Tackling your guest list will likely take more than one night and more than one bottle of wine. Before you’re engaged (and have set a budget) you imagine your guest list will include your extended families, both of your college friends, sorority sisters/fraternity brothers, a few high school friends, those friends you’ve made as a couple, and maybe even work friends (it is polite to invite your boss).
Once you get a quote back from a caterer, your philosophy on who gets invitations will likely change. At $15-45 a head, your wedding can get exponentially more expensive as your guest list grows. And you will have to reconsider some of the people that might have made your first draft list.
We started with an excel sheet and put our immediate families, our wedding party (and their +1s), and our vendors on the list. While you don’t necessarily need chairs for vendors or invitations, you do need to feed them (although it does not have to be the same food you feed your guests*). We then added extended family members that were a must and our mutual friends. Our list quickly approached 125. We discussed other friends/guests we would like to invite on an individual basis and made decisions to add or leave off of the list. THIS WAS NOT EASY. There were easily a dozen more people we each would have invited but it would have made us go over budget, and also cramped our reception area (they cannot fit over 200 people in there!).
We took several days (weeks) to finalize our list – and even at the near end we were adding people to it. You should look at it as a work in progress (until you have to give your final counts to your vendors). At some point, you’ll consider eloping, having a small intimate wedding, or tossing your budget and inviting everyone you know – and then you’ll come back to reality. Once we made our list, we used it for everything, including invites, RSVPs, seating chart and thank yous (If you do it in Excel like we did, it’s easy to copy the tab and use the same list without recreating data!)!
Even if you have an A list and a B list, don’t tell a “B list” guest that some A listers couldn’t make it, so you now have room for them (had an ex do this to a mutual friend, very tacky – but did give us a good laugh!). There will probably be some guests that you thought were “sure things” who will end up not being able to come – and it will make room for others if that’s how you want to see it. Or it can cut down on your costs.
Just remember that you want people there that you care about and that care about you. You want people there who will enjoy celebrating the love that you have found and your new adventure. It’s not about who your parents want to invite (unless they’re contributing funds!), and it’s not about not hurting people’s feelings. It’s your day. It’s about you (and your groom) and with whom you want to share your special day. Good luck!