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Etiquette 101: The Guest List

072114-guestlist-01Who to include, and who to leave out?

And, who gets to decide who’s coming to your wedding?

That’s right — it’s the guest list, the bane of many a bride’s existence and maybe one of the trickiest parts of planning a wedding. Cousins come out of nowhere, your parents keep adding neighbors and friends, and your high school best friend wants to bring a date. From Emily Post’s Wedding Etiquette, here are some ways to survive creating the guest list:

  • The size of your guest list is connected to your budget. You can have a large wedding with simple details or a smaller wedding with more elaborate details. (Most couples end up somewhere in the middle.) Decide what matters to you.
  • It’s your wedding, so your close friends should take precedence over distant cousins or parents’ work colleagues. Be calm and diplomatic when you have this conversation with your family.
  • Each family is traditionally given half of the allotted number of guests. Emily Post suggests starting with four lists: one each for the bride, the groom, the bride’s family, and the groom’s family. We suggest each list be prioritized so the important people rise to the top.
  • Don’t forget: spouses, fiance(e)s, and long-term or live-in partners; the officiant and his or her spouse; parents of children in the ceremony; and parents of the bridesmaids and groomsmen, especially if you know them well.
  • Are children invited? Can single guests bring a date? Be clear about this when you address your invitations; the names of everyone invited should be written on the inner envelope. If you’re using invitations that don’t have an inner envelope, write the names of everyone invited on the outer envelope. (Read our Etiquette 101 post on invitations if you need a refresher.)
  • If a number of your “A List” or “must-have” invitees are unable to make it, start inviting people from your “B List,” as long as you can still give them at least four weeks advance notice.
  • Any person invited to your shower should also be invited to the wedding. (Office showers are an exception.)

It’s easy to make cuts if the bride, groom and their families make up their individual lists and the number is huge. Here’s where to start cutting:

  • Sort the guests into groups, and cut whole groups (second cousins, for example).
  • Cut some or all of your work colleagues. Some couples choose to just invite their immediate supervisor and their close work colleagues. Other couples cut work invites altogether.
  • Don’t let your parents invite friends just because they’ve been invited to those friend’s family weddings. A wedding isn’t the time for paybacks!