virginia weddings

How to Plan Your Wedding Guest List, Part 1: Deciding Your Numbers

Often one of the most stressful aspects of wedding planning is creating the wedding guest list. Certain family members and friends may think they should dictate who you invite, or you may feel an obligation toward certain individuals that you might not naturally want at your wedding.  

Thankfully, there are ways of narrowing down your guest list to meet your venue needs or your preferences. Here are a few of those tips and tricks that can make that happen.

Tips for Kindly Saying “No” to Certain Guests

Before we get started, I wanted to offer some tips for you to use with nosy relatives and friends who think they should plan your wedding for you. Remember, this is your wedding, and it’s most important for you and your partner to be comfortable and happy with your guest list.

Parents’ Privilege

If your parents are helping pay for the wedding, or for other reasons feel they have the right to dictate your guest list, one option is offering them a specific number of guests they may choose.

Depending on your venue size, you’ll want to limit this number enough that you’re not eliminating your preferred guests by giving your parents “too many.”

For example, if your venue only holds 100 guests, you want to limit the number of invitations you give your parents to disperse to an even number under ten.  If your venue holds 200+ guests, you can be a little more generous, assuming your budget allows this. Remember that whoever you invite to the ceremony is likely to come to the reception, though, meaning your cost will go up. 

And just remember, even if your venue could hold 500, that does not mean you have to invite 500. Even if your parents are completely paying for the wedding, you still don’t need to invite 500. 

A polite way of expressing this invitation limit for your parents’ guests could be any of the following excuses: 

  • “We want to keep the guest list to the most important people in our lives, so we’d like to suggest you invite the [number] most important people for you to welcome to our wedding celebration.”
  • “Keeping to our budget set out, we think [number] is a great option for guests for you to invite.
  • “We really want to keep the day intimate and cozy, so we’d like to offer you [number] guests to help us keep it that way.
  • “We love you so much and want to make sure the most important people for you to attend are able to be there. We’d like to extend [number] of invitations to you to invite at your discretion.”

Friends’ Privilege

Sometimes, our friends think they should “help” by telling us who really ought to be there. But they don’t really have that say – and shouldn’t. Especially if they suggest folks that aren’t in your life any more or that you don’t want to have in the pictures looking back.

Feel free to tell your friends, lovingly, that you’ve got the guest list taken care of. If one of them has your best interests in mind with no agenda of their own, ask them for advice on how to keep the guest list small without cutting out the most important people in your life.

In-laws’ Privilege

This one ranks with the parents’ privilege issue. If your future in-laws are getting a little pushy with the guest list suggestions, you can use the same phrases to offer them a given number of guests only, while thanking them for their concern that you have a perfect day.

Extended Family

Depending on how your family functions, you may have aunties or grandparents making suggestions of that sixth cousin you’ve never met (or met once). You do not have to invite every family member, though – not even all the cousins!

Instead, let your extended family members know that you’ve got a very limited number of seats (or something similar if you’re aiming for a bigger crowd) and because you’re sticking to a budget, it’s most important for you to include the people who you interact with most or those who are the most supportive of your life together.

Co-workers’ Ideas

The last group I’m aware of sometimes butting in on this guest list (feel free to add some others in the comments below!) could be co-workers. You may be friends with Beth and Amy and not Kelly, but they may want you to invite Kelly.

Don’t go out of your way to snub people (even if you have a good reason to!), but instead, let your mutual friends know that Kelly isn’t really a part of your life and so you just can’t justify booting someone else who is so that she and a boyfriend can come.

How to Decide Who Makes the Cut

All right – now, let’s move onto making that list.

Consider Your Venue Size

First off, the venue size is super important when it comes to planning your wedding guest list. You might start off with four hundred people you could invite to the special day, but if your venue only has a capacity of 200, you’ve got to get to cutting!

You also want to make sure that you don’t invite every single person to hit that capacity. While it isn’t hoped for, and definitely considered rude, sometimes extra people show up – or suddenly have availability and assume they may come, even though they RSVP’d their regrets.

Consider Your Budget

Next, it’s important to consider your budget. Since every additional guest (and plus-one) means your cost goes up, you’ve got to think through how many people you can afford to invite. You do not have to go into debt for your wedding day – and if you don’t want to do so, you shouldn’t.

If your budget says you can only invite 150 people, you’re better off aiming for more like 126. Things always come up and budgets get messed with, so you’re best to aim under budget to avoid overages.

Consider How Many Guests You Actually Want

Next, let’s consider what your preferences are. There’s absolutely no need to have a huge, massive wedding if you don’t want one. You can also find ways to shrink the way you budget so that you may have more guests if you really, really want to.

The main thing is, do you want a small, intimate wedding, a mid-sized guest list, or are you really wanting that huge party?

Let your desires in this area dictate, not something else.

Next time, we’ll talk about how to prioritize your Virginia weddings guest list when you need to cut numbers!

The author: rita

Rita Juanita Pike is the granddaughter of aviatrix, Jerrie Mock, first woman to pilot an airplane around the world. Rita has taken inspiration from her grandmother’s life and flight and pursued many of her own dreams in theatre, podcasting, novel writing, and cooking up delicious food from around the world. She now writes on food, travel, pets, faith, and the arts. She’s happily married to Matt, and faithfully serves the very fluffy kitten queen, Lady Stardust.