Six Savvy Secrets to Wedding Guestlist Serenity


The torture of creating the wedding guest list is real, but there are ways to make it less painful!

For some reason when we get engaged we cannot fathom the drama of figuring out who to invite! Since we really only have access to our own family and friends and who we want to attend, it can be rattling when there isn’t completely agreement with your fiancé, your parents, and his parents. What’s a girl to do to have the wedding she wants without too many, or too few, in attendance?

Here are seven secrets to wedding guest list invitation bliss. Take bits of wisdom from each and come up with your own recipe for family harmony.

Conquer Categories

This is the most common advice but we’re going to take it a step further. Assuming the key stakeholders are you, the groom, your parents, and his parents, brainstorm on the “categories” of potential invitees. What this does is let you know what the playing field looks like. Common ones are: family, coworkers, school friends, neighbors, religious-based friends, hobby friends. The hope is that you are able to treat everyone with fairness by potentially wiping out entire categories of people from everyone’s bucket. This makes a much easier narrative to explain why people aren’t invited.

The Full Brainstorm List (with Ranking)

Another option that really gets it all out is to ask the key stakeholders to list everyone they might potentially WANT and rank them by “must”, “maybe”, and “if there is room.” This forces everyone to think now rather than never really asking, only to learn of an entire group of people that “must” be invited after you’ve ordered the invites, food, and have no actual space for them. It’s vital to be clear to everyone that even the “must’s” are not a guarantee, but will greatly help in forming the real vision and budget for the wedding.

Equality vs Justice

Not to get political here, but it’s not possible to have equality and justice. This is ever clear in wedding planning land where you may give each parent 20 guests they can invite. One parent is a bit of a recluse and ends up inviting old neighbors from 10 years ago while the other parent has a big family, runs a business, and has to say no to really important, close friends or family. The goal is an articulated balancing act, if possible, among relationships people have, money they’re contributing, and attempt to be in the middle between equality and justice.

Show Me The Money

In the most crass form, money really does talk. In some countries weddings are planned by table. Each table costs X dollars, so that money is presented if families want to add a table, or two, or three, to the wedding. As you run numbers, figuring out roughly 60% of the wedding is fixed costs no matter the size, then you’re able to better articulate where the wiggle room is, if there is any. Be clear if you’re open to being offered more financial assistance in exchange for a bigger guest list.


The Probability Game

In this approach you get pretty clear on who needs to be invited for whatever family or social reason versus who has any shot of actually showing up. We had a huge number of people invited to our wedding, but due to its location and the age of many invited, there was no chance they would come. This relieved a huge amount of stress (we sent 150 invitations out and the room held a maximum of about 140 people!) Obviously you have to plan on some surprises, but if inviting people smooth’s the etiquette edges for your mother-in-law, and they won’t be able to make it, then let it be.


People vs Party Priority

As your guest list numbers move up or down in frightful fashion, remember you can always chose to alter your party dreams in exchange for more people being able to attend. Or, vice versa. You may have thought you wanted a lot of people until you realized all you could afford is the church basement at 9am with cake and punch and that just makes you feel like Cinderella at 12:01am. There are pros and cons to how many are invited and where you hold the wedding and reception. The more clear you are on what really matters to you the easier it’s going to be to find the right balance for you


To dive even deeper into the wild, curvy road to wedding planning bliss, read Take Back Your Wedding. It’s in paperback, e-book, and Kindle formats! Then give the book to your mom, groom, and bridal party.  We promise it'll make you laugh, learn, and save you some stress.