“What’s so hard about a guest list?”
It’s true. It seems so simple. But once you start, you are bound to have a few questions and problems you didn’t foresee…
…like having to cut the list down due to budget constraints, explaining to some people why they weren’t invited, friends asking to bring guests, or the age old problem of your mother running into your elementary school’s PTA treasurer whom she hasn’t seen in 6 years but now expects an invite in her mailbox by Monday. Eeeeek.
So, we want to help! Below, we have compiled a list of what we think are some common guest list concerns from The Knot’s Q&A queen, Carley. For more of her etiquette advice, visit theknot.com, where she covers everything from who you should invite and who you can leave out (your boss? your ex? your dentist?) to how to handle any awkward encounters with poise and not lose any friends in the process.
[Below: All Photos by Kristyn Hogan Photography]
Q. I invited a single friend with a guest, and when she returned the reply card, she’d written another female friend of hers. She’s not seeing this person, so she’s just a friend and definitely not a date — I don’t want to pay for her friend! What can I do?
A. Unfortunately, when you invite someone “and guest,” the choice is theirs, not yours. While it is a bit unusual that this person chose to invite a friend rather than a date, you didn’t specify one way or the other who she was to bring, so you can’t really stop her from doing so. Instead of writing “and guest” on all your single friends’ invites, avoid this guest gaffe by calling invitees in advance to find out their guests’ names. Though it’s more legwork, it’s more proper to have both invitees’ names written out on the invitation (even if you don’t personally know one of the individuals very well) and it saves you from any surprises later. While you might not be happy with the outcome in this case, think of it this way: You had already budgeted in someone for her to hang with — even if they’re romantically linked, its hardly the be-all and end-all of your big day.
Q. I have a wedding budget that allows for about 150 guests, but my fiance and I have so many friends that our current list already exceeds 250! I keep looking at it and just can’t cut any names without feeling terrible. How can we trim our wedding guest list without the guilt?
A. Rest assured that a bulging-at-the-seams guest list is a common wedding planning occurrence, and can be remedied somewhat painlessly. You are probably feeling so excited about sharing this joyous occasion with everyone you know that you just can’t bear to leave anyone off the list. But, truth be told, most of us can’t afford to invite everyone we know to our weddings, so start trimming! First, go over your list with your fiance and put each guest into category A or B. The As are the absolute must-invites, and likely include your family and closest friends. The B list is for all of those remaining. Now weed out your B list by asking yourself some questions: How close are you with this person? When was the last time you saw or spoke to this person? Would having him or her there on your wedding day really make or break your enjoyment? Based on your answers, you should be able to significantly reduce your overall list.
Other ways to consider cutting back: Leave off old high school or college friends whom you’re pretty sure you’ll never see again; second and third cousins whose names you can barely remember; and your parents’ extras (unless, of course, your parents are footing the bill). Make your wedding adults-only (skip anyone under 18); invite single people sans guests (and seat them together so they’ll mix and mingle); and don’t feel obligated to invite coworkers or business associates. Lastly, don’t feel pressured to invite people just because you were invited to their weddings. You may still feel bad about cutting people, but the reality is, it’s one of the surest ways to save lots of money and have the wedding of your dreams.
Q. My fiance and I are paying for most of our wedding and we are on a tight budget. We would like to invite as many people as possible, which makes it tough to invite singles with guests. Is it acceptable to invite single family and friends but not include “and guest” on their invitations? My fiance says we have to allow wedding guests to bring a date out of courtesy. I just don’t want to eliminate people just because we’re obligated to let them bring a guest that we can’t afford. What should we do?
A. This is an age-old debate. Your fiance has a point — it is gracious to allow single guests to bring a date so they won’t feel awkward or left out. But your point is valid too — if you can’t afford the extra guests, it may be even worse to cut people from your guest list just because you can’t let them bring a friend. Deal with this problem on a case-by-case basis. If you have unmarried friends and relatives in long-term relationships, you might want to consider inviting their partners. (Even though they’re not married, they’re committed.) Then, invite your more single friends and relatives without dates rather than crossing them off your wedding guest list altogether. If anyone complains, simply explain your dilemma — it was important that they be there, but that you couldn’t afford to invite dates. Then, carefully consider where to seat them at the wedding; you may want to put them with other singles so they won’t get stuck at a table of couples. Who knows, two of your guests might even make a match at your wedding!
Q. I’m trying to figure out my total wedding budget, and I know that the only way to really cut back is to trim the guest list. However, I’ve also heard that you can factor in at least 10, if not 20 percent of guests as no-shows. Should I go ahead then and budget for the cost of how many people I think will actually show up, instead of the cost of my entire wedding guest list?
A. In a word: no. This is a case where you should definitely err on the side of caution. While it’s true that chances are slim every last guest you invite will be able to make it to your wedding, it’s definite that it will be a huge headache for you to scrounge up more dough if more guests than you expected say that they’ll be able to make it. The solution? Cut down your guest list to a size your money can manage, and until every last RSVP card has come in (and every last phone call to track down those errant replies has gone out), assume that they’re all going to be there. Then if your final headcount is lower than you expected, great — you’ll be able to pass that number on to your caterer, rental company, and so on, and the money is still yours.
Q. My fiance and I are having a small, intimate wedding, and I’m afraid some friends will be offended that they’re not invited. What should we do?
A. Be honest with your friends. Simply explain that your wedding is going to be very small and with two families to accommodate, it’s simply impossible to invite everyone you want to (it’s okay to fudge a little). This might be a difficult conversation, but if they really are your friends, they should understand.
When making up your guest list, keep in mind that if you have to give a great amount of thought to whether to invite a specific person, you probably should keep them off the list. And never invite anyone out of guilt. As a wise wedding planner once said, “Your wedding guests should be the people you both adore.” Think of yourselves as the party planners of a grand event, and like all good party planners, you have to be the ones to draw the line. After all, it’s your party — and you should invite whom you want!