There are plenty of parts of wedding planning that are a whole lot of fun. But there is one part that can be less pleasant, and has the potential to send you hurtling towards an existential crisis: figuring out your guest list.
At the crux of it all is answering that age-old question: how many people should you invite?
It’s a question on par with the good ol’ adage about the length of a piece of string. And the reality is there is no one right answer—just an answer that is right for you. For some, a 200-person shindig is everything their dreams are made of. For others, a cosy wedding with just two friends and their dog is the perfect combination.
So here’s an existential-crisis-free guide on how to attack planning your guest list, so you can tick it off, and get straight into planning the fun stuff!
Let’s begin with the basics, shall we? Family and close friends are the VIPs of your wedding guest list. They’re the ones who’ve seen you through the ups and downs, and they’re the people you actually want to share your special day with. Whether it’s just parents and siblings, or also Aunt Mildred and your favourite cousin twice removed, you know who is important to you. Start your list with them.
Now, here’s where things get tricky. It’s tempting to let your parents, aunts, uncles, and even your neighbour’s dog groomer’s cousin dictate who makes the cut. But remember, this is your day, not a family reunion. Be prepared to have those hard conversations—particularly with parents. If they’re insisting on inviting your neighbour Barry and his new wife Joan, but you’ve barely exchanged pleasantries in a decade, it’s time to put your foot down.
This can be an extra delicate situation if your parents are footing some of the bill for your big day. One option can be to give parents a quota, and allow them to invite a certain number of people. That way you’re in control, you’ve given them some control, and won’t end up with a guest list that rivals the United Nations General Assembly.
One factor that may dictate how many people you can invite is your budget, and generally every guest you add to the list means extra expenses. If you take your budget, and then match it up with what you truly value for your big day, you get a bit of a formula for how many people you can invite.
Does your dream venue come with a to-die-for view, food and ambiance, but also a higher cost per head? Then make sure you nab the date you want, but you may have to get extra strict with invitees.
Or is celebrating with 300 guests what you want most? You may want to get cracking on those oodles of invitations sooner rather than later, and you may also have to look to some more affordable catering options to stick to your spending limit.
Either way, remember every extra guest adds to the bill, and you want to ensure that the people in the room are those you genuinely want to share your big day with.
As many people discovered during the COVID period, tiny weddings can be incredibly charming. And while those times have passed, it was a good opportunity to reflect on why you need to invite half the town to your wedding.
A smaller guest list often leads to a more intimate and meaningful experience. Or you can always enjoy the best of both worlds. Consider having a smaller wedding followed by a bigger party in your backyard with a barbecue. You get an intimate ceremony and a raucous celebration that can accommodate everyone you’ve ever met. Either way, don’t be afraid to embrace the magic of a small, delightful celebration
When pondering how many people to invite to your wedding, remember that it’s your day to shine. Start with family and close friends, politely decline those ‘for other people’ invitations, keep an eye on the budget. After all, a wedding is not just about the quantity of guests; it’s about the quality of the moments you share with them.