Let’s not kid ourselves here, the whole wedding planning saga can be divvied up into two groups: there is the fun stuff and the not-so-fun stuff.
In the fun stuff category, you’ve got things like announcing that you’re hitched, cake tasting, coming up with a signature cocktail, coming up with a cheesy name for your signature cocktail, shopping around for the perfect gown, touring the different venues and working out how to contain your nervous excitement the night before you walk down the aisle.
And then, in the not-so-fun-stuff category, there is the guest list.
Seriously, ask any bride and groom what the worst part of the planning process was and they will purse their lips, exhale a sharp breath of air, force themselves to smile and then look into each other’s eyes with the kind of look that says, “I could have killed you, dear”.
This is because drafting and cutting your guest list - and then drafting and cutting your guest list half a dozen more times - is a real migraine-maker. But follow our essential guide on how to create the perfect guest list and you’ll find the whole thing goes way more smoothly than you ever thought possible.
1. Divide & Conquer (Before You Accept Any Money)
In a Utopian world, making a guest list would be more harmonious than a gospel choir singing “Oh Happy Days”. But there’s no point pretending this is gonna be the case because the truth is making a guest list tends to get messy, especially if your parents are helping out with the cost of the wedding and therefore expect to have a say in the planning. We’re telling you this so you can lay out your expectations before you take a cheque from them because once you do - wham! - you’re in a bind that can see things get real ugly. That said, even if you are going to bootleg the whole bash yourselves, it’s still a good idea to sit down with your clan and chat about your guest list ideas so there aren’t any surprises.
Our advice: do the traditional thing of keeping half the guestlist for yourselves and then giving your parents a quarter each. That means, if you’re planning a wedding with 180 guests, you’d choose 90 of them and your parents would choose 45 each. Trust us, it will save you from a lot of friction and fallouts.
2. Jump With Every Name Possible
At the beginning, when your head is spinning with names and ideas and issues and whatnot, the best thing you can do is leap into the deep end by jotting down the names of every person you could ever imagine being at your wedding. The uni friends you tried to start a band with, your third-cousin once removed that you met at your Granny’s 80th and had a great time getting drunk with, your old netball team, everyone. We know this sounds bonkers because your budget won’t stretch that far, and neither will your venue, but forget all that for a moment and imagine this is your dream wedding where space and money are no object. In the not too distant future, you’ll be trimming and cutting names left right and centre so, for now, dream as big as you like.
The big bonus: at some point during the guest list making process you’ll find yourselves tempted to add a few leftfield names to your list. It happens to everyone. This is where your long-list comes in handy because you can use it as a reality check. If the names you’re thinking about now didn’t make it onto your original dream list, is it really that crucial that you add them? Exactly.
3. Crunch The Numbers Sooner Than Later
We know the phrase “crunching numbers” isn’t exactly synonymous with glamorous weddings, but you need to get strict with your guest list numbers in order to avoid a horrible headache down the line. To do this effectively, you need to be honest about your budget and know the capacity of your venue.
On the budget side of things, each guest you invite means another meal, another set of crockery to be supplied by your caterers, another favour, another chair from the rental company, another bottle of wine (or three), another slice of cake and so much more. As for the venue’s capacity, you don’t want to invite more people than there is space otherwise you’ll find yourself praying for RSVPs marked, “sorry, but we can’t make it” and that’s not wedding planning is about.
Our advice: try and walk on the conservative side of things. If you do end up having more space than you thought you would or you have some coins left in the coffers, you can always add more guests later on.
4. The Rules For Whittling Down Your List
There is no point tiptoeing around the truth: at some point the fairytale has to come to an end, which means you’ll have to start trimming your dream list, and keep trimming until you reach a realistic number. This isn’t easy. However, there are some rules that can make it easier should you promise to stick to them. Here are five rules that will help you avoid any drama down the line:
If you haven’t heard of them, spoken to them or met them before, don’t add them to the list.
Know where you stand on kids. Personally, we think curious children make weddings unforgettable, but we accept not everyone is keen on having children running riot on their big day. So, if you want an adults-only party, go with that.
*If you haven’t spoken to them in three-years, don’t add them to the list (*this rule doesn’t apply to relatives).
Don’t invite anyone just because you feel guilty for leaving them off. That’s not how the guest list thing works.
Not every one of your guests needs a plus-one. For example, your cousin doesn’t need a plus-one because he or she has been seeing someone for ten days.
Our advice: to avoid any family-dramas, try and be as fair as possible. That means every time you take someone off your parents’ list, take someone off yours too. It just isn’t worth doing it any other way.
5. Have An A-List And A B-List
Sure, you might not want to tell people you did this (that includes you not telling an old school friend they made the A-list), but having two lists is the safest way to invite more people without having to add more money to your budget or more space to your venue. It sounds crazy, right? And it is, if by crazy you mean genius. The way it works is: you put everyone you can’t imagine not being at your wedding day on the A-List - best friends, family members, members of your girl squad - and invite them in your first round of invitations.
Inevitably, you will start receiving RSVPs from your A-List guests, some of whom won’t be able to make it. This will then free up more space for you your B-List, which is made up of people you still really-really want to be at your wedding (in order of importance). Like we said, it’s genius.
Our advice: when you send out your A-List invites, ask them to RSVP as soon as possible so that you aren’t sending out B-List invites the week before you’re due to walk down the aisle. Think about if you received an invite this close to someone’s big day; you would feel like a seat-filler. Oh, and remember to change the RSVP date on the second set of invites. Trust us, getting an invite after the RSVP deadline is a dead giveaway.
6. Don’t Succumb To The Pressure Of Awkwardness
You are going to have your fair share of awkward encounters where you’re stood in a beer garden and someone you’re not sure about inviting says something like, “I can’t wait to come to your wedding!” In that moment, when your cheeks are turning a horrendously obvious shade of pink, it can be too easy to extend them a verbal invite in order to wiggle out of the exchange unscathed. Even something as innocent as an “I can’t wait either!” response can put you in trouble.
Our advice: come up with a selection of polite yet firm responses, such as “of course we would love to invite everyone we can, but our parents are paying for it and the venue is really intimate,” and then stand in front of the mirror practising these lines. It’s tough, but it will be necessary.
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