Cutting down your wedding guest list is never the fun part of planning, but sometimes it needs to be done.
It’s a tough job, but someone has got to do it – and when it comes to cutting down your wedding guest list, that someone is you.
No one understands the relationships you have with your friends, family, colleagues or neighbours quite like you and your partner, so it falls to you not only to build the guestlist for your wedding but to trim it back when things start to get out of hand.
It’s a common issue that hundreds of couples end up facing and one that requires compassionate handling.
When the tier system returns, the number of guests is likely to be capped at 15 or 30, and, with couples looking to host more intimate celebrations in the future, it’s essential to how you can uninvite guests or cut down your list without hurting anyone’s feelings.
On the long list of things that might stress you out like crazy while planning your big day, creating your guest list is likely to be one of them.
You’re putting together a tally of the most influential people in your life, your partner’s life, as well as those in your parents’ and in-laws’ lives.
That alone is a lot of people to please. But, factor in friends and family members assuming an invite, and it can get messy. Looking for the best Wedding Photographer in Melbourne? Check out our ultimate list here.
The best way to keep things simple is to have a strategy in place. So we asked top wedding planners for the best-kept tips for whittling down your guest list to the magic number.
How to Cut Your Wedding Guest List Down
Know the Cost Per Head.
No matter your budget, you’ll want to know the cost per head and max capacity at your venue so you can settle on an ideal guest list total.
With this number in hand, you are armed in knowing exactly how many you can invite based on what you can afford.
For example, if you had 175 people on your list, but after this calculation, you realise you can only afford 100 guests, you’ve just cut down the list by 75 people. So the question is, who are the 100 guests to invite?
Only Invite People Who Will Be Part of Your Future.
While your wedding day is monumental regarding your past, it has much more to do with celebrating your future.
For this reason, it’s essential to make sure that most, if not all, of the people you invite will play a role in your future life together.
For instance, if you haven’t spoken to your friend from high school in over a year, don’t feel obliged to invite them out of respect for your history together. You likely won’t speak to them for a year after the wedding either.
Ask Your Parents Not to Go Overboard When Inviting Friends.
Especially if they’re paying, your parents will likely start adding every person they know-and those they met recently-to your list.
Yes, they’re paying, but still, it’s your wedding. The key here is to ask them to be practical. Share how important it is for you to keep things as intimate as possible, and instead focus on the people you wouldn’t want to get married without them sharing on your special day.
Write Down All of the People You Would Love to Invite on Index Cards.
Start with three boxes: Box one is for close family (a.k.a. the people you have to invite), box two is for close friends (a.ka. the friends you think will be in your life for the long run), and box three is for everyone else you want to invite.
You will be surprised by how many people make it to that third box. This will give you a more accurate count of how many you can invite from box three.
Cut Out Plus-Ones.
Of course, you want your guests to be happy, and sometimes that means allowing them to bring a date.
But at the end of the day, it’s up to you to decide who attends your wedding, and if that means saying no to cousin Fran’s newest boyfriend of two months, you have every right to hold your ground.
If the budget is tight, consider only giving ‘plus-ones’ to guests in a long-term relationship that you are confident will last.
Another good rule of thumb is to settle on a “cut-off time” in terms of how long they’ve been dating at the time you send out invitations. That way, no one’s feelings get hurt.
Say No to Children.
While it can be a touchy subject, eliminating children from the guest count can help cut down your numbers. After all, the parents deserve a night out with each other anyway!
Even if the idea of your cousin’s little kids all dolled up for your big day sounds adorable-and even great for pictures-stop and think about how you’ll feel if one of them starts hysterically crying in the middle of your vows.
Not so cute, right? Additionally, children can seriously add up and cause your guest list to be 20 or 30 people more than you planned. Saying no to all is much easier than saying no to some.
Your final edit informs so many other factors – from seating plans to overall costs – that this is a job to be tackled sooner rather than later.
Be realistic about your guest numbers to avoid stress later on. Choose a number larger than your venue’s capacity, and you’ll be holding your breath every time you open an RSVP.
If you know you intend on having a small, intimate ceremony, you can even make a point of mentioning this when people congratulate you on your engagement.
Then when invites start going out, and they don’t receive a fancy envelope in the post, they’ll be less likely to take it personally.
Pick Plus Ones Wisely
The list already made and way over the limit? Eliminate plus ones and parents’ friends.
That may sound a little harsh, but when spaces are limited, it is advisable and understandable to prioritise immediate family and very close friends only.
If you don’t want to cut out plus ones completely, you can at least be selective about who you’re giving them to.
