Your wedding will be one of the most important and defining moments of your life. Naturally, you want to share it with all of your friends, family, and loved ones. But sometimes, it can be hard to decide exactly who should receive a wedding invitation.
Obviously, wedding venues don’t have unlimited space. Your venue will have restrictions upon the number of guests it can accommodate, for fire safety and practicality reasons. And let’s not forget the all-important budget: you probably can’t afford a three-course wedding breakfast for every single person in your circle of acquaintances.
So, you’ll need to decide who will (and won’t) make the cut for your wedding guest list. The best way to do this is to make a first draft of the most important people, and expand your list from there. Don’t forget, you’ll need room for plus ones and kids, too!
Making a First Draft Wedding Guest List
The very first thing you should do, even before you’ve chosen a wedding venue, is to make a rough draft of your wedding guest list. You can decide on the final guest list after you know your venue’s capacity, but coming up with a rough idea of numbers is a good place to start.
Sit down with your husband- or wife-to-be. You should each make a list of the people that absolutely must be there, the most important people in the world to you. They’re the ones that you couldn’t imagine your day without – most likely your parents, grandparents, siblings, and best friends. Don’t forget to account for their partners.
Put all of these people on the A-list. Then, add everyone else that you would ideally like to share your special day- for example, aunts and uncles, friends, and your best ‘work buddies’. This gives you a good idea of a lower limit on guest numbers.
You’ll now be left with a whole lot of people whom you’re not sure whether you should invite or not. Extended family, past and present work colleagues, acquaintances, and old friends whom you haven’t seen in years are likely suspects. Put all of these people on the B-list, and come back to them later.
Deciding on a Venue and Finalising Numbers
While you’re venue-shopping, talk to the staff about how many guests each venue can hold. Don’t forget that the maximum capacity of a venue will include the bride and groom, the wedding party, and all of your suppliers (DJ, photographer, videographer, and anyone else who will need to be on-site). Choose a venue that can comfortably accommodate at least everyone on your A-list.
Next, using the venue’s capacity and your budget, decide the maximum number of guests you can afford. Speak to some caterers (or your venue, if they’re providing food) and determine a rough cost for the wedding breakfast. It’s likely to be somewhere between £30 and £100 per head, depending on what’s included.
Don’t forget to account for drinks – most brides and grooms provide a welcome drink, a glass or two of wine during the meal, and a toasting drink (usually champagne) for each guest. You’ll also need to consider whether you’ll provide food at the evening reception (like a buffet).
Once you know the maximum number of guests you can have, it’s time to start thinking about which people on the B-list will make the cut.
Day Guests and Evening Guests
Don’t forget that you can, if you so choose, have ‘day guests’ and ‘evening guests’. The day guests attend every part of the day (the ceremony, wedding breakfast, and evening reception). But the evening guests, usually less important people, only attend the evening reception (usually a buffet and dancing).
This tactic will save you a lot of money, as your evening-only guests won’t attend the wedding breakfast. If you decide to do this, it means that you still invite your B-list guests to share in part of your day, without sacrificing your budget. Of course, it will depend on your venue’s capacity.
Plus Ones and Children
At this stage, decide who you are (and aren’t) going to offer a ‘plus one’. A plus one means that the guest you’re inviting can bring a guest of their own – usually their romantic partner, or a date.
You should offer a plus one to anyone who’s married, engaged, or in a long-term relationship. It’s also kind to offer a plus one to guests that won’t know anyone else there (e.g. an old school friend).
However, you aren’t obligated to extend plus-ones to invitees who are single and will know others there. Not offering these guests a plus one will help you cut down on guest numbers and save money.
The same goes for inviting guests’ children. By having an adult-only wedding, you can free up more space for guests on your B-list, should you wish to.
Should I Invite Extended Family, Old Friends, and Co-workers?
There’s no hard-and-fast rule to follow on who to invite to your wedding. There’s no flowchart you can consult or magic formula you can use to determine who gets an invitation. It’s up to you. However, we can offer some general guidelines, based on how the majority of couples finalise their guest list.
The most important thing to bear in mind is that everyone you invite to your wedding should be someone that you genuinely want there. Don’t be pressured into inviting someone just because it may be awkward if you don’t, because it’s expected of you, or you worry they’ll be offended.
Ultimately, where you draw the line is up to you and your partner. The only exception may be your parents’ opinion, if they are paying for the wedding. We’ll get onto that in a moment.
So, how do you decide which extended family members to invite to your wedding? Extended family may be made up of:
• Stepsiblings and half-siblings
• Nieces and nephews
• Aunts and uncles
• First cousins (your aunt or uncle’s children)
• Grandaunts and granduncles (your grandparents’ siblings)
• First cousins once removed (your grandaunt or granduncle’s children), and their children (your second cousins)
Most couples will choose to invite their grandparents, siblings (including step- and half-siblings), aunts, uncles, and first cousins. Anyone further-removed is generally not invited, or put on the B-list, and invited if someone from the A-list can’t make it.
However, it’s up to you. If you have a second cousin that you’re extremely close to, feel free to invite them. And similarly, if you haven’t seen or spoken to an aunt or cousin in years, don’t feel obligated.
If your parents are paying for the wedding, it’s polite to ask them for their opinion, too. For example, if your mother is paying and it’s important to her that you invite her aunt (your grandaunt), it would be kind to do so. However, if you and your partner are footing the bill, your folks definitely don’t get a say.
Old and Distant Friends
Old friends, or distant friends, are people that you were previously close with, but perhaps not so much these days. For whatever reason, you haven’t been in touch for a while – save for liking one another’s Facebook photos – and now you’re wondering: are they wedding invitation worthy?
Here are some questions to ask yourself that might help you decide.
• Have you met up with them in person, or spoken to them on the phone, in the past year? (Text messaging doesn’t count)
• Would you feel awkward going out for lunch with them?
• Were you ever particularly close with them? Were they a best friend that has fallen by the wayside, or were you only ever just acquaintances?
Ultimately, it’s up to you. But don’t feel that you have to invite them just to be polite, or because you’re afraid of offending them.
The easiest way to avoid any workplace drama is to not invite any of your co-workers at all. That way, everybody is in the same boat, and nobody has any reason to feel offended or jealous. If they ask, tell them that you’re having a small wedding, but you’ll celebrate with them afterwards (maybe you could all go out for a drink).
However, if you have any co-workers that you’re particularly close to, you may want them to be there. These are your best ‘work buddies’ – people that you regularly see outside of work (by choice).
You can pick and choose which co-workers you invite. However, try to be subtle and tactful about it. If you’re inviting some colleagues but not others, avoid talking about your wedding at work.
And once again, don’t invite co-workers simply because you worry things will be awkward if you don’t. It’s your wedding, and you have the right to invite whoever you choose.
What About If They Invited Me to Their Wedding?
Finally, many brides- and grooms-to-be feel a strange sense of obligation to invite someone whose own wedding they attended, no matter how long ago it was. But there is no rule stating that you must invite someone to your wedding if they invited you to theirs. Once again, it depends upon how close you are to them.
If you attended their wedding in the past year or two, it’s a nice gesture to invite them to yours, especially if you were in their wedding party. But if their wedding was more than a few years ago, and you aren’t close with them, don’t worry about it.