The Dreaded Wedding Guest-List

Sep 9, 2019
wedding planning

One of the major flashpoints, when planning a wedding, is the guest-list. The potential for disagreement is enormous, and it’s as well to be prepared for it.

It’s actually possible to get past it quite successfully, but it may take a bit of give and take first.

Starting off

It helps to establish a few parameters before you get into it big-time. 

  1. Who is paying for the affair?
  2. What is the wedding budget, and how much will be set aside for the reception?
  3. Who do you have to invite?
  4. Who would you like to invite?

The Sponsor

Once you have a clear idea how much the reception will set you back, you have to do the maths. If you invite 100 guests, how much will that cost per head? Do you have that amount available? If not, you’ll have to adjust.

So let’s say that your supplier quotes you £50 per head for the meal and you have allocated £2,000 here. That would mean that you can invite 40 people. If your budget was £1,800, then you can only afford 36. (Does that 36 include the bridal couple?)

It’s very important to do these sums before you speak to the person who is bankrolling the affair. (Of course, it might be the couple themselves.)

The Guests

You may be fortunate in that the budget is virtually limitless, and there will be no restrictions on who you invite. (Some chance!) More likely, compromise will be needed.

Obviously, if somebody is sponsoring the event for you, you will need to work together with them. They will understand that there are people that you particularly want to invite, but there may be some that they insist on.

This is where calm discussion is so important. You don’t want to fall out about it, but the couple’s wishes should not be trodden underfoot by a domineering mother (say).

If you’re doing everything yourself, you should not forget to invite a few of your parents’ cronies too (if the budget permits), so that they don’t feel left out on the day.

A normal rule of thumb is that, as a minimum, close family (it’s down to you to define that – not me!) should be invited, plus a few family friends. Then you can look at who you would like to invite out of choice.

You will also have to decide whether you are inviting plus ones or offspring. (If you invite children, you will have to take into consideration feeding and entertaining them.) Can you be consistent about this, as people do talk (“Did you get an invite to X and Y’s wedding?”).

Do you invite work colleagues? Your boss? How do you invite one colleague but not another without causing offence?

So, you see, the guest-list is a bit of a minefield.


I can’t necessarily give definitive answers, as every case will be different. However, I can suggest that clarity is important before you start. Also flexibility. For example, if you’re struggling to invite everyone that you want, can you manage it by saving some money elsewhere? Maybe you can get the venue at a cheaper price. Try holding your wedding midweek, when it’s quieter, or in the afternoon.

Give-and-take is going to be paramount. So start the process early – as soon as you know what your major outgoings (venue, wedding dress and reception) are likely to be. Do your sums. Go into discussions positively and prepared to budge a bit where you can. If you are not paying for everything yourselves, decide what your ideal would be and present a united front.

And check through, before invitations are sent out, that you haven’t forgotten somebody important! (It does happen – I know, to my cost!!)

Although this is a potential area of concern, if you follow these tips, you should manage fine. Then the next thing to ‘look forward to’ will be deciding who sits where!

For any more help, please contact me!