How to Make Your Wedding Guest List

 In dream wedding, Party Planning, Wedding etiquette

Simple ideas for deciding who to invite to your wedding

Guest List. These can be two of the most dreaded words in the wedding planning process.  When you start to seriously consider all the variables and people (along with their feelings and personalities) that creating a wedding guest list will involve, the entire exercise can be daunting.  There is no way to avoid the hard decisions you may have to make, but if you approach the process with a plan in mind, then you’ll have a better chance of simplifying the process and avoiding any hurt feelings along the way.

At our New Jersey wedding venue, we can help you make the most of your wedding budget and of the reception space you’ve chosen, but the hard work of putting names to the seats available will come down to careful planning. 

It may not be the first thing on your mind after getting engaged, but preparing for a less stressful guest list begins right then.  You likely won’t have a true idea of how many people you’ll need to–or be able to–invite to your wedding at that point, but keep in mind that managing expectations is crucial for avoiding complications. 

When you get engaged it’s natural to want to tell anyone and everyone the news. And with the world of social media, a simple status update will alert just about everyone you know anyway. Next will be the flood of congratulations (…and hopefully they’ll be a few friends demanding that you absolutely must have your special day at one of the best NJ wedding locations — The Manor, Highlawn Pavilion, Pleasantdale Chateau, or Ram’s Head Inn…but we digress…). 

Then there will be inevitable questions, particularly, “So when is the wedding?” 

Here is your first challenge and opportunity.  Even though you don’t know yet whom you’ll invite, responding proactively (and directly is some cases) can help to manage expectations.  So if you’re not sure you can invite anyone and everyone (or there’s someone already hinting around that you absolutely don’t want to invite), it may be best to let them know at the very beginning that while you hope to be able invite everyone, it may be a much smaller affair.  And at least try to avoid giving anyone the opportunity to infer that they’re automatically invited.  Better to surprise people with a wedding invitation than to have someone upset, waiting for a pretty envelope that never arrives.

Once you’ve decided to put pen to paper, the real work begins.  As a wedding reception site that has hosted thousands of weddings in New Jersey, ceremonies included, we know that, in an effort for fairness, many brides and grooms have started with the general rule of thumb for portioning out seats.  Once you’ve settled on an approximate overall guest count, divide the number evenly between both sides of the family.  You and your fiancée can then split “your” number of seats in half again, dividing it evenly between yourself and you parents, so there are four even groups of seats.

Based on these four equal numbers, you can then have an honest conversation with your fiancée, parents and in-laws to-be about what is realistic for who can be invited to your wedding reception location based on the numbers.  Having a set numbers in advance will give some boundaries, and at the very least, a starting point for the list making process.

For couples whose family sizes are similar, this can make for a fairly straightforward process. However, if your family is large and your fiancée has a small family, the difficulties of an even split become immediately apparent.  Same as well for families where stepparents double the number of close relations.  Inevitably, eyebrows will be raised if the sister of your friend from middle school is at your wedding, but there wasn’t room for your fiancée’s 12th brother.  Therefore, you’ll have to decide as a couple what seems fair to you.  Should the “even split” be an absolute rule, or should you take the next common step of creating a hierarchy of importance?

By further refining your choices by familial proximity and closeness to friends, you’ll be able to still maintain a fair balance, if not by the numbers, at least by the relationships you share with your guests.  Typically, immediate family first, close friends, then more distant relatives, work friends/business relations, and so on.

This, of course is just the start of building the list. Refining it will take honest and regular communication between you, your partner and both your sets of parents, particularly if they are contributing to the financing of the wedding.  The more guidelines you can put in place, and all agree to up front, such as having more than one of you know the individual you’re planning to invite, the more you can keep the list from growing out of control or avoid parents trying to leverage their stake in funding the wedding.  Regardless of who is paying for the celebration, it is your wedding and your responsibility for everyone who attends, so maintaining a fair but firm plan for whom to invite will help hold back the inevitable, and seemingly arbitrary, growth of the wedding guest list while limiting the stress and surprises along the way.

You may be glad to know though, that in our experience, even after all the maneuvering they may have had to do to bring all their varied guests together at our NJ wedding venue, at the end of the day, our brides and grooms will tell you, it was worth the effort to be able to enjoy and share that one special day with as many of their friends and family as they could.

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