasks?  Tell me your guest list experiences and woes!  What advice do you have for brides currently in the thick of their guest lists? Please leave your thoughts in the comments!
About Mindy

Mindy Marzec is a life-long Disney fan who grew up in Los Angeles. She started This Fairy Tale Life to share Disneyland travel tips for adults. When not at Disneyland, you can find Mindy at home snuggling with her cats and re-watching Thor: Ragnarok for the billionth time.