I Do! (Not Know Where to Begin) Month 2: First Round Guest List

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Welcome back friends! Can you believe it’s time to start going over the events from month TWO?! Holy moly, time is just flying by. The first thing we’re addressing this month is the process of starting to develop the guest list. Ugh. To be honest, I had already started coming up with a rough idea of this months before we even got engaged… that’s just who I am. This whole thing is definitely my least favorite part of wedding planning and reminds me why I stopped having parties growing up.

Image Source: @becccawaugh

Image Source: @becccawaugh

The guest list is pretty much synonymous with stress. Being that we’re trying to keep things small, you know going into it that you’re going to end up disappointing some people. Being a people pleaser, it’s really rough going into things knowing that. While I would love to invite all our friends and family from near and far, we’re just not looking to have a 200 person wedding (or have the budget for something like that). So, with that being said, Jaren came up with a really great guideline for us to follow: anyone being invited to our wedding has to be someone we both know on a first name basis and are familiar with. The more I sat with it, the more I loved the concept. Anyone that’s going to be invited to such a small an intimate gathering should be someone that we’re both comfortable and friendly with. It’s truly the people that we can’t imagine saying “I do” without.

Even within our families, there have already been some potentially ruffled feathers -- which I was totally expecting. Being that I come from such a large, close-knit family, my numbers kind of shoot up right off the bat. Just my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins total around 20 people. They’re all people that I can’t imagine getting married without. My cousins aren’t like normal cousins, we’re incredibly close and I wouldn’t trade them for the world. We grew up with my two closest cousins in age living less than 5 minutes away. They’re practically a second sister and brother to me. So that was my non-negotiable family list. With that, there wasn’t much room to add in any great-aunts or uncles. That wasn’t to the pleasing of my grandparents at first, but luckily they’re very understanding and know we’re working with small numbers. Jaren’s family is much smaller and therefore he has a lot more flexibility to pick and choose who he really wants there. His numbers round out to be just under 20, so we’re pretty close on that front.

Image Source: Mod Weddings

Image Source: Mod Weddings

When it comes to adding friends into the mix, there’s not much room to play with. I think with our first round, we’re around 15 guests each, including plus ones, putting us right around our max guest goal of 70. It was difficult to make the decisions here, but at the same time, I tried to follow a similar mindframe as with my bridesmaid selection. Who are the people that I’m closest with in my life and really keep in touch with? The list kind of fell together and just felt right.

It’s funny to look back at some of the articles I’ve written pre-engagement and how my advice stacks up to what I’m actually doing. I actually looked back at my guest selection guide to help with the process. One thing that I hadn’t thought of before that has since been brought to my attention is having a secondary list. It’s possible that a lot of guests on our initial list may not be able to make it to the big day, which means we have two options: have a smaller wedding or add more guests to the list. Honestly, the idea of having a secondary list gives me anxiety too, because I’m worried that people are going to be offended if they weren’t invited originally but then get invited later on. But I would hope that on some level they would be happy to be invited in general. If not, they always have the option to say no.

Image Source: Junebug Weddings

Image Source: Junebug Weddings

With the wedding being almost two years out still, and save the dates not going out for quite a few more months, there’s always a possibility that things will change. That’s why I think it’s so important to develop your list early, so that you have time to tweak and really think about your choices. Right now, I’ve hit a point of acceptance where I’m trying not to overthink or stress over the guest list. With us not taking action on it for a few more months, there’s no use in fretting. I tend to be an overthinker, so instead of driving myself crazy, I’m focusing on the more fun and exciting aspects of the planning process! But more on that next week.

In's and Out's of Wedding Planning: Picking Your Guest List

Determining your wedding guest list is no easy feat. This is an area where everyone has an opinion, but it’s important to remember that not everyone gets a say! While you should take your parents’ opinions into consideration, depending on their financial contribution to the day’s events, you don’t need to take it as a final say. At the end of it all, this is about you and your future spouse. So we’re putting together a list of tips when it comes to planning your guest list to help you navigate the murky waters.

