How to Downsize your Guest List

One of the biggest projects you’ll tackle as you plan your wedding is the guest list.  Whether you envision a grand gala or an intimate affair, the simple question of whom to invite can quickly become overwhelming. You and your betrothed probably have more family and friends than you realize, they have significant others and kids, and then there are the people your parents want to invite! Fortunately, we’ve got some tried and true tips to help you take control of who’s in and who’s out.

Start with a ‘master list’ of everyone you want to invite, including parents’ guests, guests’ guests,  couples whose weddings you’ve been invited to, the officiant’s better half, whatever; this is the time to think big. Now figure out the difference between the master list and your ideal headcount. That should give you an idea of how aggressive you need to be in cutting things down.

One helpful way to manage parents’ and other VIP’s guest requests is to let them know how many people they can invite, and let them take it from there. This can be much easier on everyone than haggling over individual names. There may be some negotiation involved, especially if the VIP is contributing financially to the event, but once you’ve arrived at a mutually agreeable number, stand your ground. Remind them that you’re making tough choices too, and as much as you wish you could invite everyone, the ultimate goal is for you to have the wedding you’ve always dreamed of.


When it comes to extended friends and family, consider setting some ground rules to help whittle things down. You may agree to invite second cousins, but not third. Some couples choose to only invite friends they’ve both met in person, or whom they’ve seen within the last year. (This is especially helpful when deciding which single guests get a ‘plus-one’.) New friends and coworkers can also pose a challenge, so consider only inviting people you’ve known for a year or longer. Of course there are always exceptions to the rule, but these kinds of objective guidelines can help take some of the pain out of the process, and make it easier to tactfully explain why you chose not to invite someone if you’re put on the spot.

Finally, assign each potential guest a priority. The ‘A’s are must-invites, immediate family and lifelong friends, the ‘B’s are extended family and good friends, and the ‘C’s are other friends and colleagues. You may find that inviting just the ‘A’s and ‘B’s gets you to your ideal number. Another option is to send invitations in order of priority. As you hear from people on the ‘A’list who can’t attend, send invites to people on the ‘B’or ‘C’list. This is a great way to honor the most important people in your life while making sure to include as many loved ones as possible in your big day.

It’s easy to get lost in worrying about other people’s feelings when building your guest list. Stop every so often and remind yourself that you’re really figuring out whose faces you’ll see looking back at you as celebrate the biggest day of your life. Keep that in mind, and the rest will fall into place.

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