Your wedding guest list…

You have some decisions to make about who will witness your commitment to each other and who won’t. It seems choosing your favorite friends and family, including them on your wedding guest list should be easy enough, right?

But until you’ve started to put that list together yourself, it is hard to understand all that goes into deciding who makes the cut and who doesn’t.

Here are some tips on how to make the decisions that must be made in putting your wedding guest list together.

 First Things First

The foundation of all other tips for putting your wedding guest list together is you and your fiancé must come up with an estimate of how many people you are going to be able to afford to feed and seat. Your budget has to be clear in your mind first or you just might be setting yourself up for guilty feelings because you want everyone to come. But for most of us, that’s rarely the case. So blame it on the budget, but this is where you have to start.

Four Columns

You are going to put four columns on a piece of paper. The first column is called your “Inner Circle. The people who fit under this heading are those whom you can’t imagine getting married without them being there. This includes close family members and the people you consistently spend time with when you want to have fun, or have a deep conversation with.

In Touch

Your next column is those you have stayed “In Touch” with. These should be folks like aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends from high school that you still see now and then.


This list should include the neighbors who let you play with their dog, cat, hamsters or kids when you were younger, and your folks’ friends and coworkers whom you’ve known forever. You should feel a bit of healthy nostalgia when you think of these folks.


Here’s where the people who might have been your best friend but you lost touch after one of your moved to a different city or state, or folks you parents played pinochle with.

As you both think of who you want to come, you will also find you need to cross people off the wedding guest list. Start elimination those on the “Distant” list. Try to resist the urge to feel guilty. You’ve got a budget to be mindful of when you put together your wedding guest list.

 The Parent Trap

Traditionally, each one of your families is allowed to invite half the guests. Just as traditionally, that’s because they are footing the bill. So they may have gone to plenty of weddings in their day and now it’s their chance to turn the tables. If you have an intimate wedding in mind but the folks have handed you a huge list of people you might not even know, you will have to take charge. One couple commandeered the list fairly this way. “We told our parents they couldn’t invite anyone that my fiancé and I hadn’t seen in the last six months.”

To keep the peace they suggested their parents keep a back-up list of people they could invite if others declined.

Being clear from the git go is always a good policy. So if you are footing the bill yourself, dividing your list in thirds and sticking to it helps get the sorting job done. One third for the groom’s family, one third for the bride’s and one-third for the two of you.

Plus One Guest

You can look at your wedding as an opportunity for your single friends to bring their long term love interest with them by adding “plus one” to their invitation. Or you can let your wedding be a way for him or her to meet new people. Do not feel obligated to make sure your lonely friend has a date. Consider instead he or she may have more fun on their own.

If someone RSVP’s and includes a guest you didn’t signify they could invite, there is a eloquent way to address this. Be honest and forthright. Explain that your budget, or the size of your reception site doesn’t allow you to invite more than you’ve planned. Unfortunately, you cannot extend the invitation to their friend.

 When an Ex is a friend

Sharon Naylor, author of The Essential Guide to Wedding Etiquette (Sourcebooks Casablanca) says, “A lot of people end relationships maturely and keep in touch over the years, and actually become friends.” If this is the case, make sure including an ex on your guest list won’t make your fiancé uncomfortable, and you can openly discuss your feelings. Naylor adds that the important thing is that you make the decision together.

 The Kid Korner

Children tend to get restless at weddings but they are part of the family. If you really don’t want them to distract guests from your wedding, address your invitations to parents only.

But if you have close family members who have children you adore, you may want to compromise and invite their kids to come too.

If you do want children at your wedding, see if your budget will stretch to hire babysitters who will watch them at the hotel. Another option is setting up a special area away from the majority of your guest where they can play and eat pizza.


If your coworkers have heard all about your relationship develop, you may want to invite them. Or you don’t have to invite them at all. And unless you have a wonderful rapport with your boss, or your manager, it’s not necessary to include them in your wedding guest list.

I wish I knew who to attribute this to, but these are words to the wise: “If you’re no longer friendly with certain people from your past, don’t feel obliged to invite them to your wedding just because they invited you to theirs. Also, don’t bow to parental pressure to include people they know, but you don’t. When trying to make tough decisions, ask yourself if the potential guest will be a part of your life in the future. ’If someone still means something to you, you probably still mean something to him or her,’ says Jill Notkin. “’Trust your instincts. That’s how to make sure that you have the people you really want at your wedding.’”