Should You Have a Backup Wedding Guest List?

Planning a wedding is a complicated affair. Between the wedding venue, the caterer, the favours and the perfect wedding dress, a lot of decisions need to be made.
Then, there’s the wedding guest list. Figuring out who to invite (and who not to invite) is one of the most important parts of wedding planning, and yet it’s one of the toughest.

It can be tricky to decide, out of the hundreds of people that you probably know between you, who gets an invitation and who doesn’t. There’s everything from venue space, to budget, to complicated family dynamics to consider. And when you’ve made the list, you might find that some people can’t make it. What do you do then?

One thing you can do to make your life easier is to make a backup wedding guest list, otherwise known as a B-list. This guide will talk you through what a B-list is, whether you should have one, who should be on it, and when to send out invitations.

What Is a Wedding Guest B-List?

If you had it your way, you’d have a dreamy wedding with all of your family and friends in attendance. But inviting everyone comes with a huge price tag. If you’re working with a budget, or with a venue that has limited space, you know that some people just aren’t going to make the cut.

That is when a B-list or backup guest list comes in. This list is composed of people who didn’t make it onto your primary guest list, but you’d want to invite them if some of your guests couldn’t make it.
The idea is that if you get any RSVPs saying “sorry, we can’t make it”, you can promptly send out a wedding invitation to someone on the B-list to take their place.

So, why should you have a backup guest list? Well, a lot of couples create a b-list because statistically, around 15% of wedding invitees will RSVP “no”, whether that’s because they have a prior commitment or just don’t want to come.
For example, that means that if you invite 100 guests, around 15 of them won’t attend. Rather than have a bunch of empty seats at your wedding, this gives you the opportunity to invite people that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to celebrate with.
But putting together a B-list can be tricky, because you don’t want to make these people feel bad that they weren’t on the initial guest list.

How to Create a Backup Wedding Guest List

The trick to a successful B-list is preparation. Here are some of the most important things that you need to remember when putting together your own backup wedding guest list:

Prepare Your B-List as Early as Possible

You don’t want your backup wedding guest list to be an afterthought or a last-minute preparation. It’s best to decide if you want to put together an A-list and B-list early on, so you have enough time to figure out the details of both lists without stressing yourself out.
It's crucial that you know who’s on the main guest list and who’s a backup before you send out your save the dates. You should never send out save the dates to anyone who’s not 100% guaranteed to get a wedding invitation – this is extremely poor etiquette and will cause hurt feelings.

Start with One List, then Split It

Start by making a general list of people that you’d ideally want to be at your wedding. Don’t even think about your budget, the venue or any other factor to begin with. This will be your ideal list and you can work from this to figure out who’s in column A and who’s in column B.
Once you’ve formed your basic list, now’s the time to start thinking about your budget and space. Settle on a number of guests to invite (don’t forget to account for children and plus ones), and start splitting the list according to priority.

1) First, the VIPs that you couldn’t imagine your wedding day without.
2) Then, add the closest friends and family in order of how important they are to you. Keep adding them until your A-list is full.
Anyone leftover goes on the B-list.

Organise Your B-List by Priority

Now that you have a B-list, you will need to sort it according to priority. This is because not everyone on your B-list will get a wedding invitation. If you have 30 guests on the B-list, for example, but only 10 of your original invitees RSVP “no”, then only a third of your B-listers will be able to come.
So, order your B-list with the most important/valued guests at the top. Do this in plenty of time. Then, when your first declined invitations start coming back, you’ll know exactly who to invite as replacements, and in what order.

Carefully Consider Family and Friendship Dynamics

The last thing that you’d want is to start arguments with family and friends because you put some of them on your B-list while others were on the A-list.
This is why it’s very important to stay consistent with the people on your list. Determine which friend groups and family groups would best fit in the A- and B-lists, and make sure you put everyone in the group onto the same list.
For example, take work colleagues as an example. If there are 6 people in your office, they should either all be on the A-list, or all be on the B-list. Otherwise, some of them will get their invitations way earlier than others, and they’ll figure out what’s going on. You don’t want anyone to realise they’re a backup, and take offence.

Choose People who Are Understanding

Being realistic, you probably can’t avoid some feelings getting hurt if you are going to do a backup wedding list. Remember that you’ll have to wait to receive your RSVPs before you start inviting the backup guests.
Wedding invitations are usually sent out 6-8 weeks before the big day, so if some people receive an invitation much later than this, they’ll probably figure out that they weren’t your first choice.

So, if you can, it’s important to choose people for the B-list that you know won’t be offended, upset or angry by being a backup guest. These are your easy-going friends, family and colleagues who would want to celebrate with you but won’t put any pressure on you to be invited to your wedding.

For example, if you’ve got one spot left on your A-list and it’s a choice between your chilled out cousin Liam or your easily-offended Aunt Jane, it would probably be best to give Jane the final spot, to avoid any unnecessary drama or hurt feelings.

Set an Earlier RSVP Deadline than Usual

It’s important that you send out your first lot of invitations in plenty of time, so that you get your replies as early as possible. This will give you enough time to invite any backup guests.
When you are designing your RSVP cards, it’s important to add a deadline, so that guests know the latest date they can respond. This deadline is usually around 2 weeks before the big day. However, if you’re having a backup guest list, the deadline will need to be set to a much earlier date than usual.
Ideally, your RSVP deadline should be at least 4-6 weeks before your wedding day. This will give you enough time to send out your B-list invitations, and give the backup guests enough time to send back RSVPs of their own.

Order Your Backup Wedding Invitations and Reply Cards in Plenty of Time

The biggest mistake you could make would be to only order enough wedding invitations and reply cards for your A-list guests, and wait until they’ve replied before ordering your B-list stationery. This might help you save a bit of money, but it won’t give you much time to send them out, and will cause extra stress.

So, we’d advise ordering enough stationery for both lists at the same time, and keep the backup invitations and reply cards on hand ready to post out if/when you need them.
And remember, you must create two different RSVP card designs: one for your main guests, and one for your backup guests. The RSVP deadline for people on your A-list should be 4-6 weeks before the wedding while your B-list guests should respond at least 2 weeks before the big day.

Post All of Your B-List Invitations Together

As we mentioned earlier, it’s pretty important to keep your B-list a secret, and try to be subtle about it. It would be seen as rude or unkind to make it obvious that some of your guests weren’t on the original list.
So, ideally, you should send out all of your B-list invitations at the same time, on a comfortable date several weeks before the wedding that won’t make them feel like they were an afterthought. Determine a date when you’re going to decide on who gets to be invited as backup guests, and when you’re sending out everything by mail. This will help you keep track of who you’ve invited (and when), and will give your guests enough time to reply.

Don’t be Tempted to Make a C-list

You might wonder: what if some of the people on my B-list RSVP “no”? Should I have a C-list, so that I can invite backups for the backups?
The answer is, quite simply, no. This is a bad idea. If you were to have a C-list, you’d need to send out their invitations super late – only a week or two before your big day. Doing this will make it painfully obvious to everyone on that list that they were a last-minute choice.

This will cause hurt feelings all round, and it will also create an extra level of stress for you, as you frantically try to keep track of which guests from which lists are coming, and which aren’t. You’ll also be waiting on tenterhooks for those last-minute RSVPs mere days before your wedding – which will wreak havoc with your caterer’s head count.

So, are you ready to start making your guest lists? If you’re looking beautiful wedding invitations and reply cards, head to Bride and Groom Direct. Our online editor is extremely easy and quick to use, and our fast delivery times mean you don’t have to worry about your stationery taking ages to arrive. Why not browse through our beautiful designs today?

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