I may have mentioned that I did a lot of freaking out in the first few weeks. Did I mention that? I freaked out. A lot. If there’s one piece of advice I could give you, it would be this: Enjoy your engagement before you start planning.
The No.1 reason for my stress was a lack of budget. We’d been engaged for about 15 seconds before I started looking at venues, having no idea what our price point was, because we hadn’t even talked about it yet. But the No. 2 reason was that, without a guest list, we could not choose a venue.
So we started innocently cobbling this list together, with no idea how inflaming this step can be, or of its long-term repercussions.
Here’s what we did.
Get it all out
First, we listed every single person we could think of having at our wedding. This included distant cousins, high school friends, coworkers, people we regularly talked to, and schoolmates – and that’s cool, because once we got that list of EVERYBODY, we could start looking at places that held that many people and figure out our numbers from there. Some people have generous parents or family members who are contributing to or covering the bill. If that’s the case, the person or people paying should be involved in the conversation. We were footing the entire bill, and decided that, while our family would have input, we’d need to have the final say on our guest list.
Reality check: Pare it down
We had about 150 people on that first list – actually not bad, but we just couldn’t afford 99% of the venues that were big enough to hold that many people. So we took the next step down in venue size, which in this area is about 80-100 people. We cut our list down to 100 by asking ourselves, “Would one or both of us be upset if this person wasn’t there?” This is key, because we were asking about what we ourselves wanted – not who was expecting an invite, or would be hurt by no invite, or had invited us to their wedding or their kids’ weddings. Here’s the thing: There will always be at least one person who’s upset that they’re not invited. I just had a friend get married, and there were 350 people there. Her parents were paying, and they could afford to invite whomever they wanted. She invited people she knew well, and people she knew not that well. And I still know people who were upset that they weren’t invited. It’ll happen, but it’s your wedding, and your bill – not theirs.
Finalize plans, finalize numbers
We started looking at venues with our ballpark number in mind. We found THE PERFECT PLACE – and it holds 80 people. So we cut it down to 80. And that was TOUGH, man! He had three friends he grew up with that we just couldn’t invite. With the Reverend and some family members Mr. Ladyfingers really felt should be here, we were over 80. So we just sat on it.
Make some sacrifices
We held at 80 for a long time – but 18 of those were kids. At first, I was insistent: We could not ask our guests, especially out-of-towners, to keep their kids at home. And finally, we reached a breaking point. We were sitting in our back yard one weekend evening, and I looked at Mr. Ladyfingers, and I said, “I don’t think we should invite kids to the wedding.” And he said, “Fine by me.” Done. With that cushion opened up, he could add his childhood friends; I could add a few girls who, even though they weren’t my *BESTFRIENDSOMGEVER*, I really like and see frequently and would really love to have there.
We’ve still excluded people who would probably kick up a fit at not being invited. My dad told a couple of his friends they could come, even though I have met them *maybe* twice, and I had to put my foot down. That was tough, since he had to be the bearer of bad news, but it had to be done. There’s a girl I was once very close with who I haven’t had a real conversation with, much less hung out with, for over a year, and she keeps hinting on my Facebook page about helping me plan the wedding. And there are a slew of acquaintances who excitedly ask me what our wedding date is, and when I tell them, they say the date over and over, and then say, “I’ll have to remember that.” See? There will always be people who are upset they’re not invited to your wedding.
Everybody needs to set priorities with wedding planning. There are many, many people who have backyard BBQs and wear sundresses because they have a huge circle of families and friends they want to include, but a small budget. There are people who get married at the justice of the peace and invite five people. There are others who have lavish parties with many, many guests. There’s no right or wrong. We ended up with a venue we loved that would be great for our guests, a caterer that would make awesome food our guests would love, a DJ who would throw down the beats that our guests would jam to – and a list made up of people we absolutely, positively NEED to be there. And nobody else.
And we ended up happy… at least, until the invitations go out.
Did you have guest list growing — or shrinking — pains? How did you handle these particular situations?