One of our friends and blog followers, who happens to be male by the way, sent me a text yesterday with a post suggestion which included several questions about the guest list. I see fast approaching wedding bells in his future so I thought I’d oblige his request and share my two cents on the inviting process. Let’s start from the beginning. Almost exactly a year ago Kyle and I got engaged and one of the first things we did was create a guest list. Our goal was a small, intimate wedding with close friends and family. Our guest list spoke otherwise. I really believed we would have a difficult time rounding up enough people to break the triple digit mark. However upon completion, we had over 200 guests. This makes sense of course because we created this guest list before we thought of any other details and more specifically, before we discussed a budget. Now I find myself trying hard not to make new friends for fear that I will then have to include them on the already over flowing guest list. It doesn’t have to be that way, if you follow a few simple rules and stick to the plan.
My first suggestion to all planning couples, set a budget first! Then make a list of all the elements involved in your wedding and prioritize them. Guest count should be on that list. Do you want a huge wedding or is small and intimate your style, does your large family make it impossible not to have a big wedding, are extra guests more important than fancy food, will a splurge on photography effect other areas of the budget, etc. ? Guests translate directly to dollar signs. When you factor in rental items (chairs, tables, linens, flatware…), food, alcohol, favors, invitations, and programs, just to name a few, you could easily be looking at anywhere from $50-$100 per guest. This is a low estimate and does not include photography, the venue, flowers, your dress, and well everything else you have to pay for just to throw the party.
If there is no budget, just stop reading and plan your matrimonial extravaganza. However if there is a budget, let’s talk about trimming the fat. No offense to the guests, but it is what it is. For us it went like this, family stayed automatically, for everyone else we asked a few questions to determine how crucial it was that they be a part of our big day. Create some scenarios that make sense to you, like this: Your birthday rolls around, do you hang out with said guest, do they call you , text you, at the very least write on your Facebook Page?! No, they are cut. I am sure you were really great friends in college but well you graduated and moved on. Another scenario: You are taking some friends to dinner at a nice place. You expect to spend $30 per plate for each person, do you invite said guest? Would you be bitter about picking up the tab for that guest? If you answered No, then yes, they are cut. A wedding isn’t a house warming party or a backyard barbecue. It is a formal event symbolizing your new life together. It is impossible and unnecessary to include every one you know, were close to at one time, or sit next to at work.
This may vary for some couples but we also invoked the “Have we met them since we’ve been together?” Rule. Kyle and I had been together around 6 years at the time of our engagement which is plenty of time to meet all the crucial people whose presence is required at such an intimate event. If I had not met someone on his list or visa versa, they got cut. Of course there will be exceptions, like your groom’s college buddy who is doing a tour in Iraq, but generally I think this is a safe rule to stick by. Weddings are not the time to meet new people, they are the time to spend with the people closest to you.
Next, are there people you have to invite regardless of how often you talk to them? “Have to” is a strong term. It’s your wedding, you don’t have to do anything. However, yes, I think there are certain people you have to include. Trust me, several of my family members would have failed those two scenarios above and had we not been sharing some genes they would have been cut. The biggest bummer about this situation is that generally some of those people that you’d rather cut to make room for people who are actually involved in your life, really don’t want to go to your wedding either. But alas they feel the mutual obligation. I wish there was another way, I really do. Family is family and unless you absolutely do not care about rocking the boat or suffering awkward Thanksgiving dinners for the rest of your life, they have to stay on the list.
If I know for sure someone won’t come, do I still have to send them an invite? If they fall into that family category, yes. If you know they won’t come, it isn’t worth offending them by not sending out the invite. In the whole scheme of things the $3.00 you spent on the invitation and postage for the guest you knew wouldn’t show up is irrelevant. Focus your budget saving efforts on other areas. If they aren’t family or on that “Have To” list, and you know they won’t come, the answer seems clear. Why do you feel the need to send them an invite? If you come up with a rational answer, then refer to the above comment about the irrelevancy of $3.00. If you can’t come up with a rational answer then let’s move on.
Our guest list is horribly unbalanced, is that ok? No, you have to be even so try to fill your side up with random people who you barely know. Come on, of course it is okay! Some couples have unbalanced families or sets of friends. When it comes to seating, you may have to eliminate the traditional bride and groom side or it could look awkward. But if you only have certain people you want to invite, you shouldn’t feel obligated to try to match your partner’s list.
Here are a few tidbits for the guests or prospective guests. If you’ve planned a wedding, you should get it. Don’t take offense to a lack of an invite, if you want an invite, step it up and start calling people on their birthdays. Let me be clear on this, DO NOT and I repeat DO NOT ask if you are going to be invited. I am shocked and horrified by how much this happens. It is rude and creates awkwardness for all parties. 9 times out of 10, budget is the reason you didn’t make the list but perhaps the couple doesn’t like you as much as you like them, or you have a tendency to get unruly when you drink. Leading me to believe you really don’t want to know the true reason you weren’t invited, so save yourself the embarrassment and don’t ask. People wouldn’t send out invitations if people were allowed to request them. The worst case scenario is instead of being honest about the situation, the couple feels bad and you get the pity invite. Do you really want the pity invite? I know, you invited them to your wedding so you must be included by default, well it doesn’t work like that. They may have a smaller budget, a larger family, or like I said some beef with you, who knows? Suck up your pride, congratulate the couple, and be grateful they saved you $50 on a gift.
When all is said and done, the day is about you and your future spouse. These rules may seem cold and not everyone will agree with my methods but it had to be done. Yes some people will be bothered by the fact that you didn’t invite them but you can’t please everyone. All humor aside, cutting the guest list was stressful for us. Of course there are people we wish we could include but unless we win the lottery it just isn’t feasible. We do know though that when we look back, it will be worth it because we will know only the most special people in our lives shared in this occasion. Your wedding is not the time to impress all you know with this event, it is the time to recite your vows to each other for life and celebrate with the people you know will be around to hold you to them.
What are your thoughts on the guest list? How did you determine who got invited and who didn’t? Did you sacrifice in other areas of your wedding to include extra people?