Those who have been coupled up for a long time are more likely to be upset if only one half of their duo is invited, while those in fresher or more casual relationships will probably be more understanding – particularly if you don’t have much of a shared history with their new partner.
It can be controversial, but you could even consider going for a ‘no ring, no bring’ approach.
Get Firm With Family
If you haven’t spoken to some of your relatives in years, don’t feel obliged to invite them,’ insists Cherelle.
And she’s right: remember, your wedding day is for you and your partner, not an excuse for a family reunion for people you haven’t been in contact with within recent memory.
Try to make a rule and uphold it across both groups – for instance, if you’re not inviting aunts and uncles on their side, don’t invite them on yours, so no one feels like the odd one out. Of course, no two families look the same, and they’re always needs to be a degree of flexibility, but if you want to go down the fairest possible route, this is a kind, considered way of explaining the decision to all parties.
Have a Child-Free Wedding
Another critical piece of advice we put forward to couples when they’re feeling overstretched? Respectfully specify that your wedding is just for adults.
Now, we know that for some, having children involved in the wedding will be non-negotiable – especially if you have kids of your own! – but if not, an adults-only affair could be the slimmed-down solution you’ve been searching for.
As with family limitations, she says that it’s best to stick to this principle for all, to limit the offence caused if you have one or two children present.
This can be a sensitive subject, but while children add a certain charm to the day, removing them from your headcount helps cut your numbers and gives their parents a night off to let their hair down.
Don’t Return the Invite.
It’s all too common to feel like it has to be a like-for-like situation, but we insist otherwise.
If you have anyone on your guest list you’re inviting just because they invited you to their wedding years ago, do yourself a favour and cross them off.
You can still enjoy those fond memories of their big day, but if that friendship has since fizzled out and you’re not really in contact anymore, they’ll almost certainly not be expecting an invitation regardless.
Imagine how you’d feel now if the situation was reversed – based on your current status, you probably wouldn’t be surprised if you didn’t cut, so chances are they won’t be either. At Brighton Savoy, we have compiled a list of the Best Photobooth Hires in Melbourne to help you choose who captures your magical day.
No guilt is required on this one.
Cut Out Your Colleagues
Office politics are already hard enough to navigate without adding a wedding into the mix.
But if colleagues you don’t even spend time with outside of work start assuming that they’re going on the guest list, it’s okay to let them down gently.
Making this a blanket policy is the easiest option, but as ever, there will be exceptions – you may have a smaller, more close-knit circle of co-workers that you can’t imagine not having with you on the dancefloor.
The key, once again, is consistency – if you ask everyone but one or two people on a small team, it can feel a little mean, so be as considerate as you possibly can. And no, unless you’re BFFs outside of the boardroom, you don’t have to ask your boss.
Ask for Help at Your Own Risk
You may have the urge to show your guest list to your parents and your friends, but be warned, they may come back with a list of people they think you should invite – thereby making the situation even worse.
Parents often feel like they get a say, especially if they’re footing part or all of the bill, and if space allows, you can try to accommodate this – but ultimately, it’s your wedding, and you get to prioritise the people you love the most.
Remember, for every person you invite to your wedding. You have to pay for them to be there, so choose your guests wisely and only invite people who mean something to you.
Sometimes, even despite your best intentions, you might find yourself in an uncomfortable position where you need to uninvite some guests.
Honesty is the best policy. Let them know that they are essential to you, hence your initial invitation, but you have to reduce your guest numbers due to external factors.
If feasible, you can arrange a virtual celebration post-wedding that includes many people or an in-person affair when things settle.
To make uninvited guests feel included and remembered, you can send a wedding announcement with your favourite picture from the day once you get your wedding photos.
Consider Having an A-List and a B-List
If you send out invites to your first choice guests early — about ten weeks before the wedding — and give them about three or four weeks to RSVP, then you can send out some invites from the B-list if some guests can’t make it.
Just make sure that the B-list people get invites with a later RSVP date and that you don’t invite them less than six weeks before the wedding.
A B-list is controversial, with some experts recommending for and others recommending against it. Some people even have C and D lists.
Use Set Criteria to Include and Exclude People from the Wedding Guest List
Having rules about whom to invite and who not to invite limits any drama and makes the decisions easier.
Some suggested rules include not inviting anyone you’d only ask out of guilt, anyone you haven’t spoken to in the last year who isn’t a relative, or anyone that either the people getting married hasn’t even heard of before.
