Your guest list is probably the second most discussed topic in wedding planning, after your budget. Sometimes the venue determines the guest count and sometimes it can be your budget (aka your catering head count and other rentals). So how do you determine who gets invited to your wedding?
Some brides already have an idea of what venue they want to use before they’re engaged which can allow them to have a predetermined number of guests. If this is you, great! You know your guest limit.
If you don’t have a venue yet, or plan on choosing a venue that can acclimate any numbers, you may have a bit more freedom with your invites. But don’t go too crazy! Remember not only do you have to find a venue to fit your list, you’ll need to check with caterers about cost per head and any rental items needed, like extra tables and chairs (same for those of you who have a venue!).
Start with family
All families are different, and you know yours best, but since family is typically who you see most throughout the years (holidays, reunions, birthdays, weddings, etc), I highly recommend adding all the family first. You can filter some through the next sections but you can’t go wrong by adding all to the list at the start.
You don’t have to go so deep as your parents’ cousins or great-aunts and uncles unless you have a great relationship with them. Two of my mom’s aunts are like grandmothers to me, so I would invite them for sure. But if that isn’t the case for you, it is okay. Talk to your parents to see who they feel must be invited. If you already know your guest count limit, you can give each set of parents a certain number of guests they can invite. They can choose whether to use that number for any extra family or friends.
Inviting your friends
This is where things can get a little bit tricky. Sometimes there are just those people you want to invite even if you haven’t seen them in a while and then there are new people in your life you see daily and you feel obligated to invite them even though you’re not BFFs. Here are a few questions to help you navigate this area.
- How long have you known them?
- How often do you see them or when was the last time you saw them?
- If you haven’t seen them in a while, will you see them before your wedding?
- Do you hang out with them outside of how you know them (ex: work, school, church, group)?
- Have they met your fiancé? (both of you should answer this!) – shout out to Sara for this one.
These aren’t hard and fast rules, but they can help you filter through your list. Any of these combinations can be your guiding factor. Let’s go through a two scenarios –
Just met them and your wedding is still months away: if you feel like you AND your fiancé will become BFFs over the next several months, go ahead and add them to your list if you’ve got the room. If they’re an acquaintance you see regularly but you never hang out with outside of work or the gym, it is OK to leave them off your list (especially if you’ve already sent out your save the dates).
You’ve known them for years but haven’t seen them in a while: Do you at least text or catch up over the phone occasionally? If yes, then they can stay on the list. If they were your best friend in 3rd grade who lives over 5 hours away and you just see their posts on Facebook, it is OK to leave them off unless there is room at the venue.
Who gets a plus one?
I feel like this one should be a whole separate post but here are my quick thoughts –
Each bridesmaid and groomsman should get a plus one. That is part of your gift to them for being in your wedding.
If you’ve got the space and they won’t know anyone else there or will have to travel a bit to get there, you can give them a plus one.
Were they dating someone for at least 6 months when you sent out your save the dates? Sure, they can get a plus one. Did they just start dating someone that you’ve never met? You are not obligated to give them an extra seat.
One way to address this is to just put the main guest’s name on the save the date and then offer the and guest on the formal invitation.
For the guests
Okay, guests, listen up.
The bride and groom know you’re spending some money to come to their wedding and yes, they’re spending money on their own wedding but let’s not add to their budget stress. But please, pay attention to who was on the actual invite. If you have children and neither their names nor and family are included, your children are not invited to this wedding. Do not bring them or ask the bride (groom, either set of parents, or a sibling) if you can bring them.
If you’ve been given a plus one and you’re 99% sure you’re bringing someone, go ahead and RSVP for two. Include your guest’s name so if the couple is having assigned seats they’ll have a name to fill in. Most RSVPs are due about a month before the wedding date so if you don’t have someone to ask by that date, don’t RSVP for 2 and hope you find someone in 4 weeks. That’s a lot of pressure for you anyway, and cuts down on the number for the couple (every maybe +1 adds up).
One last point, that’s as much for me as it is for you.
Please RSVP as soon as you know if you’re going or not. I’ve definitely received my fair share of “don’t forget to RSVP by x” texts sent by friends and it’s not the best feeling (especially being a planner!). And I’ve also RSVPd to a link on the save the date so I wouldn’t forget when the actual one came in the mail. Go ahead and take this task off your plate and theirs and drop the card in the mail the very next day. Your bride friends will thank you!
Brides and guests, I hope this helps with all of your planning! If you’ve got specific questions on how to address your invites leave them below!