Cutting Your Wedding Guest List

Your guest list determines so many other details, and the more guests you add to your list, the more everything costs. Making sure your head count includes everyone important, without contradicting your budget, can be a balancing act. If you’re having trouble cutting down your guest list (say, your venue only holds 150 comfortably but your list has already exceeded 250), rest assured that this dilemma is a common occurrence with a few relatively painless solutions.

Here’s how to crop that list without hurting feelings or experiencing guilt.

Make an A-List and B-List

Your A-list consists of the must-have invites you can’t imagine not being at your wedding, like your family members and close friends. They’ll receive your first round of invitations. Anyone not essential (no, we don’t mean people you don’t like, but rather colleagues you might be able to skip) should be added to the B-list. These are people you’d enjoy having at your wedding but who cannot be extended an invite in the first round. (It’s completely fine to add plus-ones to your B list too, and if it turns out you do have the budget for your nephew’s new girlfriend to come, you can always invite her at a later date.) If you start getting RSVPs and it turns out you have enough “regrets,” (between 10 and 20 percent of those invited will likely decline) then start sending invites to your B-list in order of importance.

Set Cutting Rules (and Stick to Them!)

The easiest way to cut the list is to come up with firm rules and actually stick to them. We promise it’ll be easier in the long run and you’ll avoid potential drama down the line. What do we mean by “rules”? First, If neither you nor your spouse has ever spoken to, met or heard a person’s name before, don’t invite them. If it’s a friend of your parents, and your parents are being generous by footing some or all of the bill, that may be a different story. Maybe work out a compromise with them where you promise to cut one of your own chosen guests for every one of their chosen guests. Second, leave out anyone neither of you has spoken to in three or more years (or is related to). That means old high school or college friends you’re pretty sure you’ll never see again or second and third cousins whose names you can barely remember. Finally, if there’s anyone on your list who’s only included because you feel guilty about leaving them off (maybe you were invited to their wedding or they’re friends with lots of people who are invited), cut them. You shouldn’t feel like you “owe” them an invite to your wedding—it’s your day, and you should be surrounded by friends and family that you really want to be there.

Consider Going ‘Adults Only’

Not crazy about inviting kids to the party? Don’t feel bad about having an adults-only wedding—so many couples decide to go that route. Whether it’s a budget issue, space issue or more a matter of atmosphere. It’s also perfectly okay to have children in your wedding party and still have an adults-only wedding. Just be careful to not make exceptions and let other family members or close friends bring their kids to the reception. Otherwise, some guests might get offended if it looks like you selected which children were and weren’t invited. Inviting children to the ceremony only isn’t fair either since it’s not fun for them to have to go home and see the other children going to the party.

If you hear that family members aren’t happy your little cousins, nieces, and nephews aren’t allowed to come, that’s expected. But remember, it’s completely fair for you to want a child-free wedding (especially if it will help you stay within budget and venue limitations). If you need to, call and explain that you’re sorry, but due to budget constraints, you can only invite adults.

Exclude Coworkers

Even if you’re close to your colleagues, you might consider cutting them from the list if you’re in a pinch. The easiest way to avoid a headache is not to invite any co-workers at all. But if you’re close to some of your coworkers (you socialize outside the office and regularly text or call them) and everyone knows it, it’s fine to invite them. Just don’t hand them their invites at work or make a big deal out of it. Keeping wedding talk to a minimum at the office is smart anyway. However, if you work on a smaller team and are considering inviting a handful of coworkers, you should invite the entire team or skip them altogether. As for your boss, invite them if you have a friendly relationship, along with a plus-one. If you don’t, you’re certainly not required to ask them to attend.

Be Firm About Plus-Ones

When it comes to plus-ones, sometimes things can get a little dicey, but hopefully, these guidelines will make things easier for you. You should offer plus-ones to anyone who’s married, engaged, lives together or is in a long-term, committed relationship (if they’ve been together for at least one year). Extending a plus-one to everyone in your wedding party is a courteous move they’ll definitely appreciate. This doesn’t mean you have to force each bridesmaid and groomsman to bring a date to your wedding if they don’t want to (there’s a chance they’ll decline anyway), but it’s important to make the offer because they’ve been there for you from the start. Otherwise, guests who are casually dating, co-workers or single friends whom you’re not especially close to (or who will know other guests) do not require a plus-one.