The guest list is one of the very first and most important things you have to consider when you start planning a wedding. The number of guests affects what venues you can consider, what sort of activities you can do, and what kind of quality of food, invitations, favors, etc. that you can afford and still stay within your budget. It’s a process full of difficult decisions, but here’s a few tips to help you through it:

Make a list.

Sit down with your significant other and start making a list of everyone who you might want to attend. You can use your phone contacts, facebook friends and address book to help you get started. If either of you have your parents involved in the planning, coordination, or help paying for any aspects of the wedding, you may want to call them and ask them if they have a short “wish list” of people they really want to see at the event as well.

Cut it down.

Once you have a full list of all your possibilities, you need to cut it down. It’s tempting to want to just invite everyone, but keep in mind, the shorter your list is, the better your wedding will be on a budget! If you only have $100 for wedding favors, fifty $2 favors are going to be more appreciated than two hundred $0.50 favors.

A few things to consider when cutting down your list:

  • When you’re considering family, don’t invite people who you only see once a year at reunions. If they’re not close enough to talk to you regularly, they won’t mind hearing about the ceremony from someone else.
  • The same goes for friends. If you haven’t spoken to them in a year, you’re not that close anymore – they’ll be happy enough seeing the wedding pictures on facebook.
  • Unless it’s absolutely necessary (they’re a parent, sibling, etc), don’t invite anyone who you think is going to argue, complain, express judgement, or get drunk and throw up in your flower arrangements. It’s your big day. Don’t feel bad about cutting out people who you think might ruin it.
  • Keep in mind, if you wouldn’t be surprised or upset about not getting an invitation to their wedding, they won’t be upset about not getting an invitation to yours.

Consider who will attend.

Most articles will tell you to only expect between 60-80% of your guest list to actually be able to attend the wedding. You should be able to estimate with some degree of accuracy by going through your guest list one by one – people who live far out of town, elderly grandparents who rarely travel, or people whose children are getting married the same weekend probably won’t attend, so it’s fairly safe to send invitations to them out of courtesy without actually counting them in your total number of expected guests.

Stand by your decisions.

You should expect some amount of push-back on your final list decisions after you’ve begun sending the invitations. It might be a parent or grandparent with questions about why you’ve left out their friends from church, or an old high school friend you haven’t seen in years suddenly wondering when they can expect their invite to the big day. Let these people know that you are on a budget and you’re keeping the guest list small and intimate in order to stick with that budget. Thank them for their friendship, assure them that you love and care about them, and don’t let them distract you from looking forward to your big day!

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