Your wedding day is a time of great joy and love, so of course, you’ll want to celebrate with your nearest and dearest. However, determining whom to invite to the big day can provide some challenges; you may want a small, intimate gathering of just close family and friends, but your parents may insist on inviting every long-lost relative and work colleague. Perhaps your partner wants to throw a huge party, but your budget won’t allow a fete of epic proportions. Working together with your families on the guest list can help you not only learn what’s important to them, but it may also set the tone for your future relationship with your family — new and old — after the wedding.
HOW TO PREPARE YOUR GUEST LIST
Before you start writing down names, consider the type of wedding you’d like to have. Would you like a small, intimate dinner? A blow-out bash with everyone you know? Consider what might be an ideal number for you. If at this point you’ve already selected a ceremony or reception space, consider any limitations you may have. After all, you can’t try to fit 200 people in the reception hall if it only seats 50!
Once you have a good ballpark number you’d like to aim for, begin writing down names of potential guests. At this point in time, don’t worry too much about the numbers, and instead, think of anyone with whom you might like to celebrate. Include immediate family members, extended family, close friends, acquaintances, work colleagues, church friends, and anyone with whom you are involved in community clubs or groups. Have your partner do the same.
Married couples are considered a unit; it is impolite to invite one without the other. Engaged couples should be treated similarly. After that, you can discern whether guests should receive a plus-one, but ensure you use a similar ruling across the board (examples: if they are in a serious relationship; all couples may come together regardless of the duration of the relationship; all single invitees may bring a guest if they will not know others in attendance).
When you each have your lists complete, compile it and send it to both sets of parents, as they will likely have additional relatives, family friends or colleagues they may like to invite.
Remember, this celebration is important to your family too. They are excited that their child is tying the knot and want to share their joy with the people who are important to them too. Be kind to each other when working through the guest list. It is a challenging thing to do, to keep everyone happy, but maintaining the relationship is worth it.
Now that you’ve got everyone’s list compiled, take a look at it. If the number of people listed is less than space you have available, congratulations! Your guest list is done. However, if you find that the number of people exceeds the amount of room available, you’ll have to start trimming your list. Sit down with your parents and your partner’s, and talk to them about which people they think are most important to be included, and if any of them have been added as a simple formality and could be cut. Look at your own list and do the same. Keep trimming until you’ve got about 20 to 30 percent more guests than you have space for, as you can expect approximately that many to decline your invitation.
Do NOT go in with the expectation that Great Aunt Liz won’t want to travel, or that the Smith family won’t be able to make it, and that you can invite more people because of their expected absences — you never know how people will respond when it comes to family weddings. You don’t want to wind up with more guests than your venue can handle because you made an incorrect assumption.
If, after this round of cuts, you’re still over capacity, you may need to have some hard conversations. Is it important to you that you or your partner personally know everyone who will be attending? Then you may need to cut back on some of your family members’ acquaintances. Is it important to you that everyone in your extended family is there? You may need to trim your list of friends. Work with each other until you have a list with which everyone can be happy.
If your potential guest list is significantly greater than your venue space, and you are having a hard time denying invitations to specific guests, you may consider creating a B list or even C list. More information about these lists here. LINK
DO YOU HAVE TO INVITE...
Inevitably, there will be some questions about whom it’s proper to invite, and who should be left off the guest list. Avoid sticky situations by adhering to these guidelines.
Employers and Co-workers
If you work in a large office, you are not expected to invite all of your co-workers. Simply inviting your direct supervisor and any co-workers to whom you feel particularly close is perfectly acceptable. The exception to this rule would be if you work in a small group or a small department at the company, in which case, if you choose to invite any of the co-workers in your group or department, it’s best to invite them all. Just be sure to not talk about the wedding in front of co-workers who are not invited, unless they specifically ask about your plans.
Things get a little trickier when you work in a very small office. It is still polite to invite your boss, but if you only invite one or two co-workers, the others might be offended, especially if you work closely with them every day. “All or none” is the best policy when it comes to co-workers in this situation.
It is commonly accepted that exes should not be invited to the wedding. However, some people do remain friends after a breakup or divorce, or at least maintain a friendly relationship, especially if the relationship was not very serious or if children are involved. In this instance, if you or your partner wants to invite an ex, you should have a calm, rational conversation about whether this person should or should not be invited, and both of you need to be comfortable with the decision made. If the ex’s presence will make one or both partners feel uncomfortable, he or she should be removed from the guest list.
They Invited You
If someone invited you to their wedding, must you invite them to yours? You are under no obligation to extend an invitation to them just because they invited you to their event. Sometimes friends grow apart in the years between each other’s weddings; some people are able to invite more people if their venue is larger. If, after the invitations have been sent, someone asks you why they weren’t included on the guest list, politely respond that, due to space constraints, you could not invite everyone you would have liked to include. Make alternative plans to get together with that person in the coming weeks so they know their friendship is still important to you.
