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How to Cut Your Wedding Guest List Down

Updated on July 12, 2018
VVanNess profile image

Victoria is a stay-at-home mom, author, educator, and blogger at Healthy at Home. She currently lives in Colorado with her family.


This is where it gets a bit tricky! Hopefully this will be a fun experience where you get to work together as a couple pulling together all of your best friends and loved ones that you want to invite to your wedding. However for many couples all over the world, this is the first drama in many more to come throughout their wedding planning.

I want to do everything I can to make this as easy as possible for you. Seeing as how there aren't many articles, and absolutely no books, available to you on the topic of cutting the guest list, I felt it my duty to share this helpful information with you! So you have a completed list now of all of your guests, his parent's guests and her parent's guests. Now what do you do? Great question!! The probability of the list perfectly matching your ideal number for guests coming to the wedding is very, very low. So let's get cutting!

Cutting Away

The first set of people you should cut is easy, but sometimes painful. Regardless of the size of your wedding, or how many guests you choose to invite, the following people have no place on your guest list: Ex-significant others, estranged relatives or friends you haven't seen or heard from in a while, your neighbors, your employers, your teachers or professors, your parent's coworkers, golf buddies or book club members, any service professionals (i.e. your hairstylist, optometrist, mechanic or otherwise), any known problem guests regardless of who they are (which means mom and dad may fall into this category), and anyone unknown. Your wedding is NOT the place to meet new people (Yahoo Voices).

You are getting married! This is a huge day for you. Invite only those people who you are close to that actually want to be there too. (Most people don't turn down wedding invites, even if they don't know the couple getting married, simply because they don't want to be rude.)

Now that we've cut your list down by about half, let's look at the guests that remain. If you haven't already gotten your list down t the right number, let's look at who else we can take off.

What About the Children?

Most couples are pretty clear about whether they want children attending their wedding or not. If you're on the fence though, you've got tons of options. Morning and afternoon weddings tend to cost less and they're great times to include children. However if you're having an evening wedding, you will likely be dealing with more temper tantrums, parents leaving early with sleeping children, and greater wedding costs. What a great opportunity to nix a good deal of your list!

If you really want to have children at your celebration, but are concerned about cost, considering allowing them at your ceremony, but not at your reception. Maybe a babysitter can take them home during the cocktail hour. This is risky and may cause problems though. Expect those guests with children just to go home after the ceremony. Personally, I would choose one or the other. Likely having all children stay home will save you hassle, heartache, and a huge chunk of your budget.


Add-ons and Plus-ones

Yet another dilemma, do you let those you invite bring a date? Where it is always necessary to invite the husband if you invite the wife (and vice versa), allowing friends and relatives to bring a date is not. Although, one caveat to this rule is if a couple is engaged or has been together for over a year.

One easy way to handle this is simply not to include plus-ones on your wedding invitations. I'll show you how to do this when we address Wedding Invitation Etiquette. Some guests might be nervous about showing up alone, worried they might not know anyone, but that is easily handled with a great seating arrangement. Why would you want to pay for another meal (place setting, chair, favor, etc.) for someone you don't know, probably doesn't want to be there, and you will probably never see again? If cutting your list is necessary, cut those add-ons and plus-ones to save yourself big on your wedding budget.

Unknown People

I mean really? First of all, a wedding is not the appropriate place for a bride and groom to meet new people. You wouldn't invite new people into the delivery room to meet a delivering mom for the first time would you? Although weddings don't require quite as much modesty, they are still very personal events. The bride and groom should be focusing on each other, the huge step they are taking, and they're incredible future, not Aunt Susie's new boyfriend.

This absolutely puts everyone in an awkward situation and it's disrespectful to all involved. In the past, I have had wedding guests call me to RSVP that not only didn't know the bride and groom, but didn't even know who the parents were who invited them. Big no-no!

If you or your fiance' don't know them, they shouldn't be on your list. Granted, if these are people that mean a great deal to your parents, and they won't budge on cutting them, you may need to compromise. Maybe they would be willing to offer up substitutes from their list so that the people under discussion can attend.

The Final Few

When you get down to the end, and you find you still need to cut, consider these questions: Do they live a long way away or even in another state? Will they be out of town during your wedding? Do they have a lot of kids? Have you spoken to them in the last six months? Do they know your fiance'? Do they even know you're engaged? Are you really close or would you consider them more of acquaintances?

I know it sounds really rough trying to put your friends and loved ones in categories, but this will be the only way to trim down your list. It doesn't mean you care any less about them or don't value them as much as the others. Consider that you may be saving them from expensive travel fees they may not be able to afford, high babysitting fees or the stress of finding someone to watch their five little ones, or even the inconvenience and pressure to attend if it really wouldn't be that meaningful to them.

Finally, if it comes down to 5-10 more people to take off your list, don't worry about cutting them. Chances are that you will have that many that can't make it anyway!


Quick Poll

How hard was it for you to cut your list?

See results

But what about . . .

What about those people who will be angry/hurt if I don't invite them?

Angry, really? Hurt, I can understand that. It's not possible to please everyone. If you don't upset someone in this process, it will happen somewhere else. Simply tell those people, if they ask or appear hurt, that you would have loved to be able to invite them, but you were limited on who you could invite, or even that you are trying to keep your wedding small and intimate. If they're truly hurt, treat them extra special after your wedding and try to respect their feelings by not talking about it. If they're angry, they'll get over it. Somebody is inevitably going to end up irritated with you for some reason. There's nothing you can do about it and it's not your fault. Not everyone is going to come to a nice, peaceful, beautiful agreement on how you and your fiance' want to get married.

What if your parents insist on inviting a number of people over the limit we gave them, but they say that they'll pay for the extra guests?

This is simply inevitable. I realize some of you have amazing parents, my husband sure did! However, for the rest of us, this will be good practice picking your line and sticking to it. You'd be surprised at the huge difference ten or fifteen more guests make, especially if your ideal venue has a limit and your parents have gone over that. Whatever number you and your fiance' initially chose for guest list limits, stand together and stick to your guns. You will thank yourselves for this later.

What if I want to invite some of my co-workers, but not others?

I say don't try it, but I wouldn't want to advise you in such a way that you end up inviting people you don't like to your wedding. If you absolutely have to invite only a select few, refrain as much as possible from discussing your wedding at work and don't flaunt you got an invite and who didn't. I would even ask those you invite not to discuss it at the office. This way you can spare as many feelings as possible. Remember this tip after your wedding as well.

What if half of our guests can't come?

This is what you have your B-List and C-List for. Anyone that has to be cut from your A-List gets slid to the top of your B-List. Likewise, if you have extra room for guests on your A-List, you simply take from the top of your B-List. If you get a lot of RSVPs saying that guests can't make it, you can easily send out B-List invites. We'll discuss all of this in detail later.

Now let's work on Picking Your Perfect Wedding Date!

Quick Poll

Are you going to invite children to your wedding?

See results

© 2013 Victoria Van Ness


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