Questions to ask yourself while navigating your small guest list

March 24 | Guest post by SteamBride
everyone (except for me, my dad, and everyone sitting under the balcony)
Photo by Char Beck

Are you losing sleep over your guest list? Does the phrase, "It's your wedding, invite who you want," offer no consoling relief? When it comes to "should they stay or should they go," ask yourself these questions first…

Inviting friends and family:

  • Do you regularly keep in touch?
  • Do you have fond memories of them?
  • Have they been supportive about the marriage?
  • Do they play an ACTIVE role in your life?
  • Have you spent a significant amount of time together?

More on inviting family:

  • Do you spend the holidays together?
  • If they are long distance, would they spend the holidays with you if they could?
  • Will not inviting them cause a world war, or family equivalent?

More on inviting friends:

  • Have you seen them in the past 6 months?
  • Do you have to go searching for their contact information?
  • Are they someone you will keep contact with in the long run?
  • Do they know both of you?

Inviting coworkers:

  • Will you be friends if either one of you move onto another job?
  • Have you done things outside of work together?

If you just can't bear the guilt of not inviting everyone, here are some ideas to help combat the budget…

Have a small wedding ceremony at your ideal location and a larger meet-and-greet style reception somewhere else. Or have a large venue for the wedding and a smaller dinner for family and close friends afterwards.

For the casual weddings, make it a potluck reception.

Have an after-party where you invite just your friends to join you for drinks and dancing, either that night or a following weekend.

Suggest to a family member that they hold a family reunion at some other point in time, and not on your dime.

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  1. "Suggest to a family member that they hold a family reunion at some other point in time, and not on your dime."

    This. A thousand times. I'm definitely going to have to use it!

    22 agree
    • I have a friend who, after making this suggestion to her mother, actually saw them make good on it. They ended up having the wedding on a Friday, and the mom organized a huge family reunion (200+ people) on Sunday. So my friend got to have her small, intimate wedding she wanted, and her mom got to have the big champagne toast to the new couple with all of her brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, and the various grandchildren.

      16 agree
  2. Sigh… I struggle with this. I work in a very small office – 5 people total. We wanted to keep it small (thus no work people) but I fret about hurt feelings. On the other hand, inviting 5 more people in the context of a 50 person invite list is a LOT esp. for Chicago catering prices with the venue already done booked.

    2 agree
    • My husband and I struggled with this when planning our wedding. I was in nursing school, and close to several classmates, and he had several friends at his office. Between the two of us, it would have been between 10 – 25 more people, which we just couldn't afford. We also wanted to maintain a small, intimate feel for the wedding, and to keep the focus on making it a joint family reunion. In addition to that, we knew there would be some hurt feelings and drama from some of our classmates/co-workers if some people were invited but not others.

      We wound up keeping it family and close (read: known for 5+ years only, long enough to be considered family) friends. It wound up being the right choice for us, and we were glad we stuck to our guns. The people at his job and in my class understood that it was a smaller family wedding, and if there were hurt feelings, no one's said anything to us. In the end, we figured our classmates and co-workers who were truly our friends would understand our reasons, and the ones who didn't understand wouldn't have been good guests anyway.

      I feel for you, though – it was a very tough decision. Good luck, and I hope your wedding is wonderful. =)

      3 agree
      • Thanks Elizabeth! Sounds like you just have to make a decision that works for your circumstances and be consistent.

  3. I decided to invite my co-workers because I see them every single day and it would be weird for me not to invite them. Now, given that my wedding it three hours north of where we work, I am not assuming that any of them will actually show up. It is more of a "it is the thought that counts" type situation. And it is only 7 co-workers.

    However, I have a HUGE family. The first words out of my mouth when discussing the guest list were that they are only invited if they are grandparents, my parent's siblings and first cousins (and the cousins' small children). None of this second cousin, great-aunt, third remove stuff. Does this mean that I won't be inviting people who invited me to their weddings? Oh yes. But my mom has 8 brothers and sisters and 3/4 of the guest list is just them!

    2 agree
    • That's a good point to bear in mind as well – you are under no obligation to invite people just because they invited you to their wedding (or other life event).

      Sure it's likely that the people you feel close enough to invite will feel the same way, but it should be because you're close to each other, not because of some sense of obligation to reciprocate.

      1 agrees
      • Thanks for this. I am feeling huge pressure to invite friends who I don't talk to very often because they invited me to their wedding. We are having a 50 person wedding and all of them had around 150-200 people. I just don't feel right about cutting out family members to reciprocate a wedding invitation.

