Nobody Cares about Your Wedding Like You Do

Look Back Lesson #1 | The Guest List

A few weeks ago I was chatting with Rogue Bride about her guest list woes. She’s on a tight budget by wedding standards and she writes:

“Fundamentally, I really want everyone on my massive list to be with us.”

I replied, “No one cares about your wedding like you do.” Harsh? Maybe, but it’s true. Let me explain.

Wedding guests stand in a heart shapeImage from Siesser Photography via Brides, via Pinterest


Lesson #1: How Not to Create your Guest List:

Hindsight Groom proposed to me on a mountain top with 360 degree views of the Smoky Mountains.  Like all the planning books and blogs suggest, we enjoyed and savored our engagement…for oh, about 45 minutes. Then we ran to his parent’s house and started planning the wedding of the century. Everyone we ever knew was jotted down on the list – EVERYONE.  As if ours was the only wedding anyone had ever been too. Like our engagement was the most amazing and awe-inspiring event anyone could imagine. Or…at least the most important. Our wedding was going to be the BEST, the most MIND BLOWING, the one everyone would CLAMOR to attend – EVERYONE.

Um, in hindsight, does this sound silly to you too?

The reality:

Not everyone had the time, money, or resources to attend our wedding. They seemed to have their own lives (go figure). Oh, there were some that were ecstatic – me and my future mother-in-law. Others were excited, like immediate family. But most were simply happy for us. They weren’t “clamoring” to attend our wedding like it was the last Justin Beiber concert.

The fact is, to some of your potential guests coming to your wedding may be a hardship. Let’s face it, weddings are expensive for everyone, including the guests who have to pony up a gift, and perhaps buy a new, or freshen up an old, outfit. Often times they must travel and stay in a hotel and provide their own meals for part of their stay. These costs can easily add up to $1000 for guests traveling cross-country.

So the first step in wrangling that guest list is to get some perspective. Sure you may want to still invite your favorite Aunt Tillie who you know can’t make it. But putting yourself in your guest’s shoes and understanding that some may be with you on your wedding day only spirit goes a long way toward mitigating the manic stress that can mushroom around the guest list.

Lesson #2: Tips for Your Guest List:

OK, now you’re not stressing over guilt or having delusions of grandeur. You’re settled down and ready to tackle the guest list with perspective. Here are some guidelines to get you started:

  • Start with your inner-most circle of family and friends. You’d be surprised how many people you have to account for on each side, yours and his (or hers). Think of it:

TO START, you each have parents to invite. That’s 2 sets of parents = 4 to 6 people (depending on divorce and remarry status. THEN say each of you has a sibling with a spouse, that’s another 4 people PLUS you each want 4 attendants. That’s 8 people (two of which have families with a child and four of which have spouses) SO were talking another 8 people. Now you have 25-ish people on your guest list and you’ve only accounted for your parents and 4 friends each!

  • The Lesson: When your friends and family members have families and children, the guest list can explode in a hurry. When you invite “your best friend,” that may not be one invite, it may be four because she has a spouse and two kids.
  • Make an A, B, and C list. This will be private. Figure out who MUST come to your wedding (A list); Who you REALLY WANT to come to your wedding (B list); And who IT WOULD BE NICE to have come to your wedding (C list). As A-listers send their regrets feel free to invite B and C listers.
  • Set general rules and guidelines that apply to both families: For example, we had a no-great aunts, uncles, or cousins policy. And get rid of plus one’s for friends who aren’t married and aren’t living together. This ended up being negotiable when I wanted to invite co-workers and Hindsight Groom wanted to invite a cousin he was close to. I traded cousins for co-workers ;-)
  • Oh, and Douche Bag Warning: Don’t be that tool bag who sends invitations out (to the C list) two weeks before the wedding. You’re not fooling anyone.

Gratuitous Hindsight Lessons:

  • As Rogue Bride and countless other advice forums say: You cannot un-invite a guest once you’ve invited them. This goes for verbal, parking lot invitations outside the office. Keep your trap shut.
  • Lying works wonders.  One of the best pieces of advice I encountered is this: Say, you’re accosted by an overly-eager coworker/cousin/friend from high school (or college) who wants to know “who’s invited (hint hint)?  You say, “gee”… (no don’t really say “gee”; it sounds stupid).  Say, “You know what, we’re still enjoying our engagement and haven’t really started planning yet.” Yep, that’s right, you lie. Even if you and your mother had a Jerry-Springer knock-down-drag-out about whether or not her co-workers, or her Aunt’s sister’s children and their children were invited, until your guest list is finalized and the invites are out, LIE!
  • She who pays, says. This one is a tough pill to swallow for you Chicas with generous parents. Basically, if your parents are footing the bill, they get to invite whomever they want. Let me break it down for you. If Daddy’s writing a 15, 20, or 30 thousand dollar check, Daddy gets to invite his business partner, colleagues, and clients whom you’ve never met. Conversely, if you’re like me, and you’re footing most of or the entire bill, you have final say over the guest list. Still, try to be diplomatic. One tactic I used that worked was to calculate the basic per-guest cost, including the cost of food, booze, dessert, favors, ceremony programs, invitations, rentals (dishes, tables, chairs, and transportation). Let’s say the basic cost per guest is $250 and you’re paying for your own wedding. When Mom asks if you’ve included Great-Auntie Clair’s three sisters, you can say:

“You know what Mom, the guest list is already/mostly set and conforms to our budget. Each guests costs approximately $250. This includes [X,Y, and Z.]  We just can’t afford another $1,000 for Aunt Clair and her family (or whatever the amount).”


“We’re on a strict budget mom. We’ve calculated that each guest will cost approximately $250. You may invite up to four additional people, and Love’s parents can also invite four.

Money Pit Warning: Sometimes adding a couple of people forces you to add an a entire table and a new set of rentals (usually dishes and flatware are bundled in sets of ten.) So the price of adding a couple guests may be more expensive than your per-guest average. For example, to invite two extra guests, you’d have to add a table rental, and ten-packs of plates, cutlery, napkins, and glasses. (This is another good reason to trot out for the family member who wants to overly invite.)

Tell us, your best advice for wrangling that guest list?