The guest list. Many a happy couple have had their first, and biggest, wedding-related fight as a result of the dreaded guest list. We have seen it all before and 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 has 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.
We 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?
Here are a few other helpful tips that we 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The wedding couple counts as guests too, so must be included in the guest count.
When you have your shortlist of possible venues, remember to check for minimum numbers for specific venues and packages. This can have a major impact on your final budget.
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.
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.
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.
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 fill 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”.
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.
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 ends 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?
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. We also want to add: good luck…