        • I'm going through this now! My fiance and I wanted something small-ish and intimate though we both have large families. He isn't close to his fam, I'm super close to mine. I wanted to keep it first cousins, aunts/uncles, bffs, etc but my dad is insisting on inviting everyone I share DNA with – and even some I don't. I'll be dropping the guest list bombshell on my dad when I see him in two weeks. I'm glad now I read this! LOL

          1 agrees
  4. Amen! We are getting married 5-13-11, and my fiance has a huge family. He decided that we are only inviting his mom's 5 siblings & their spouses and not inviting the 20+ cousins. He is 8-15 yesrs older than most of them (his mom is the oldest of 6), we don't hang out with them and don't see them other than maybe once a year. We are doing a daytime Friday wedding (b/c of the date) and will probably have no more than 45 people. I'm still struggling with my co-workers; there are 9 in our department, and being during the day eliminates spouses, but I've only done things outside the office with 2 of them. My fiance says if you wouldn't pay for someone's dinner on a random Saturday night, you shouldn't invite them to your wedding 😉

    2 agree
  5. My guy has a dilemma with the work thing… He wants to invite a couple of the guys he works with but since he's the supervisor he feels that he basically has to invite all of them (20 or so total!!!) or none so it doesn't seem like he's playing favorites… The only good thing is he doesn't think most of them will show since they're not into stuff like that but still~ I hate to take a spot away from one of our mutual friends just in case these guys all show up…

    anyone have any thoughts on how to get around this one?

    • Never underestimate the power of separate parties! Maybe you can't invite them all to the wedding and reception, but you can still invite them to celebrate with you. It might be really fun for your hubby to ask co-workers to join him for drinks in honor of his impending marriage. It's not as formal as a wedding, no one will feel like you're fishing for extra gifts, and his friends at work will still feel included and remembered.

      2 agree
    • Etiquette wise, its inappropriate for your hubby to be to invite those he supervises UNLESS he has a personal, out of work, relationship with them. So, as long as your man has established friendships with these people there shouldn't be a problem in inviting them. (As long as the company doesn't have a policy against it) Those in the office that he is not friends with and does not invite may feel obligated if they were to receive an invitation to the wedding or to an informal event since they don't normally hang out with your man. Supervisory invitations are always a slippery slope. In the end your hubby to be should do what makes him most comfortable.

  6. I personally would only invite your workmates if you get on particularly well with them- not just because you see them every day and because you feel like you have to. I work in a teeny-tiny office and am inviting the four colleagues that I get on the best with. We're very close as a team, and it's probably the only office where I feel truly accepted just for being me. I have, however, instructed the colleagues I've invited to keep it on the down-low, so as not to hurt anyone else's feelings.

    Also, one solution if you're struggling with the guest list, is to have a large-ish ceremony, but a smaller reception (if you're having the ceremony and reception in different places, that is). For instance, a good friend of mine and her hubby couldn't afford to invite all their friends to their reception, so they had some friends (myself including) just come to the ceremony. We're thinking we might do the same…we have so many good friends between that, but we don't know if we're going to be able to have everyone at the reception, as much as we'd love to.

  7. I also live in Northern Utah (Davis County), so I completely understand "trying to navigate an offbeat wedding in conservative Salt Lake City, UT, all the while trying to keep the budget". Best of luck!

  8. Good tips… But I think for many of us , the six month rule might be off 🙂 sometimes, if you have had to move a lot, or if you have had to move internationally, a wedding can become a fab reunion with people you love dearly but may see rarely… But of course it should be YOUR reunion, not your family's

    5 agree
    • I think the good thing about the six-month rule is that if you find yourself wanting to get around it, then you know that person is someone you really want there. So it works even when it doesn't!

      1 agrees
  9. I am struggling with this, too. Mostly because not inviting my family has the potential to cause major drama. And I know they would all come… and then complain about every moment. And furthermore, one of my family members did something really awful and I called him on it legally, so many of the people on my father's side of the family supported him, and not me. I don't care if I never associate with them again.

    But I can't break my dad's heart by not inviting all of his brothers and sisters, but inviting all of my mom's. I've already decided to have a small wedding and a huuuuuge reception, so I'm considering having no aunts or uncles at the wedding, period. But there are some maternal aunts and uncles I would love to have there.

    Bottom Line: Planning this thing would be so flipping easy if other people didn't have feelings or preconceptions. 😉

    3 agree
  10. The friend thing is hard for me, because (not to sound obnoxious) but I…
    1. have a lot more friends than my fiance does, and
    2. not all of my friends know him because I've lived in three different cities in the last 10 years, one of which was for 7 years and is 800 miles away.

    I still keep in touch with a lot of those people… I think what we might do is have our wedding slightly earlier than planned so that the reception can be done a bit earlier and have an "after party" at a bar or music venue for all our friends we couldn't invite?

  11. This works great if you have a small family. My dad has 13 brothers and sisters. his siblings plus my first cousins and spouses makes close to 80 people I have to invite according to my mother. I have not met a lot of these first cousins, my parents haven't seen them in decades. This has severely limited our venue choices as we are required to have a larger wedding than we would like. Any suggestions for that situation? There is a good chance because the wedding is 3 hours out of town that many of the first cousins will not show up, but my mother thinks they should get a courtesy invite so no one's feelings get hurt.

  12. This just helped me make a slight cut to my small list. My fiance only wants 11 people including the wedding party and my side had 23. More than double is too hard to cut down, but it gives me the excuse to not invite a great aunt by marriage who'd annoyingly tell everyone she can't eat most of the stuff (dessert and punch reception) because of her diabetes. This also meant cutting a couple close friends of the family, but I'm sure I'll be OK doing a special visit with the ones I like. But that's all I can cut. My family is pretty close after all.

  13. My fiancé wants a large wedding, his parents also. I want a small wedding with close family and friends. How to persuade him? I want to save our money so that we can invest in our house or in trips we are planning to do. Any tips?

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