Now that your venue and date have been established it is time to start thinking about the
gathering itself. Your event is your moment, it will be your memory and should be thoroughly monitored by you. Whether it is a family reunion, a class reunion, a wedding or a formal affair, the guest list needs to be carefully considered. Having the right people at your event can make for an amazing day; however, having the wrong people can ruin the event with a few swift words.
Deciding your audience should be a priority. How large do you want the list to be; small and intimate, or large scale, inviting family you have only met a few times. Do you invite your parent’s friends whom you barely know, or co-workers? Sometimes it’s hard to “draw-the-line” or cap your numbers, but it is important and necessary for all events. Having an expected headcount helps you stay on your budget.
Always remember to start big. Create a list that has every person you’d wish to be at your event, ask family members for their requests too. This gives a starting point. Categorize the list into sections: Family, Wedding Party or Honoree guests, Friends, Colleagues, Community acquaintances, fellowship friends… i.e. (Take into consideration that Aunt June might only be one name on the list but has a spouse and two kids – so count Aunt June as 4.) Once this list is created, find your total number, and see how that fits in with the budget. Most caterers price per plate, check your preferred caterers’ costs against your second choice and see if either would work. Also, make sure to see the actual amount the venue can hold by fire code safety.
Time to get out your highlighters! Now, think of your long list as your main template. Yellow highlighted names are mandatory – these people will be invited regardless the list total or budget; parents, honorees or wedding party, close friends. Blue highlighted guests should be the ones that you really want to see, but aren’t as important as the yellow list, think second Cousin Paul, your old college roommate or an old co-worker. Lastly, use a pink highlighter to color all the remaining names as these will be the first to cut.
Now you need to start generating some “rules”. These will set boundaries on who gets to stay and who gets cut and will allow you a reason if your parents demand someone or your best friend starts begging. Here are a few to consider:
- Will the wedding be kid-friendly or adults only?
- Will there be a cash bar or are you paying for the drinks?
- Are you going to allow single guests a “plus-one” option?
- How far into your family are you inviting? Draw a line at “second cousin” or “just aunts and uncles” as example.
- Are you inviting co-workers, or just the close ones?
Explain the rules with all helping plan the event and make sure that no quarrels will stem from this set of boundaries – this can easily occur in families and isn’t worth a lifetime spat. Make sure everyone is on board with the rules and understanding.
Don’t feel bad about not inviting an old friend because you were once invited to their wedding or event. We change as we age, our lives take many turns and some friendships don’t last the test of time, you should not feel obligated to make a decision based on your past. Your event is about moving forward and the future!
At this point, your list should be pretty well covered, and your number should be fairly certain; however, until you receive RSVP’s. You may be worried about hurting some people’s feelings and that is inevitable, but everyone understands that each event is different and that not getting invited isn’t a judge of friendships or character. What you can do for the guests who were pulled from the list:
- Personalize a letter with your wedding announcement, or wedding photo. Use apologetic, yet cheerful dialect; We hope you understand that our event was kept small and intimate to provide us with a more personal day. We want you to know that you were thought of before our final decision was made to have a smaller guest list and we want to include you in our wonderful news and share our day with you all the same.
o This lets people feel included, without being invited.
- Perhaps offer a livestream event for the people who weren’t invited and for those who can’t attend. There are quite a few social platforms that offer this service.
- Share photos on your event page and open your event to the public (on social media) after the event.
Lastly, enjoy the day. Don’t fret over the list once it’s finalized and don’t speak of the event to people who weren’t invited, this may force you to provide an oral invitation or an uncomfortable apology. While this day is just another event on someone’s calendar – it’s a day that will be a part of your memories for the rest of your life.