How to create your guest list for your dream wedding: 10 must-have tips

How to create your guest list for your dream wedding: 10 must-have tips

The guest list. Many a happy couple have had their first, and biggest, wedding-related fight as a result of the dreaded guest list. Stripes has seen it all before, and she can guess it is not going to stop any time soon. Never in your life did you think that aunt Ellie whom you have not seen for 10 years will all of a sudden be the most popular family member, or that all of a sudden your uncle is persona non grata after pointing out that certain double standards are always set when it comes to who to invite, and who not to. And you kind of agree with him.

As couples’ budgets grow smaller, so have the wedding guest list also followed suit. In days gone past it was not unusual to have a wedding with 300 to 500 guests (I cannot imagine…) Everyone was invited, and everyone came. These days a big wedding is considered 100 to 150 guests, with smaller more intimate weddings being the flavour of the decade.

Stripes would strongly recommend that you work out your guest list before starting to search for a wedding venue. Can you imagine finding the venue of your dreams only to realise they can only accommodate 40 guests and you are inviting 120, or their minimum guest count is 100 and you only have 40 guests on the list? So first the list, then the venue. Remember you also need to keep in mind your budget, and the type of wedding you and your partner wants. Are you dreaming about a low key, intimate affair or more of a lavish party?
And she says there are a few other helpful tips that she will gladly give you!

So which groups are you considering when deciding whom to invite?
• Immediate family
Start with your parents, grandparents, siblings, their partners and their children. Then move down a step to add your aunts, uncles and cousins that you see regularly.
• Distant family
Family members that you keep in touch with, and would like to share the day with. But, if a friend trumps that family member, rather go with the friend.
• Friends
Start with your closest friends and then think about friends you speak to regularly, friends from your school years, university or college, neighbours that you are friends with or friends that you feel could be a great addition to your wedding guest list, i.e. that one friend who can get anyone on the dance floor, or who makes the best speeches.
• Work colleagues
Depending on how long you have worked for the company, how long you are still planning on working for them, as well as the relationship between yourself and them. You may want to invite your boss and a colleague or two, but that wholly depends on the situation and context.
• Plus ones
In certain cases adding plus ones can almost double your initial guest count. Practice how to be ruthless. You can even try the American phrase “no ring? No bring!” to imply that only friends who are engaged or married are allowed plus ones.
• Family friends/friends of the parents
This should be a very open and honest discussion between your partner and yourself and your sets of parents. Be upfront about what you can afford, as well as your vision for the day, and hope that they will understand.
• Children
Sometimes you have no option but to invite them. This should be one of the first things you and your partner decide on as it can dramatically change the planning and dynamics of the day. If you do choose to not invite kids, just remember there is a chance that some guests will not be able to make it because they do not have a babysitter.

Here are Stripes top tips for creating a wedding guest list:
Tip #1:
Don’t verbally invite guests. It often happens that you forget whether the specific person was on the A or B list, or actually invited at all. But now you have invited them, wrongly. This may cause disappointment, embarrassment or even resentment. Also, careful how you talk during this time. Saying things like “you will see at the wedding” might sound very innocent to you, but to an interested person that might sound like a confirmation that they will in actual fact be invited. On the other hand, guests might also try to invite themselves by saying this like “I cannot wait to be at the wedding”. For these situations, work out a firm yet friendly reply to make sure they understand that they are not invited. Something like “we would have loved to have a big wedding, but unfortunately budget and venue constraints are not allowing it”.

Tip #2:
Try and keep the division of guest numbers between the two families fair and equal. Or you can try the traditional split of 50% for the couple, and 25% for each set of parents. So for an 80 guest venue you get to invite 40, and each set of parents 20 each.

Tip #3:
Don’t forget to include children in your guest list numbers, if you are inviting them. Although some venues give discounts or special prices for kids younger than certain ages, you will only know that once you have chosen a venue so until then they are part of the numbers. If you choose to not invite kids, make sure your guests are made aware of this on the invitations.