You Need Not Invite All Friends
If you haven’t spoken to or got together with someone in years and don’t think you’ll do so within the next year, either leave them off or put them on the B-list, regardless of how close you were in the past.
You Need Not Invite All Relatives
Likewise, not all relatives deserve invites. The closest relatives — parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, and first cousins — usually merit an invitation.
Anyone else doesn’t have to get an invitation. However, if you invite a one-second cousin, it’s a good idea to ask them all to avoid issues.
If one member of the couple is closer to their extended family, they may want to invite more family members.
Deciding Whether to Invite Co-Workers
If there’s room on the guest list, invite either everyone in your group or department or none.
However, anyone you see socially outside of the office can be an exception to the rule. This is because they are friends and not just co-workers.
For a large wedding, invite your boss, primarily if you work at a small company. With smaller weddings, only invite people you’d see if you no longer worked at the same company.
Make a Set Rule About Plus-Ones and Children
Keep things fair and make a set rule about plus-ones. Either everyone gets one, or everyone in a long-term relationship, or nobody.
Exceptions sometimes include the wedding attendants. The same is true with children.
People typically say no children, no children except close family, only children above a certain age, or all children. Just make it clear on the invitation whether it includes children and plus-ones.
Think About Added Value as a Guest
If you’re on the fence about inviting someone, think about the added value they may have as a guest.
For example, some people are great at getting other people to dance or talk to virtually anyone.
They may carry a table and get people talking who don’t know each other. These guests may make other guests enjoy the festivities, so invite them if possible.
Consider Including Names on Rsvp Cards
Sometimes people RSVP, including people you didn’t mean to invite.
To help avoid this, include names on the RSVP cards or allow options only for the number of guests invited. A checkbox list with either one or two guest options is one example.
Deciding to Invite More Guests Expecting Some to Rsvp No
Some people invite a certain percentage of people over their maximum total expecting some guests will RSVP no.
This can lead to problems if more people than expected say yes. Some people recommend B-lists to solve this problem.
About 75 per cent of people come, including about 85 to 90 per cent local people, 65 to 75 per cent of non-local people, 85 per cent of family, and 50 per cent of friends.
With weddings under 50 guests, 90 per cent of those invited typically attend.
Never Delete Names from the Original Wedding Guest List
When cutting back from the dream wedding guest list, eliminate no one. Instead, use some prioritisation system.
You may find that enough people can’t attend that you’ll be able to invite extra people. However, maintaining the original complete list keeps potential future additions handy.
Consider prioritising people as must-invites, should invite, and could invite.
Deciding Who Won’t Be on the Guest List
Few couples come in under the allotted number they’ve agreed upon for their guest list. So, after you compile the guest lists from you, your spouse-to-be and your parents, you need to get out a marker and be ready to criss-cross. These steps can help you whittle down your list:
Review the list, and if you don’t recognise a name, check with your parents or future in-laws and politely ask if that person can be removed.
Look at your co-workers, bosses, and business acquaintances.
If you must make cuts, your colleagues should understand that you want to keep it to just family and close friends.
Look at your friends and your spouse-to-be friends.
Do you see them all regularly or talk to them often? If you hesitate at all, cut them.
Just because you attended your friend’s wedding years ago doesn’t automatically qualify them for your list.
Anyone who has planned a wedding should understand what it feels like to have to make cuts.
Look at distant relatives whom you haven’t seen or heard from in years.
After checking with your parents, take them off the list. They might be appreciative that they don’t have to travel or buy a gift.
If you can master the art of giving and take during your wedding planning, you’re off to a good start on your marriage.
To avoid or at least minimise arguments, remind yourself to be polite and respectful of yourself and whomever you’re speaking with — raising your voice to make a point doesn’t usually work.
Make sure you’re on the same page about the expectations of the guest list. Then, when the two of you agree, dealing with your parents and their lists will be much easier.
Being Gracious to the Uninvited
Before sending out invitations, call or visit anyone you think might be hurt about not being invited.
It’s not an easy conversation to have with anyone, but it’s better to be honest and address the issue than not to say anything at all.
If they’re genuinely offended, it’s probably best that you didn’t invite them. Don’t be defensive; apologise and hope that you’ll remain friends.
Potential Ways to Include More Guests
If budget is the reason for not including some guests, consider making cuts in other areas to afford more guests. Here at Brighton Savoy, we have compiled an exclusive list of Wedding Photo Locations in Melbourne to help you decide on your special day.
For example, choose less expensive options for food, limit the decorations and flowers, and cut out some extras people don’t care about, such as printed materials at the wedding and wedding favours.