How to Cut Your Guest List without Hurting Anyone’s Feelings

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We would all love to be able to invite everyone we’ve ever shared a great memory with to our wedding but, unfortunately, budgets, venue size, and other factors make this unrealistic. This makes limiting your guest list not just a priority, but a necessity. Limiting the number of people you invite is difficult, but it has a number of benefits, including saving money and simplifying logistics. Of course, when you take people’s feelings into account, cutting down your guest list is easier said than done.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself before you start mercilessly whittling down the all-inclusive list you’ve made.

Should I count my guests or choose a venue first?

A thought that is often pondered when planning a wedding is whether to estimate how many people will be attending and choose a venue based on that number, or to choose a venue and cut your guest list down based on the size of the selected venue.

While there is no definite answer, most wedding experts suggest the former: getting an idea of how many people you’re inviting before deciding where to hold the ceremony. The size of your list will ultimately be based on several factors, including what size of venue you can afford, if the wedding is indoors or outdoors, and whether or not your reception is going to take place at the same location.

Where should I cut my guest list down?

When deciding where to begin cutting down your guest list, start with the people who are the most likely not to attend in the first place. This group often includes distant relatives, out-of-town guests, and friends you rarely speak to. Even if you don’t ultimately include these people on your official guest list, send an invitation anyway to acknowledge them.

The best way to cut your guest list down is by creating tiers, breaking your list down into categories, including:

  • A List: Immediate family
  • A List: Close friends
  • B List: Extended family
  • B List: Other friends
  • B List: Co-workers and other colleagues

Use these categories to prioritize the people you most want to attend, and those who don’t necessarily have to be there. The “A” list should include the people that you are definitely going to invite and the “B” list should include people that may or may not get an invite. NOTE: One way to avoiding offending people is by not inviting specific groups at all, rather than inviting a select few from the group.

To decide whether someone should be on the “A” or “B” list is by using the one year test, which simply answers the question, “Have I associated with this person in the last 12 months?” If your answer is no, that particular guest probably belongs on the “B” list. If you haven’t talked to someone in two years or more, it likely makes sense to leave them off the list altogether.

 What about “plus ones” and other extra guests?

You are generally only obligated to include the significant others of those you know if you have socialized with them as a couple. Sometimes bringing an extra guest isn’t a big deal, but you may be end up in a situation where you have to explain to your good friend the limitations of your guest list.

Remember, if you tell one person they can bring someone, word may get around, and you could end up with more extra guests than you anticipated. Keep in mind what you want your ceremony to feel like. If you want a ceremony with a large and open feel, the more the merrier. But if you want your ceremony to feel more intimate and close, you probably don’t want several people you’ve never met frolicking about. Whatever you decide, establish a policy for “plus ones,” and stick with it.

How should I deal with people who don’t RSVP?

There is a proper etiquette for wedding RSVPs, and it’s up to your guests to follow that etiquette. Dealing with people not RSVP-ing is another way in which your tiers and categories become very useful. If you have a “B” list, don’t wait too long before moving your non-RSVPers to that list and moving some people from your “B” list onto your “A” list. Not RSVP-ing is a strong indication that someone does not plan to attend. Don’t feel bad for allowing someone else to take their spot.

Final Thoughts

Knowing who to invite to your wedding and who to leave off your guest list can be one of the most excruciating parts of planning your wedding. Keep in mind that, while your ceremony is meant to be a celebration that you share with those closest to you, the day is yours. Asking yourself the tough questions early in the planning process can take some of the pressure off of these decisions and allow you to focus on your big day.

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