the guest list demystified

We began the first of our Monthly Wedding Seminars last night here at the Wilson Street Wedding Group. Our event title was so wonderfully coined by Mandie Haberman of Red Gecko Studio as The Guest List Demystified! I thought it would be good to share article I wrote that accompanied the seminar. It’s not a ton of fun…but it is important information!

Planning your Wedding Day is a wonderful and thrilling time, planning your Guest List is sometimes a little more difficult. Here are some helpful tips on figuring out your guest list: who to invite, how to invite (or not invite) office mates, old college friends, distant family, and how to deal with the feelings and politics that go along with it.

Often the number of guests you invite dictate the budget of your wedding.

More guests = Bigger Budget


2010 Budget Averages:  courtesy of the

  • Overall Wedding Cost $27,000.
  • Catering per person $61
  • Average Guests: 141
  • Average Per Person Cost: $191.00


How to build your guest list:

Start with your fantasy list! Jot down everyone you could possibly image you would want to share your wedding day with. Sometimes it’s more than you expected, sometimes it is less. What is great about this exercise is it helps set forth the road map for your true guest list, the A-list and a B-list. The great thing about your B-list is you can send out the invites as RSVP’s come in, or with very short notice you can call the guest and apologize for the oversight in inviting them with a heartfelt personal invitation.


Parents & their friends:

Your folks are thrilled that their darling kiddo is getting married, and some more than others.  For some parents it’s a joyful time that they want to share with their neighbors or their Sunday coffee clutch. For some parents it’s a reflection of status either social or in business.

Rules of thumb:

If your parents are footing the bill: go ahead and make your dream guest list. Let them go ahead and make their guest list too. See what you both of you come up with and see how much it blows up your overall wedding size that you imaged. Some brides and grooms love the idea of “the more the merrier”. However, if you imaged a small intimate wedding and your folks are still footing the bill and
want to invite a ton of friends, have a heart to heart about what the day means to you. They will understand.

If you are footing the bill: if it is a larger wedding and your parents have asked if they can invite some friends that are important to them, set a limit: say maybe 3 or 4 couples per parents, and if they just have to go over that ask them to help pay for their guests.

Regardless to who is paying: if your venue has limited capacity and your folks just insist upon inviting friends, have a heart to heart and ask them “if you could only invite one or two friends who would it be?”  They will figure it out.

Remember, often your parent’s close friends are folks you know well too, and both of you and your parents would love to share your special day with them.


Office Politics:

You said yes on Saturday, it’s only Monday and your office mates saw your ring! Throughout the day they have crowded you at the water cooler and at the copier already asking for all of your wedding details and if they are invited! Oh boy.

Rules of thumb:

Large Corporate Office/Business: You can always ask your entire department, especially if it’s not too huge and doesn’t interfere with friends and family on your guest list. Truthfully we spend so much time with co-workers and form such deep relationships that they can often feel like family.

Small Business: Often you invite everyone. It’s just that simple.

If you are inviting all ten co-workers… but dread inviting the gossipy or pass the buck coworker: unfortunately to keep the peace you have to invite them too. Sorry.

Still confused? If you socialize with certain co-workers outside of work and genuinely would call them up to chat or have coffee, invite them to your wedding.  Not inviting coworkers? Etiquette advises invite your boss. Most likely they will RSVP no, and send you a gift.

Cut the FAT! How to edit your over the top guest list:

Number 1 Rule: If you have not seen them or spoken to them in 10 years you are under NO obligation to invite them. This applies family, childhood and college friends alike. Your guests should be relevant to your life right now.

Other ways to edit your guest list:

  • Book Clubs, Networking groups, Fantasy Football, drinking buddies…its okay if you don’t invite them, and you certainly do not have to make them aware of the event or apologize for not inviting them. If they ask, gently explain that it was a very hard decision process figure out who to invite and who you were not able to include on the list (words matter – these words are kinder). Often folks will back off and wish you well.
  • Kids & Plus 1’s: The wording on the envelopes and response cards says it all. If they call and ask why they can’t bring kids or dates you can kindly explain that it is an adult only event or let your single friend know that your venue space is limited but you are so excited to see him or her! ps… It is in really bad taste to leave your friend Bobby’s girlfriend of two years off the plus 1 status.
  • Extended Family: Often your 2nd or 3rd cousin is as indifferent about the relationship (or lack thereof) you have with them as they are with you. You might need to gently explain this to your Great Aunt Jane, but it will work out okay.


Take a deep breath and remember that this will all work out okay.

If you need help, don’t hesitate to reach out to me.








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Welcome to the LHE blog and my place to tell my couples' love stories and share random thoughts. A bit about me...I love weddings. I love my clients. I love comfy shoes and jeans. I am obsessed with EOS lipbalm. I talk too much about my kid. I drink way too much coffee. Often my clients and I become great friends, and mostly...I am so excited that you stopped by. 

My absolute joy in being a wedding planner comes from celebrating with you during your most important moments. 

So let's have some coffee & chat! 

xo - Jenny