LIST FOR LIMITED GATHERINGS
If you have a limited amount of space in your reception venue but have a lot of people you would like to invite, you may consider breaking your guest list up into sections. The first section, your “A list,” should include immediate family, close friends and all the people that are your first priority when sending invites. Your A list should number the number of seats in your venue. (Ignore the 20 to 30 percent decline rate for a moment.) Your B list should be everyone else you’d like to invite if space becomes available. For extremely large guest lists, you may consider breaking the B list down further into a C list, so you can give slightly higher priority to those on the B list than the C list, (such as putting distant family members ahead of your parents’ old work acquaintances).
The way it works is this: You send your invitations to the A list. As you receive RSVP cards back, you make note of any guests who send their regrets, and then send a “B list” invitation each time you receive an RSVP in which the guest declines to attend. In this manner, you work through your B list, and may even get to your C list. This allows you to invite as many people as will comfortably fit in the venue, while still making sure you’ve given priority to those with whom you are closest.
Remember that if you are sending your invitation suite to multiple guest lists, they need to go in the mail even earlier, as you will need responses from all the lists back before the catering deadline. In addition, you will want separate RSVP cards printed with later deadlines for your B (and C) lists. This allows these invitees the same amount of time to RSVP as the A list guests and avoids indicating to those guests that they didn’t make the “A” list.
CEREMONY AND RECEPTION INVITES
The standard rule is that if you are inviting someone to the ceremony, you must also invite him or her to the reception, and vice versa. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule! However, unless your wedding meets one of these exceptions, you must invite guests to both the ceremony and the reception.
Exception: Religious Differences
Depending on the couple’s faith or religion, the church or temple may only be open to those who profess the same faith or beliefs as the couple. If this is the case, you may need a separate invitation card for guests that will only be invited to the reception, as well as one inviting those of the faith to join you for the ceremony. Do not even mention the ceremony to those who are only invited to the reception.
Exception: Open Invitations
Alternatively, some churches do not allow couples to limit guests for the ceremony, allowing any church member to come to witness the wedding ceremony; the couple may even let the church members know that the wedding is happening and verbally invite them to the ceremony. In this situation, it is not required to extend an invitation to the reception to each ceremony attendee.
Exception: Hometown Reception
Some couples prefer to keep the wedding ceremony intimate and have a larger reception at a later time, such as those who are having a destination wedding but would still like to celebrate with extended family. It is acceptable to invite guests to just the hometown reception, with the expectation that the invitations will indicate that the wedding has already taken place and that the guests are invited to a reception-only event.
SENDING THE INVITATIONS
Your wedding invitations have been lovingly stuffed, addressed and sealed with a kiss. They are almost ready to be dropped in the mail! What an exciting moment — this makes the wedding feel really, truly official!
Before you deliver them to the post office, take a few extra precautions to make sure your invitations will arrive at their destinations and won’t get damaged or returned to you.
Have them weighed. Before you purchase postage for your invitations, bring a completely stuffed invite to the post office to have it properly weighed. Oftentimes, wedding invitations have many pieces or are on thicker paper, which can increase the weight so that a single Forever stamp is not sufficient. Ensuring your postage is accurate will prevent your beautiful invitations from being stamped “Return to Sender” and arriving back in your own mailbox.
Consider the destination. Purchase extra postage for invitations that will be traveling to other countries. You can find out the proper postage amount (based on the weight of the invitation) via the U.S. Postal Service website. Remember that the price may vary from country to country.
Do a practice run. Before you send the invitations into the world, mail one to yourself to make sure there aren’t any problems. Exterior ribbons, wax seals and protruding items in the envelope may cause problems for the postal sorting machines, so you want to ensure that the invitations will be delivered without causing damage to the envelope or any part of the suite.
Have them hand-canceled. If you find that the postal sorting equipment damages your invitations after your test run, you may choose to have them hand-canceled. (Some brides choose to do this for aesthetic purposes, as well.) Having the cards hand-canceled means that a postal service employee will place the post-office black stamp on each card individually instead of running the cards through the sorting machine. Before you plan on utilizing this option, call your local post office to make sure hand-canceling is an option in your area.
Once you’ve taken these precautions, your invitations are ready to be sent! Drop them in the mailbox or deliver them to the post office, and await those response cards!
CALLING OFF THE WEDDING
If the invitations have already been sent, and you need to postpone or cancel the wedding, you’ll need to let your guests know. Weddings may be postponed or canceled for a variety of reasons, including a death in the family, an unexpected military deployment or “cold feet” on either the bride or groom’s part. If the change is noted very soon after the invitations have been sent, you may send a card to invited guests alerting them to the change; otherwise, you will need to make phone calls to your guests.
The card will read similarly to the invitation, beginning with either the couple’s names or the hosts’ names.
If the wedding is simply being postponed to a later date, you can indicate the new date. If it is being postponed but a new date has not been set, it is considered “postponed indefinitely.” You may choose to indicate that the wedding has been postponed due to death or deployment, but you are not required to include a reason for the delay.
If the wedding has been canceled altogether, simply stating that the marriage will not take place or that the wedding has been canceled is sufficient.