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September 02, 2009

Trimming the Guestlist

One of the hardest things about weddings is the guest list. I feel that lately with the rising costs of weddings, we've really had to trim down the guest lists to the often referred to "A" List and "B" List. Even as early as the late 90's I still recall going to weddings that you didn't have to RSVP to, it was buffet style, and most of your whole church was invited. There definitely has been a big steer away from this - and its become much more of an exact head count, plated meals (or even buffet by headcount) and no stragglers allowed. In this day and age, you have to decide which family members get cut, which friends don't make the list, which people do or don't get a plus one and whether or not you will have an adult only wedding.

All advice boards give one HUGE piece of advice - BE CONSISTENT!!!

So how did my FH and I decide about our generalized guest list?

1. Family
I have an extended family of well over 100 in the US. This includes cousins and second cousins. FH has a smaller family and all will be invited. We have decided to invite all of the cousins that i still see regularly and their children. Most of my 2nd cousins are at least over 5 years old and some as old as 19 or 20. I rationalize it this way. I am a 2nd generation Korean American. When my family first came to America, all they had was each other. Our vacations always included my uncles and aunts and cousins. As we further immersed ourselves here and each family branched out of the family for their networks, we did this less and less. But my mom's side of the family and an uncle or two on my dad's side - we're still all very close. Frequent phone calls, holiday visits and so on. So family can't be cut out.
2. Close Friends
FH and I both have a fairly extensive friend network. FH went to college in NC and then came to Law school at Indiana University. I did college/grad school in CA close to home, and then went to IU as well. So across the board we both know a decent amount of people, and our close friends from back then we still hold dear to us. Of course you have your few friends who were the bestest at the time, but with the business of life, some distance has grown - those are being done on a case by case basis. My good friend advised "it's hard to do, but think to yourself, do i see myself still close friends with this person in 5 years?" Great advice, b/c sadly - life happens and some friends you can see just not making the cut :( Have to really try to be objective and impartial.
3. Children
Only family. Period. It's the only way we can really be consistent. We will have a lot of OOT guests, and we intend to find them babysitting services for the day of the ceremony/reception. We realize a lot of our OOT guests want to make this a family vacation and want to encourage that. Children will be allowed for most of the other events we have, but the ceremony and reception. We are hoping that our OOT guests will see this as an opportunity to let loose and have a fun kidless night. And we fully intend to make doing this as easy as possible...
4. Plus One's
Simple. "No House, No Spouse, No ring... No bring!" Unless our friends are in a stable committed relationship of at least one year, we are asking them to be open to coming stag. This way our single friends can mingle (what better place to meet someone, right?) and we can still invite all the people we'd like to by cutting out people we don't know. Our main purpose for this is to avoid friends bringing dates just to bring someone. If the person is important to you, then of course we'd like them there. And in no way are we intending to judge the quality of a friend's relationship but at the same time, we don't need to be allowing some guy/girl we've never met and will never see again in lieu of a friend who should be there... it's a hard choice, but needs to be made.
5. Parent's friends
They will be allowed to invite their friends. Considering who's bankrolling part of the festivities, its only fair to allow our parents to have their moment as well. We both realize what a big deal this day will be for us, our families and our closest friends. We will not deprive our parents of having their "moment" too. That being said, neither said has made any weird or random requests, so we've been pretty lucky to have their support and openness in the process thus far. And they haven't requested obscene numbers at all.

So I guess the question is... these were a few thoughts we had in designing our guest list... what did you use to help define yours? Did you have to make any hard decisions in making your guest lists? Cut people out? What helped or hurt the process?Suggestion? Advice? Thoughts? Comments? I know this is a touchy subject, so please don't judge me - we just had to make hard fast rules and stick to them.


  1. At the first family gathering post my engagement, my grandmother pointed her finger at me and said, "You need to invite Johanna (her cousin), Pat (her old neighbor who I knew from tons of time spent at g-ma's), and Gracie (my father's godmother)." I think that is what created the bridezilla in me. I looked at her and said that I had every intention of inviting those people because of who they were, but if she thought I was going to invite every person she new growing up in Newark she had another thing coming. "If they are going to look at the invitation and say 'Kelly who?' then I'm not sending one." It's hard but you have to draw the line somewhere. I think you guys have a good plan going there.

  2. Hey thanks for the comment about Cabo on Team Giles. I CAN'T WAIT!! You saw whales??? ahhh! SO EXCITED!! My heart skipped a beat :D

  3. This was hard for us too. Our venue's capacity is only 175, and we're budgeting for only about 150... so needless to say it was a shock when my fiancee's mother handed us a list of over 100 people! Being from a really really small town, these were "people that were important to him and played a part in his life at some point growing up"....
    It was hard, and she was disappointed, but we didn't need his 6th grade math teacher there (seriously). And even though many probably wouldn't make the trip, we couldn't really take that chance! Even now, we're really pushing it, and I'm hopeful that some of the people that we are *pretty sure* won't make it - won't.