Tip #4:
The wedding couple counts as guests too, so must be included in the guest count.

Tip #5:
When you have your short list of possible venues, remember to check for minimum numbers for specific venue and packages. This can have a major impact on your final budget.

Tip #6:
Your service providers must also be catered for, so they are also included in your guest list. That means your DJ, photographer, videographer, entertainment, etc. must all have a seat, and you pay for them as guests.

Tip #7:
Make sure that there is absolute clarity regarding who pays for what, and if the fact that they are contributing financially gives them say over the guest list. If this is going to be a problem you would rather want to know about it and sort it out in the beginning than later on when you have already paid deposits or made other arrangements.

Tip #8:
Create your dream list, with everyone you would really want to invite on it. Add everyone your partner would want to invite, as well as the parents. Doesn’t matter if this list is super long, you will use it as a reference later on. From here, start to trim your guest list down to the desired number. This dream list helps with 2 things: 1. If you have cancellations and need to fill seats, you have a quick reference list to help determine your B list and 2. If you, later on, feel like you want to invite someone, check if they were on the dream list, to begin with. If not, then why would you want to add them now? Reality check! Don’t know where to start to cut the dream list? Devise some rules and use them to determine the final guest list. A few examples of rules you can use:
• Rule 1: If neither of you has spoken to or met them or heard their name before, don’t invite them.
• Rule 2: Not crazy about inviting children to your party? Don’t feel bad about having an adults-only wedding.
• Rule 3: If neither of you has spoken to them in three years and they’re not related to you, don’t invite them.
• Rule 4: If there’s anyone who’s on the list because you feel guilty about leaving them off (maybe because you were invited to their wedding or they’re friends with lots of people who are invited), don’t invite them.

Tip #9:
And on that note – have an A and a B list. The A list is those people you cannot imagine not sharing your wedding with. They receive the first round of invitations. As the RSVPs come in if you have “regrets” you can invite people from the B list to full up space. A very handy tip here – send out your A list invites 10 weeks in advance as opposed to the usual 6 to 8 weeks before the wedding. That gives you enough time to still send out the B list invites at a respectable date, so those guests will never know that they were “second best”.

Tip #10:
Remember your budget! The easiest way to decide on the number of guests to invite is to work out how much you can afford to invite. The more people you invite, the more expensive it becomes. To work out your budget available for the guests, your venue should take up roughly 10% of your total budget, and the catering roughly 25%. But remember, other factors will also increase in price if the guest list goes up; things like hiring, décor, flowers, serving staff, etc.

Who should you not invite?
1. Friends you have not spoken to in years
You might have been besties in primary school, but since then have not had any meaningful contact. Don’t invite them.

2. Estranged or MIA family members
If you have no bond, then do not feel bad not inviting them.

3. Work friends
Unless they are true heart friends, don’t feel obliged.

4. Returning-the-favour wedding invites
Just because they invited you doesn’t mean you have to invite them. Full stop.

5. Neighbours
Again, if they aren’t heart friends, don’t invite them.

6. Friends who always misbehave
That one friend who is banned from a long list of places, who always end up passed out somewhere or leaves without paying their bill. Don’t invite them. If you have to invite them, then have a serious talk with them before the big day.

7. The offspring of family and friends
Unless they are a part of your life, then don’t feel pressured to invite them.

8. Plus-ones you have never met
Remember – no ring, no bring?

Stripes says you must just remember that it is your big day and that you should have the last say. Only invite people who will share your joy and love. If they will not, then don’t allow them to be there. She also says good luck…

Secrets, tips and must-haves to make your next picnic the most magical one yet

Is there anything more romantic than a picnic? I will venture a guess – not really. Stripes agrees, she has seen the number of picnics booked in the name of love and romance.

