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Cutting Down the Guest List – A How-To Guide

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You sit down to start writing your wedding guest list. Then it gets longer. And longer. And pretty soon you’ve got a list of 300 names and a venue that can only seat 100. Cutting down the guest list is one of the most stressful, and confusing, aspects of wedding planning. You don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings, but you really can’t afford to buy dinner for every person you know. So it’s time to start dicing up the list. But where do you start? And how do you decide who gets a plus one and who has to fly solo?

Have no fear! We’ve compiled our best tips below to help you narrow the guest list, and keep the peace.

Cutting the Guest List – A How to Guide

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Step 1: Max Capacity

The first step to trimming your list is to determine the maximum number of guests you can invite. Take into account your ceremony space, reception venue, and budget. Get a realistic idea of how many guests you can afford to invite, and how many will comfortably fit in your chosen venue. Then decide how many guests you actually want to invite. If there is a large gap between these two numbers try to settle somewhere in the middle. This will help you stick to your ideal number easier than if you wrote out a long list and tried to trim from there.

Step 3: Divide and Conquer

Once you have your ideal number figured out – split it up. Traditionally, whoever is footing the bill, gets a larger portion of the guest list. But to simplify, let’s assume the cost is being shared equally. So your groom gets 50% of the guest list, and so do you.

Step 3: The Short List

These are the people you absolutely must have at your wedding. The bridal party, immediate family members and your closest friends. If you can’t imagine your wedding day without them, they make the short list.

Pro Tip: If an intimate affair is what you’re after, stop the invitations here.

Step 4: The “B” List

This is the list you write after the short one. In a perfect world, everybody on this list would be invited and there would be no issue. But in this case these are the “second round” of invitations to go out. So for every “no” RSVP you receive back from the short list, you can invite somebody on the “B” list.

Pro Tip: Try to send these as soon as possible. Nobody wants to know they didn’t make the first round of invites. 

Step 5: The One Year Test

So you’ve got your short list and your ‘B’ list, and it’s time to start slashing. A good place to start is with the one year test. Of course, this comes with some grey area. If you haven’t seen your friend Katie in 3 years, but you talk on the phone a few times a month, she gets an invite. The one year test applies to casual acquaintances, old co-workers, your parents’ friends, etc. If you haven’t had dinner/talked/emailed in the last year, cut them.

Step 6: The Kid Conundrum

One of the easiest ways to cut down the guest list is to have an “Adults Only” wedding. But, if you have a lot of friends with little ones, this can be tricky. You don’t want to hurt any feelings, but you also need to stay firm. No kids means no kids. And while you don’t want to state “no kids” on the invitation itself, there a few things you can do to convey this point in a tasteful manner.

First, make sure the envelope and RSVP card are addressed specifically to your invited guests (i.e. Chuck & Nancy Forth and not The Forth Family).Or you can go even further and write the specific number of seats you have set aside for them (i.e. We have reserved 2 seats in your honor). Then count on your bridal party and family members to spread the word. Prepare yourself for a few phone calls from friends who think their children are exempt from this rule and kindly explain that while you love their kiddos, you are constrained by a budget. As long as you are clear, and give them plenty of time to find a babysitter, this should be relatively painless.

Step 7: Plus One, Minus One

Deciding whether or not to grant a plus one can be tricky. And it’s important to remember that you do not owe a plus one to everybody. A good rule of thumb is to extend the offer to guests who are in serious relationships of 1 or more years. Be sure to indicate whether or not they have been given a plus one on the invitation itself so there is no confusion (i.e. Mr. Jake Cutler & Guest).

  Step 8: The Final Cut

Go over your list one more time. Is there anybody left on there that you are inviting out of guilt or obligation? Cut them. At the end of the day, this is still your wedding. And you should be celebrating your big day with exactly who you want. And if you’re still feeling guilty, consider sending out wedding announcements to those people who didn’t make the invite list. A small, simple gesture like that truly goes a long way.

And there you go! Hopefully by following a few of the above tips you’ve managed to get your guest list under control. And once it’s officially complete don’t forget to order custom escort and place cards from Marrygrams! And if you’re still waiting on some last minute RSVPs, don’t stress. We can work with any time frame to make sure you have all of the paper products you need to make your wedding day perfect.