Some aspects of wedding planning are a lot of fun—trying on dresses, tasting cakes, perhaps even auditioning different bands or DJs. Making the guest list is, generally speaking, not a lot of fun. It can even be tense—but it doesn’t have to be, not if you do it right.
Here’s what we recommend from the outset: Traditionally, the couple gets 50 percent of the guest list for themselves. So if your venue can hold 200 people, the bride and groom should be allowed to pick 100. The remainder of the list is divided up amongst parents—so, another 50 people for the bride’s mom and dad, 50 people for the groom’s.
We recommend this division, but with one caveat: Divvy up the list before you accept any financial help from anyone—or else, you may feel like you “owe” one set of parents more slots to fill, which can lead to awkwardness or tension.
Of course, it’s important to know how many people you actually can invite—which requires you to know your venue before you make the guest list, but also to have some estimates from your caterer. Make sure you don’t invite more people than you actually have seats and meals for.
Before you make your real, official guest list, you might try this exercise: Make a dream list. Write down everyone you would want to invite if money and space were not issues. You may have to whittle it down some, but it at least gives you a good starting place—and later, if you suddenly think of someone and want to invite them, you can consult your dream list. If so-and-so didn’t make the dream list, maybe they’re really not that worthy of an invite?
You and your spouse-to-be may also want to put some rules into place before you start making the list. It doesn’t matter what the rules are, so long as you agree to them. Examples: No children. No one who neither of you have ever met or heard spoken about. No one neither of you has seen in three years or more, excepting blood relations.
Once you make those rules, it’s important to stick with them—which may mean being bold and assertive to your parents or soon-to-be in-laws. But stand your ground, preferably with a face-to-face conversation. Remind them that it’s your wedding and explain that you have a methodology in place and that you need it to be followed—simple as that.