I don’t know what it is, but the whole idea of taking a basket full of delicious things to eat, out into the great outdoors, where you battle the elements in order to eat in relative peace, seems to rank somewhere at the top of the “most romantic things to do” list. I myself am a lover of picnics, not because of the food or the idea, but because when you do attempt a picnic with your loved one the settings and surroundings automatically force you to connect. There is nothing else to do except eat and talk. You can lie on your back and watch the clouds, or listen to the birds. Then eat and talk. Glorious. For most, the fun starts there – with the unveiling and unpacking of the goodies. But for us, the picnic-planners and picnic-packers, there is a lot of work to be done before this special event can take place. The success of your picnic rests on the panache with which you pack, and two undisputed tips – steer clear of any store-bought food, and be well prepared.

Picnics should be about comfort, ease, and joy. Nobody wants to use all of their energy carrying heavy baskets full of china and silverware, to a site that is km far, to sit on chairs (that you also had to carry) passing around cucumber sandwiches as a first course. Or worse, take out the carefully prepared food only to find everything is wilted, limp, or spoilt. For any picnic, there are a few must-have items, without which you will struggle, or even simply fail.

Something to pack the food in

A basket, or a dedicated picnic rucksack, works the best. You do not need anything special, whatever you choose must simply meet the following requirements:

  • Light enough to carry, even when packed full of goodies
  • Keep your cutlery and crockery safe, and clean
  • Keep the food and beverages cold and safe
  • Be able to house the dirty and empty things once you are done, without leaking juices onto the car seat

If you need 2 pieces in order to meet these requirements, then so be it. Maybe you will use a basket or rucksack to carry the cutlery, crockery and glassware, and a cool box for the food and drinks. Or you have a basket that is big enough for everything, plus insulated so it will keep the food cold. Just find something that will be practical and useful.  A few tips: a full cooler stays colder for longer, so ensure that it’s filled with about 75% food and the rest ice. If you don’t have enough food to fill it to ¾, then add more ice. Place ice at the bottom, followed by the heavier foods. Fill in with the lighter items. Pack the cooler directly from the refrigerator, and preferably use ice packs or slabs of ice. Another hack – freeze water in empty milk bottles and use instead of ice packs. And of course, once there always place the cooler in shade and not in direct sun. When packing your basket or another container, start with the items you will need last. Place them in first, e.g. the cutlery and crockery, the condiments, insect repellent, etc. Then follow with the perishable items and things you need as part of the setup. The last thing you place in your basket is your picnic blanket since that is the first thing you will need once you reach the picnic site.

Equipment

Make a list of the food that you are planning to serve, as well as the drinks, and determine what you will need in order to serve this menu. E.g. if you are drinking wine, ensure you pack a wine opener for the corkscrew. Bread, then pack a breadknife and breadboard. Cheese, you will most probably need a sharp knife, so pack one carefully. Don’t forget a cloth (you can pack a wet cloth in a lunch box or glass jar, making cleaning up a breeze) or napkins, and salt and pepper. If you will make use of a table, covered with a table cloth, remember to pack in weighted clips to hold the table cloth down. And remember something that you can use to collect all the trash. You must leave the picnic spot in a better condition than what you found it in – trash free.

For cutlery and crockery, we would recommend going the low waste, single-use-plastic-free route. Opt for bamboo or paper plates, bamboo or compostable knives and forks, and glasses that can be re-used. Avoid anything that is made from plastic or polystyrene that you will have to throw away after use. Metal is another option. For napkins, we recommend cloth, and empty containers and rubbish can be placed in the (hopefully) empty cool box for sorting and disposing of at home.

Food safety

A cool box, or ice packs, are essential to make sure that your food remains cold and safe for eating. Keep your cool box or insulated basket closed, only opening once you want to eat, and eat immediately once you have reached your destination in order to keep the food out of the temperature danger zone. Keep sauces separately, only adding them once you want to eat. Pack hand sanitizer or have another way of cleaning hands before eating.  If you are travelling or walking particularly far and don’t have adequate cooling options, avoid using mayonnaise or dairy products in your food.

