OK, writing your wedding guest list isn’t half as much fun as choosing pretty invites, but you need to get that bad boy sorted before even so much as thinking about save the dates.
It’s tempting to invite everybody you know as soon as you get engaged, but it’s no fun when you then have to go suspiciously silent on the matter after realising that you don’t have the venue (or budget!) for 180 of your closest acquaintances.
The first thing to do is to write down absolutely everybody you can think of to invite (do it in a word doc or in spreadsheet so it’s easy to edit afterwards). I found it handy to work through people in groups – e.g. ‘family’, ‘uni friends’ ‘family friends’ – as it cuts down the chances of missing people out.
Once you’ve got your bumper list of guests, tot it up and see what you’re coming out with. By the time we got to this stage and my H2B revealed about a million previously unheard-of cousins, we were at an insane number.
We then colour-coded the spreadsheet (hey, we never said this was going to be a barrel of laughs), splitting guests into must-haves (green), really should have (orange) and would like to have (yellow). It sounds brutal, but it very quickly made us realise who we couldn’t imagine spending our big day without, and who wasn’t essential.
If your numbers are still looking high, it’s time to start with the sweeping cuts. We ruled out any friends’ partners who were new on the scene or who we’d never met, and partners of colleagues (feedback from colleagues on hearing this: “excellent!”).
You could also cut all colleagues or all children from the list, but be prepared to risk offending people, and acknowledge that you might have to make a couple of exceptions.
An easy compromise is to only ask certain guests to your evening do. We didn’t have a separate list as we wanted everybody to be there for the whole day, but it’s a great way to include people who you’d otherwise have to leave out.
My other top tips (some learned the hard way!) are:
1) Have a good idea of your venue before starting. You don’t need to have decided on one, but if you know you want a certain type of venue, Google a couple in your area to get a rough idea of capacity (for ceremony and reception – they often differ). Don’t assume they’ll let you sneak in a few extras, either – venue numbers are set according to fire regs so are incredibly strict.
2) Acknowledge that you and your husband will have different people you feel you have to ask. It may not be important to you that his mate from the office and family friends you’ve never met are there, but if it matters to him, then you can’t rule them out!
3) Families aren’t all created equal. My H2B ended up with dozens more family members than me on the list, but that’s simply because I had fewer people to ask – there’s no point trying to split family numbers down the middle.
4) Be prepared for your parents to have an opinion – and that if they’re contributing towards the day, they’re entitled! It’s worth checking if they have any friends they’d like to ask, too, as it can be really important to them. Don’t let your list get hijacked though – after a point, you have to do what makes you happy.
5) Accept there’ll be people at your wedding you don’t know. I did a fair bit of whinging that I didn’t want to look around and not recognise people, but there are always going to be a few relatives from his side who you haven’t met. Obviously, there are limits to this!
6) Have a B-list – those ‘would like to ask’ people who you can’t squeeze into the first cut but you’d love to invite if you have some guests who can’t attend. Getting your invites out early means you have time to ask them without it looking like an afterthought.
7) Don’t assume some of your guests won’t make it. This can backfire big time if you invite 150 guests and it’s miraculously the only Saturday in July that every single one of them can make.
8) Make it clear on your invites if guests are invited to just the evening do and state an arrival time – it’s awkward if guests assume they’re coming to the whole day.
Hope this helps with your list – share your top tips in the comments section below!