It's no secret that planning a wedding is stressful. Often, it seems that no matter how hard you try, you're bound to disappoint someone. One of the major hurdles all couples encounter -- unless they elope to Bora Bora in the dark hours of the night -- is the guest list.
While it's a common opinion that whoever is footing the bill for the wedding should have the final say on the guest list, it is the bridal couple's special day, and their desires should be respected. Whether their dream wedding is an intimate beachfront ceremony or a lavish botanical bash, ideally each partner should construct half the guest list. Unfortunately, an equal split is not always the ideal solution.
Nowadays many people are getting married at an older age. They're more established in life and oftentimes can afford to pay for some or all of the wedding costs, meaning that they won't feel pressured to please and compromise with those who would be funding the wedding. However, as we all know, no family is perfect. Maybe you're footing the bill, but your father wants to invite his clients because "it's good for business." Or maybe you come from a big family ("My Big Fat Greek Wedding," anyone?), and Mom says you can't possibly invite 23 of your 31 first cousins -- save your second and third cousins. Perhaps there's that rambunctious relative who will make everyone's lives, well, miserable, if she's not invited -- well, she will regardless. There's a lot to consider, but couples must prioritize their own happiness and enjoyment for the big day.
So where do you start?
Start with your budget. How much can you (and are you willing to) spend on your nuptials? Figure out what the average cost per person would be, and then adjust the number of guests. Obviously, the size and cost of the venue will partially dictate the number of guests. Check the cost and capacity of your favorite venues, from halls to restaurants to botanical gardens to a friend's backyard. Then, factor in the peripherals: invitations, chair and table rentals, food and alcohol (for the rehearsal dinner and reception), favors, etc. And don't forget the wedding party! You may buy special gifts for each member.
Add all these expenses up, and subtract the total from your total budget. Take an extra 10 percent off the balance (to cover unexpected expenses), and divide the rest by the per-person average. Now you have a reasonable idea if your wedding guest list will include 50 or 300.
Once you have your number it's time to decide who goes on the list. Make list A of the must haves: your immediate family, closest friends, grandparents, aunts and uncles who have been there for you through the years, family friends who you consider aunts and uncles and maybe your boss. Next, make list B, including more distant relatives you've exchanged holiday cards with, perhaps a few co-workers, neighbors you grew up with and your parents' closest business associates and friends.
When possible try to use the same measure across the board. For example, don't say kids aren't allowed but then invite your 7-year-old cousin. If your parents are contributing to the wedding, let them assign some of the seats (maybe a third or fourth). Be sure to only send save-the-date cards to those on list A so you don't have to disinvite anyone from list B once the actual invitations go out.
Chances are you and your spouse-to-be won't have exactly the same amount of guests. If you don't need your entire share, use the unused seats for mutual friends. Compare your lists to eliminate any duplicates. Send out your final A-list invites a little bit early so if some of them decline you can send invites to those on list B, but they won't feel like an afterthought.
Remember, this is your day. Most importantly, avoid drama. Only invite people who mean a lot to you and will contribute to your happiness on your special day. If you are feeling guilty about all those who weren't invited, throw an informal backyard barbecue get-together after the honeymoon. Enjoy making memories with your loved ones.