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Inspiration Detail | Guest List Game Plan

Guest List Game Plan

The guest list is a significant element in shaping your wedding day and creating the guest list can be one of the most stressful aspects of planning your wedding. With parents and family requesting the inclusion of coworkers and distant cousins, it can quickly become a bit challenging to navigate the “in” and “out” lists. By following a few simple guidelines, you can avoid any social blunders as you develop your ideal wedding guest list. 

The most significant wedding budget item is the amount spent on your guests’ food, drink and entertainment. A traditional buffet or plated dinner will cost anywhere between $15 and $50 per person, depending upon the meal selection and venue. After you decide the budget for your reception food and drink, you will need to do the math with your guest list. If you are over budget, reevaluate your guest selections and make the necessary cuts.

If your parents are paying for the wedding, they may wish to include their friends on the guest list. Discuss your vision for the wedding day and the number of guests you wish to have in attendance. Also, establish a reasonable number of guests to be invited by the bride’s parents and the groom’s parents. This will eliminate any misunderstandings and will relieve additional stress. 

It is ideal to have settled on your budget and your guest list before selecting your ceremony and reception venues. This will provide you clearer guidelines that will assist you in making final decisions on a site. However, if you have your heart set on a country chapel wedding, your guest list should reflect the intimate size and feel of the location. Think realistically when coordinating the size of your guest list with the capacity of your location. Ask yourself what is most important —the venue or the number of guests. If the number of guests cannot be scaled down to accommodate your dream venue, look for a larger space. It is better to relocate the reception than to crowd guests around tables with little room to move and no room for a dance floor. 

The first step after reaching an estimated guest count is to divide that number by three. List the names of all the people you wish to invite on one of three worksheets. (Microsoft Excel is common software that can be used to organize these lists and allow for easy changes as needed.) The first sheet should represent the bride and groom’s guest list. The second sheet should include the bride’s parents’ guest list and the third sheet should delineate the groom’s parents’ guest list. 

In the first column on each sheet, enter the guest’s name. In the second column on each of the three lists, designate “A”, “B” or “C” next to the name. The names designated as “A” are must-haves that include siblings, aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc. Your “B” names are should-haves, such as good friends, distant relatives, etc. This is the most difficult category to decide. Many couples struggle with coworkers or friends from high school or college. The final category, “C,” is like-to-haves that may include neighbors, sorority sisters, former coworkers, and the like. 

Should it become necessary to trim the guest list, sorting the names by category will allow you a clearer picture of who could be omitted. Also, as RSVPs are returned, you may find some expected guests cannot attend. At that time you can reevaluate your cut list to reconsider extending an invitation to any of those guests. You could send out a second group of invitations, but only if just a brief time has passed since mailing the first group so as to avoid hurt feelings for those not included in the first mailing. 

The invitation RSVP will assist you in estimating the actual attendance at the wedding. The standard RSVP estimation tool calls for you to double the number of invites you send (since an invitation usually includes two people) then subtract 33%. In other words, two-thirds of your guest list will most likely attend your wedding. While this rule of thumb usually rings true, there can be factors that affect attendance. If your guest list includes a high percentage of out-of-town guests, your rate of attendance may be a bit lower due to guests not being available to travel. 

One thing is certain, there are always a few surprises when receiving RSVPs. When guests are asked to write in their names and the number attending, they may add a friend or child that you were not including on your guest list. Should this occur, do not despair as most likely it will not affect your budget. Should a guest add multiple children’s names and you do not wish for children to attend the wedding, politely call and explain your wishes. Just be certain to make no exception for other children attending, as this could cause hurt feelings among your guests. |NWD|