Narrowing Down Your Wedding Guest List

Updated: Nov 9, 2020

Compiling and narrowing down your guest list is going to be one of, if not the most, stressful part of planning your wedding. You set a reasonable guest count goal for yourselves and before you know it, you’ve invited every person you’ve ever met, and your guest count has doubled. I am guilty of this firsthand and am truly speaking from experience. The below questions will hopefully help you narrow it down, although making those decisions will still be tough.


HAVE YOU SEEN THEM IN THE PAST YEAR?

This question usually brings to light the people you’re inviting because they were a childhood friend or your best friend in high school. Keep in mind your wedding is not a class reunion and you don’t need to invite everyone you’ve ever been friends with, regardless of how good the good old days were. If you haven’t talked in over a year, those days are likely in the past. A lot of times people get a sad shock when they do invite these old friends and they don’t come and sometimes don’t even bother to respond to the invitation. Or, just as often, they do come to the wedding, you catch up, and then once again, after the wedding, you don’t talk again for years, if at all.

WOULD YOU GENUINELY MISS OR REGRET THEM NOT BEING THERE?

This question usually brings to light the people you’re inviting because you feel you have to. This usually includes your boss, friends of your parents, and the friend of a friend. Remember this is YOUR day and you should invite people that are special to you and your partner. Most of the time, since you don’t have a close relationship with these people, they somewhat disregard the invitation and either decline their attendance and think nothing of it, or never even bother to give you their RSVP decision and it slows down obtaining your final count.

ARE YOU TRYING TO USE THE INVITATION AS A WAY TO MAKE AMENDS?

A wedding is not the time or place to attempt to squash a feud with someone. Inviting your estranged family member or past friend turned enemy may not be met with the warming response you would expect. And if they deny or ignore the invitation it will cause even more hurt and friction. If writing your guest list stirs up feelings of “I really wish ‘so-and-so’ and I were in a better place,” that is completely normal and I do encourage you to explore making amends. However, I do not recommend doing that with a wedding invitation. Instead, before you finalize your guest list, invite that person over for dinner or to meet for coffee and try to hash things out. Depending on how it goes, then invite them to the wedding. Going from not speaking in years to inviting them to your wedding may not really heal anything and you may be disappointed with the response you get.

WOULD YOU WANT OR EXPECT TO BE INVITED TO THEIR WEDDING?

You likely wouldn’t invite someone to your wedding who didn’t invite you to theirs, right? So, think, if the person you’re considering not inviting didn’t invite you to their wedding, would you be surprised or upset? If the answer is yes, you should definitely invite them. If the answer is no, then you probably aren’t that close and believe me, if you don’t care they don’t care.

DO THEY KNOW YOUR PARTNER’S NAME?

Two questions to ask yourself that we never think of when trying to figure out how close you are to someone: “Do they know my last name?” and “Do they know my partner’s name?”. If the answers are no, then they are likely just acquaintances and may not need to be invited.


DO YOU HANG OUT OR TALK OUTSIDE OF WORK?

Co-workers are one of the most overly invited groups to a wedding. The workplace has a way of convincing you everyone is your best friend. Now, don’t get me wrong, most of my friends are past co-workers, but a larger group of my past co-workers I haven’t spoken to in years and back then I would have sworn they were my BFF. I say that to say, there is a difference between a work bestie and a best friend. If you only talk at work and never hang out outside of it, you’re just work friends which is a passing relationship that will end the minute one of you leaves the company. But if there’s someone you hang out with and talk to outside of work then, yes, of course invite them. But then that leads to another tough thought: “If you invite that person then you have to invite everyone.” Everyone feels this way when it comes to family and co-workers. “If you invite one aunt, you have to invite them all,” “If you invite one member of the sales team, you have to invite them all.” You don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings and it’s tough when everyone knows each other and knows you have a wedding coming up. My biggest advice is stay selective and don’t feel bad about it. This is your wedding and every person you know doesn’t need to be there if they aren’t significant to you and your partner. I would ask the co-workers you are inviting to keep it somewhat a secret and not talk about it at work because not everyone is invited. Now also think, if someone at work did find out that they weren’t invited (which they eventually will) and gets upset or even stops talking to you, would you genuinely feel bad? Not out of guilt, but out of genuine regret that you made a mistake. Trust me when I say most people you don’t invite will not have feelings about it because they know you aren’t that close. But if there’s someone you were on the fence about, would you regret not inviting them down the road? It’s a lot to think about and a lot of different factors to consider but believe me, you do not need to feel obligated to invite the entire office.

WOULD YOU NORMALLY BUY AN EXPENSIVE DINNER FOR THEM?

If you add up the thousands of dollars you are spending for the wedding including venue, entertainment, décor, food, etc., and then divide that by the number of guests, that tells you your per person cost. So, let’s say you are spending $20,000 on your wedding and you’re hoping to have 80 guests, that’s $250 per person. And now you’re considering adding this co-worker, and this friend of a friend, and so-on. You need to think of it in terms of: I’m going to pay $250 for this person who I haven’t talked to in three years, or who doesn’t even know my last name, or who I honestly don’t even like but they’re friends with so-and-so. That very quickly will help you cross them off the list.

NUMBER ONE WRONG REASON TO NOT INVITE SOMEONE…

This mistake is made often and leads to a lot of hurt relationships. Thinking that someone isn’t able to attend the wedding anyways is not a reason to not send the invitation. If someone you’re wanting to invite lives too far, can’t afford the trip, or has inflexible arrangements that day, and you know they more than likely won’t be able to attend, you should absolutely still extend the invitation. A person you’re close to can get very hurt by not being invited to your wedding and will want to know why, and saying that you didn’t think they would be able to make it will not be a good enough reason in their minds and hearts. Even if they really can’t make it, let that be their decision to make after at least knowing you wanted them there. I even recommend including a note with their invitation that says “I know you likely won’t be able to attend but I still wanted to extend an invitation so you know I do want you there if possible.”



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