Wedding planning

Compiling your guest list without tears!

When I got married, my dad knew half the folk of our town and my future father-in-law knew the other half – so who to include on our guest list?  We couldn’t invite everyone.  Things got rather heated and fraught…. So we came up with a sort of formula which I’m sharing with you!
Priority Invites + Family Friends + Couple’s friends = maximum number of guests at wedding ceremony and wedding breakfast.
Or you could swop things around :
Maximum number of guests → priority invites + family friends + couple’s friends
Whatever you do, you can pretty much rely on someone pouting about your decisions but while you are being conciliatory and trying to keep everyone happy, don’t forget this is YOUR DAY and having people there that you loathe just for the sake of form or keeping other people happy is just not necessary!

So who should be on your Priority list?

Elderly relatives – grandparents, aunts, uncles – people who have been part of your lives from the outset.  They may not accept, may be too infirm or far away to travel, but they should always be invited.
Immediate family – siblings and their partners, parents
Any exceptions
  • Where parents have divorced, their new partners should, out of courtesy, be invited – BUT if you have a scenario where the new partners are likely to cause war between family members, they should NOT be included.
And here’s where it gets tricky …  imagine Pops hitched up with his much younger secretary who is about your age and who you can’t stand – but Mom has found an absolutely delightful chap who you think is wonderful…. Do you say No to Pop’s partner and Yes to Mom’s?  Or do you sacrifice Mom’s lovely man and ask both parents to come solo?  There is no easy answer to this – toys may be thrown out of the pram, feet stamped, tears shed.  A compromise might be offered – for example, you could suggest that for the ceremony, if Pops is to give you away, only Mom and Pops attend.  The partners can then be included in the celebrations afterwards, even if you have to grit your teeth to be polite to the floozy!
Feet still being stamped, with threats of not attending at all coming thick and fast?  Remind them that this wedding is not about them – it’s YOUR DAY and whilst you would be heartbroken if they didn’t attend, that would be their choice. (If you dare, you could suggest they and their partners should be adult and supportive!)  You don’t want anyone to be miserable – and some old and very painful wounds might be re-awoken – but neither do you want to have your day ruined by family members who can’t be reasonable.
  • Is there a black sheep of the family that no-one talks to any more?  If you are on good terms with him and would like him and his Plus One to be there, you can choose to invite him in spite of the family feuding, or to save war breaking out, a tactful suggestion that you meet up later for a celebratory drink might save both of you embarrassment.
  • Does your sibling have a same-sex partner who will cause apoplexy among other family members?  This is really tricky – but at the end of the day this is your brother or sister and if the relationship with the significant other is established, then they both should be invited.  By the same token, you don’t want to them to suffer any distress or embarrassment because of the prejudices of others, so talk to them both – tell them how much you want them there but that you will understand if they prefer not to come.
  • Religious differences – Again, give the person the option to decline the ceremony but accept the reception.  Your invitation response card can have two tick boxes – one for the ceremony and one for the reception.
  • Any relative, regardless of how close the connection, who cannot be genuinely happy for you and your fiancé need not be invited.
Close relatives – emphasis is on the word ‘close’ – first cousins that you haven’t seen for years need not be invited, (unless your mom insists because they are family), and unless their parents (see elderly aunts and uncles) have been invited and you think eyebrows might be raised.  Keep an eye on your maximum numbers, especially if you have a large extended family.  You might need to think about a family party at a later time to include those who you have to leave off your list.
 Next – old family friends
Again, the emphasis must be on ‘old friends’ – people who have had a positive influence on your life, who have known you and your family for years – not long-standing business associates of parents!  This was something my fiancé and I had to insist on – my father-in-law was well known and popular, and had many business ‘friends’ that he valued and who were eager to enjoy his hospitality, but who I didn’t know and who cared less about my lovely man!
Bear in mind, that not every invitation will be accepted, but if your numbers start looking tight, you may have to be selective and only invite those old friends who have kept in touch a bit more than at Christmas.
Finally – your friends and their partners
This is probably the easiest list to compile because it’s going to be of people you both like.  Should you invite close friends that your other half doesn’t know or like – and vice versa?  Yes – these people are part of your life and background, and not inviting them would be hurtful and unreasonable.
Are there exceptions?  Erm… Yes!
  • Any ex-partner is a definite no-no – even if relations between you are friendly.
  • Random Plus Ones that singleton friends might want to bring for the sake of not being a singleton at a wedding!  The exception to this rule is the new boyfriend, whether you like him or not, of your bridesmaid – she is one of your best friends in a special position.  You can’t say no!
  • Friends who can’t behave after a few drinks
Question – should you invite your boss and colleagues?  No – not unless you know them socially.  The easiest way to decide is to ask yourself – ‘if I changed job, who of my present colleagues would I continue to see in five years time?’  Keep office politics away from your wedding.
When deciding who – and who not –  to invite, try to remain practical and pragmatic, keep your maximum numbers in mind – and be kind to folk who question why they weren’t invited.  Never respond to any email or message immediately – wait a while and then gently explain that numbers were tight and you were restricted.  You might like to suggest that you would love to get together later to celebrate specially with them  – or something along those lines.
What about children?
Your wedding is not a kids’ party!  If you don’t want children at your wedding, make it clear, don’t apologise for your decision and let your invited guests sort out their baby sitting arrangements.  If you have the funds and venue to provide a baby sitting service, that may be a way to help your guests – but be careful of the cost, and remember – some parents won’t be happy about leaving their children with strangers, no matter how well referenced.  Of course, if you are having flower girls and/or page boys…… or if your sibling or best friend has a newborn that can’t reasonably be left with a baby sitter… you will need to be a bit flexible.  Communication is key – talk to whoever it is and work out a solution together.
TOP TIP: If you are happy for children to be brought along, it is a good idea to provide goody bags to keep little ones occupied.  Pew bags in the church with, for example, little colouring books and crayons, are a great idea.  Goody bags for puzzles, little books and so on for the reception can also help keep kids occupied.  They are not your responsibility on your big day – and if there are likely to be any little terrors accompanying their parents, it might be worth asking the best man and chief bridesmaid to act as policemen if things get out of hand, with a quiet, firm word to the parents (hopefully it won’t be their own children who are misbehaving!)
TOP TIP: Keeping track of invitations can be a pain – and I found a great free download based on Excel which has all sorts of cool features to make your life easier.  There’s  a helpful explanation of how to use it too.
There are other free templates available and also recommended by so have browse and see what works best for you.

 Let’s do this!