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A Complete Guide for Cutting Your Guest List

After making a first draft of your list, and incorporating names from your families, you may be surprised to see how many people you are planning to invite.

From obligatory invites, to trying to please others, your wedding invites can expand from the people you most want to celebrate with to a huge party with strangers before you know it.

In this blog, we'll explore ways to manage your guest list (before you send those save the dates!) to keep you on budget and to get the experience you most want.

Why Guest Count Matters

Your guest count can have one of the largest impacts on your wedding budget. Aside from your attire and your venue fee, all other expenses scale up as your guest list grows. The larger your event, the more every single thing costs.

From the cost to print additional invites (and later menus, escort cards, place cards, and even thank you notes), stationery costs scale up as your guest list grows. So too do your catering costs, beverage costs, and rentals for additional plates, glassware, tables, chairs, and linens. Labor costs increase as more staffing is necessary to accommodate more guests. Even your floral budget will need to expand, as each table gets arrangements and candlelight. Larger events require larger venues...the list goes on. And, with climbing prices, inflation, and the Wedding Boom, managing your guest list is one of the best ways to control your wedding spend.

Whether you want to deliver a luxe experience within a set budget, or are looking to minimize the inflation impact on your wedding budget, chances are you'll need to reduce your guest list.

Before you send your Save the Dates, read on to learn how you can trim down your initial list.

Pick Your Priorities: Before All Else.

I firmly believe that you can have any event at any cost. Want a Vogue-worthy luxury affair? It can be yours...but if you can't splash out with a six- or seven-figure budget, you may be looking at a Vogue-worthy luxury elopement (or maybe <10-person wedding).

Consider the BAEs of your event: your Budget, the Attendance (this your guest count), and the Experience (and the tone you set for guests). Unless you have a "sky's the limit" budget, you get to pick two, and the third falls into place.

If having a huge party with all your friends and family from different walks of life is the most important thing to you, that's okay! That's what you've chosen to prioritize, and the other two pieces of this puzzle will have to adjust accordingly.

For example, if you are committed to inviting 250 guests and your budget is set, Experience will default to what you can afford for that number. In this case, instead of a plated formal dinner and an open bar, maybe you're looking at a more casual party with food trucks and a keg, or a fun parade of endless apps and cocktails. If you don't want to compromise on your guest count or the experience you want to give guests, then of course that means you'll have to adjust your budget to match.

In short, one of the three can flex to accommodate the other two.

Consider Hosting a Destination Wedding

In my experience, a lot of the "obligatory invite" expectations melt away when you introduce the concept of a destination wedding. Why? While your cost to host a destination wedding may be the same (or even less) than its local counterpart, the cost impact on guests is higher, especially when long-haul flights are involved. This is especially true in peak seasons like summer and early autumn, when flights and hotels are pricier.

This gives you an opportunity to include a more select group of your closest friends and family – the ones with whom you are most excited to celebrate....and the ones who are willing to go the distance to be a part of your special day.

Check Your Gut

How do you feel about inviting each of your guests?

Try this thought exercise. Close your eyes, and imagine sitting at your wedding table, a delicious feast before you and the warm glow of a thrilling party surrounding you. When you look across the room, you catch [pick a potential guest!]'s eye. How do you feel seeing them (do you recognize them)? Are you thrilled that they are sharing this moment with you?

Or, think of it this way. Imagine you have a packed weekend and you find out that this person is coming to town on short notice. Does squeezing in a brunch feel like a frustrating obligation, or are you pumped to do it? How would you feel if they came to town but didn't let you know? Playing out some of these scenarios can help you determine if this is someone you want to make sure is at your wedding celebration, or someone you want to catch up with separately.

Set & Manage Expectations When it Comes to Financial Contributions

Whoever is paying for the wedding or making a generous contribution may have expectations when it comes to how that money is spent.

Before you accept a wedding contribution from your families, check for strings. Are they attached? If so, you should find out what that entails before you accept and start spending the money.

A classic example is "parents' friends." Now, this is a separate category from "family friends" or those magical fairy-godparents who have played a key role in your life, and with whom you have a relationship. We're talking about the friends you haven't met, or have only met in passing. Oftentimes, when one side or the other is funding the wedding (whether in part or in whole), that generous gift may come with expectations over who will be invited, including friends they want to entertain/with whom they want to party.

Does that fit into your wedding vision? It may! If it doesn't, that's a conversation you need to have before accepting the contribution.

Flexibility is key. You want to manage their expectations – and your own. Maybe a compromise can be reached on the total number of people you don't know but whom your parents wish to host  – selecting some, but not all.

It can also be helpful to calculate a rough cost-per-guest (consider things like the dinner, favor, invitation/stationery suite, a percentage of floral and staffing, and so on). With a more complete understanding of the overall costs and expenses associated with a larger guest count, those making financial contributions to your event may be more open to making guest cuts of their own. Getting a better sense of actual costs can also help contributors realize how far (or rather, not far) a particular gift may go, making it easier to prioritize their suggested guest list.

Make Some Quick Cuts

Are you ready to trim down your initial guest list? For a quick list of ways you can easily reduce your invite list, check out this blog.


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