  4. so, i fall into like 3 categories...does that mean i'm worth 3 people that aren't getting invites? i feel cooler and cooler everyday.

  5. I'm so glad you are on the bandwagon with the plus-one business.. I guess I'm cold but I didnt want to spend my wedding day with my friend's coworker* when I couldve invited someone I cared about instead.

    * I'm talking about my childhood friend, I'll call him 'Bob,' who never brings what I think of as a legitimate date to weddings ..but instead invites a male coworker so that they can trawl for single women together. An extreme example admittedly.

  6. Your "no house, no spouse, no ring, no bring" policy seems incredibly thoughtless. If you need to trim your guest list, how about only inviting people you really care about, single or otherwise? This might eliminate some "probably should invite but could live without them" guests. If you have a close friend who is known to bring questionable guests, tell that person not to bring an inappropriate guest, and say why. Your policy assumes that: 1. all your singles are good matches for each other 2. your single friends can't be trusted to bring appropriate guests 3. your single guests are all self-confident extroverts.
    Seriously, how many seats will you save with this blanket policy? How many single friends will you offend or hurt? I think it would be more effective, and compassionate, to explain your situation to the select singles that you think would be fine attending stag. If they are offended, back off.
    "No plus ones besides committed relationships" says to your single guests that you really don't care about their comfort at your event. You will be surrounded by people who love and adore you, and you won't have time to spend quality time with all your guests, who will be left to fend for themselves for much of the event. Shouldn't guests have at least one person of their choosing to hang with?
    I get that it's your day. But the purpose of a party is to connect with and entertain guests. Expecting singles to attend alone for YOUR convenience seems really, really bridezilla.
    That said -- I think your family children only is a good compromise, especially if you provide appropriate alternatives for children of out of town guests. Good job there.

  7. I LOVE your no house no spouse comment. . . this is completely ftting of my personality. no one would bat an eye. I LOVE IT!!!!!

    why should you have to invite your cousins fling of the month? or your uncles young tenderoni? This is a great way to keep things simple. I wil be following this!

  8. ha! we had this problem and we ended up cutting EVERYONE out. except for immediate family. The bonus of having a destination wedding.

  9. My hubby and I's first wedding included our 2 year old and his babysitter.
    Twelve years later, we'll be having around 14 people.
    Don't forget the ecomony and the latest hurricanes are hitting many people hard. You may have several opting out.
    One of the pleasures we had was to make a per person donation for everyone who wasn't attending. We then sent them notification.
    It was important to include them in our ceremony, in spirit.

  10. Thanks for all the comments! Even when discussing guest list with friends, we've gotten positive and negative feedback. The bottom line came down to, if we had the money we'd invite everyone we could in the celebration, however, we don't and tough decisions have to be made. Our guidelines are not to isolate or make anybody feel bad, but at the end of the day, i don't think we can please everyone - so we opt to include who we can. At my age, a lot of my friends are married and the few that aren't can definitely manage any crowd... and truly enjoy themselves.

    We've also decided to do a "welcome home" or "at-home" reception for those in NJ who can't make it. Some of FH's friends and family can't or won't be able to make it for a variety of reasons. We still want them to celebrate with us - and think what better reason to have another informal party.

    The greatest thing about a 23 month engagement is that we've given our OOT guests plenty of notice to plan for a California wedding :)

  11. I love your rules. MY biggest problem is.... ALL of my students want to be invited. I'm having a VERY hard time figuring out which ones I CAN invite without inviting all 480 who want to come :)

  12. We're still creating the rules for our guestlist but we're the same with your Close Friends rules - deciding to invite those that we can see ourselves being friends with still in 5 years time. The rest are still working in process. It's not easy!!

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  14. I absolutely agree with the no ring no house no invite rule. But in reality, it's hard to say no when you're put in the spot.

    I've had my first annoyance of friends asking me whether they can bring extra people not named on the invite!!!
    Such as a Mom, a girlfriend of a few months, and a boyfriend of few months! The mom I met three times, the girlfriend just once, and the boyfriend just once. Of these three, one person simply notified me the person was coming. what the...

    I should have been firm and just DECLINED on the spot instead of being all flustered, mumbling a yes, and kicking myself for it immediatly thereafter.

  15. A hard one for me was friends whom I had been much closer to 3,5 years ago, but the ones I don't hang out with anymore. Maybe just once a year or even less (plus the ones who moved away).

    Then there's the opposite-sex friends who aren't so close anymore. I invited such a friend, who happened to be a guy, and fiance was not happy about the male friend part of it. It doesn't help that fiance has basically zero female friends and believes there is no friendship between opposite genders without one secretly or unconsciously wanting to be more than just friends.


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