Special touches

A blanket, cushions if you can carry them, an umbrella for shade if you won’t be under trees, and insect repellent are just a few of those things that you might not think of, but that is needed to make the picnic special. To ensure there is something cold to drink, freeze water in bottles. The frozen bottles can be used as ice packs, and once defrosted you have cold water to refresh yourself and your company.

The food

As important as the setting might be, the highlight of the show remains the food. When planning your picnic menu, you need to keep in mind it needs to be food that can be transported, that can be served at room temperature, won’t spoil in a cool box with only ice packs, can keep (so you don’t have to make it and serve it immediately), fall in the taste of your company, and provide a balanced meal. Here you have the choice of either going for finger food – smaller dishes and bites that don’t require cutlery and crockery to eat, or more traditional dishes, where you do need a plate and knife and fork in order to enjoy. A few dishes are iconically associated with picnics, such as Scotch eggs, chicken drumsticks, sandwiches, potato salad and quiche. Guaranteed crowd-pleasers, but definitely not the only options out there.

Pasta salad is perfect for picnics – usually hearty, they hold up well. If you want to pack a leafy salad, don’t dress the salad until you are going to eat it. For layered salads, always start with the heaviest ingredients at the bottom, working up towards the lighter ones like the lettuce. Other salad ideas include Middle Eastern couscous salad, a Greek orzo salad, or even a lighter-carb sweet potato salad. Adding vegetable dishes or bites can be a bit trickier as they usually do not handle the heat and transport that well. But there are options, such as zucchini fritters with minted tzatziki dip, pumpkin fritters, or chargrilled veg skewers.

Our favourite menu for a picnic? A selection of cheeses, cold meats, pates and spreads, olives, roasted peppers, gherkins, hummus, crudites and other meze bites, with fresh bread and real butter. Nothing fancy, just good produce that you can pair and add to make a wonderful meal. Social food.

A nice tip? Pack fruit, nuts and biltong for extra snacks along the way, especially if you are travelling with kids and the journey might take longer than you planned.

To end, chocolate brownies are always a winner. Other ideas: cheesecake in a jar, cookies, traditional scones with strawberry jam and clotted cream, or a coconut loaf cake.

For drinks, anything that can successfully be kept cold can work. Ice tea is super refreshing on a hot summer’s day, lemonade or ginger beer (both homemade of course) being another stellar option. And for the grownups, sparkling wine or a chilled white or rose wine is wonderful. Just remember your glasses, and pack enough ice! You can also pack in sangria or spritzers, or pre-mixed G&Ts with the cucumber or lemon slices packed separately. Whatever says sun, outside, and great company. Our best hack to ensure your drinks remain cold (other than freezing them) is: chill as usual, then decant into a flask. That same flask to keep your coffee hot on road trips will keep your drinks nice and cold.

When packing the food, ensure the containers that you are using are leak proof. Place everything in the fridge to chill, and only pack them into your cool box at the last minute. Top with ice packs to ensure safe transportation.

The entertainment

  • Make getting to the picnic a scavenger hunt. Leave clues or a “treasure” map for your family to find their way to the picnic destination.
  • Bring along a board game, boules, a rugby ball, or a Frisbee for some outdoor fun. If kids will be joining you, try to pick a spot with a playground nearby.
  • Plan a hike and bring the picnic with you. Stop when you get hungry or find a scenic spot to eat.
  • Set the mood with a sunset picnic. If it’s allowed, bring a few votive candles and a small bouquet of flowers to add to the ambience.

Those are our top tips for making a magical picnic. With Valentine’s Day around the corner, we hope you implement them for a romantic night out. And if you are worried about your skill in the kitchen, or simply do not have the time to cook and plan, you can always order your picnic from us!

Stripes is wishing you a happy Valentine’s Day, but even more, that you will feel the love the whole year round!