The Basics

The guest list.

Possibly the thorniest issue the couple will have to face. Who should we invite, and what if we don’t agree?

Start with your core group of close family and friends, and add them to your GettingMarried Interactive Guest List. Unless there are family members you don’t want to invite, this should be an easy and enjoyable task.

Next, start adding other groups of people that you and your partner would like to invite. Add them all to the guest list even if you are not sure about numbers or which event they’re coming to at this point – you can tweak this later.

When you’ve input every single person you can think of (don’t forget to allow for plus-ones) then you can start to match your venue capacity to the list. If the numbers are over, remove an equal number from each side to keep things fair.

Sometimes it can be tricky to get the right balance between families and friends – especially when one of the couple has a huge extended family and the other has virtually nobody. If there’s a huge imbalance then discuss exactly how ‘close’ some of the relatives really are; if you still feel strongly that they should be included then you’ll need to reduce the number of friends you invite. This can be a tough decision, because (whisper it quietly) you’d rather have the company of your witty, amusing crew than your ancient, hard-of-hearing aunt, but if you are having an evening celebration then you can always invite everyone to that instead. By then you’ll have got all the family obligations out of the way, and you can really let your hair down.

When you’re drawing up the provisional list, bear in mind that between 10-20% of the people you invite will not be able to come, so make sure you have a list of other guests to fill the gaps after all the RSVPs come back.

When it comes to sending out the final invitations, especially if your venue can only take a maximum number, pare down the guest list using the ‘tiers of priority’ trick. Place immediate family, the bridal party and best friends at the top of the list, and follow with aunts, uncles, cousins and those close friends you can’t imagine celebrating without. Under that, list your neighbours, colleagues, parents’ friends, and so on. If you need to make some cuts, start from the bottom until you reach your ideal number.

If your guest list is still bursting at the seams, you’ll need to assess the plus-one situation. Think about your Table Plan, and picture who your single friends would sit with. If it’s a table of singles that know each other well, you can get away with not inviting plus-ones. If asked why you’re not allowing single friends to bring guests, say you are limited with numbers; people will understand.  

There’s always that one singleton who won’t know anyone at the wedding; should you invite them, too? If you feel it would be awkward for them, then maybe not; but if there are other single guests in the same position, and they’re all fairly gregarious types, then take a risk; you never know, you may unwittingly kick start a brand-new romance…

If you’re not including children in the guest list, you need to make this crystal clear from the get-go. Excluding youngsters doesn’t make you a child-hating monster; many venues and party styles just aren’t suitable for kids, and if numbers are limited there are probably quite a few people you’d rather invite than your old college friend’s large brood.

Phrases such as “unfortunately we cannot accommodate children – thank you for understanding” or “we wish we could include all children, but are unfortunately only able to invite immediate family,” on the invitation will help to avoid lots of awkward questions.