Image Source: Mod Wedding

Image Source: Mod Wedding

1. Set a Rough Goal and Budget

The first step should be sitting down with your partner and discussing two things: what your budget is and what size wedding you have in mind. This will obviously have a large effect on the length of your guest list. If you have a tighter budget, you’ll probably have a smaller wedding. Likewise, if you want to keep things more intimate, you’ll have a smaller guest list. Discuss in a general sense what kinds of guests you picture having at your big day -- all family? A handful of close friends? Or everyone and their brother? This will get your brains on the same page before you start really digging into the specifics.

2. Start with Immediate Family

Unless you have a strained relationship, you’ll most likely be starting with parents, grandparents, and siblings. You can move onto your aunts, uncles, and cousins from there. Starting with your closest relationships and stretching out from there.

3. Distant Relatives

If you’re having a smaller family, you’ll most likely pass on the majority of your distant relatives, unless you have a close relationship with them. That being said, if you’re worried about hurting feelings, some older relatives may appreciate an invitation just out of courtesy, even if you know that they will most likely not be attending. As much as you may like, it’s pretty much impossible to invite everyone, so you may need to start making some tough decisions here!

Image Source: My Wedding

Image Source: My Wedding

4. Your Friends

This is where things can really start to get tricky depending on how much you’re trying to constrict your numbers. Our recommendation is to stick with your closest pals. This is definitely a group decision as your partner may have a good outsider view on some of your relationships with friends. Also, just because you may have been invited to someone’s wedding, doesn’t mean you need to extend an invitation to yours! They may have been working with a larger budget/guest limit than you are. This is about you and your partner committing to forever, so only include those who you can’t imagine the day without. We’d also like to take this time to state that inviting exes to a wedding is never a good idea. Period!

5. Colleagues

Another area where things can get messy is the extension of invitations to your colleagues. Who makes the cut? Who is appropriate to invite? Well, it totally depends on your situation! If you have a couple of really close co-workers who you would like to be there, then go ahead and invite them. If you’re close with your boss, that’s fine too! This is another one of those areas where you can unintentionally hurt people’s feelings, so try to keep that in the back of your mind. While it is your day and you should invite who you want, remember that when all is said and done, you have to work with these people still! If the idea of picking who can and cannot get an invite is too much, don’t invite any of them. No one will think anything of it.

6. Plus One?

Plus ones can very quickly get out of hand. Our rule of thumb for keeping a handle on things? If you’re not in a serious relationship, no plus one! Sorry! Friends and family can’t expect for you to extend the courtesy of a plus one if they’re single. Even if they’re in a new relationship, you don’t need to feel obligated to invite their new beau. How do you make it clear that you’re not giving them a plus one (or that you are)? Address the invitation to only that one person, or to both people if you’re extending an invite to their partner. This makes it very clear and also says “here’s an invite for you as a couple” not “here’s a plus one for you to bring whoever you want.” It’s a special day, you don’t need strangers attending if you’re looking to keep things intimate.

Image Source: The Wedding Playbook

Image Source: The Wedding Playbook

7. Kids?

Do you include your friends or relatives kids on the invite? It’s totally up to you! In our opinion, it depends on ages and what your vision is for the day. If your cousin Susie has 5 teenage sons who you aren’t close with, it’s safe to leave them off the guest list. If you want an adults only event, that’s totally fine! If you have a good relationship with some of the kids, it’s also totally fine to extend the invitation along to them, too.

8. Family Influence

Even if they’re not contributing financially, sit down with each partner’s parents and get their take on things. How awful would you feel if you somehow missed an aunt or uncle just because you were overwhelmed with the decision making process? It’s a good idea to have a second and third check! Your parents may be insistent on certain relatives or family friends making the list that you didn’t originally have making the cut. Sit down and have a conversation about it. If you’re really set against it, explain why and hold your ground. If you’re on the fence but really want to keep things small due to budget constraints, offer to send an invitation if your parents are willing to pick up the extra expenses incurred from the extra guests. If they want them to attend so badly and you don’t care, it’s okay to ask them to pick up the tab.