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Your Common Wedding Guestlist Etiquette Questions, Answered

Your Common Wedding Guestlist Etiquette Questions, Answered

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We got your common wedding guestlist etiquette questions answered by a pro!

Who remembers that scene in Father of the Bride where George Banks + fam are sitting around the table, whittling down their guest list amidst two heaping stacks of names, designating which first draft guests will make the cut and which will not? And who remembers George reaching a bit of a breaking point in the process? Well it certainly doesn’t have to be that way, but it’s not uncommon for couples to feel a lot of pressure in the creation of their guest list. How much of a role should traditional etiquette play? How do you make sure you don’t overcompensate for “regrets” and undercompensate for your ideal number of guests?

We invited Atlanta Wedding Planner Kristi Collins of Coco Red Events to chime in on some of the most common guest list dilemmas her couples have faced. So rest assured knowing that you’re not alone and at the end of the day, you and your fiancé will be surrounded by the most beloved people in your lives!

This post covers a wide range of common questions, so we broke up this post into multiple pages. Click at the bottom of this post to move on to the next round of questions!

Top image by Cavin Elizabeth, design by Josefina Events

My parents/in-laws keep adding people to the guest list even though I have told them that we cannot add anyone else because of the budget. What do I do?

Let them know that you appreciate them wanting their friends to see you get married, but that you cannot add anyone else. Be honest and firm. Tell them it is because of the budget and the money has been used already. If they still will not back down, figure out how much your wedding is costing per person and then nicely let them know that they can add someone if they want to pay that amount. It sounds harsh, but if you say it in a very nice way, they will understand. I have actually had a few couples do this when their parents wanted to add co-workers at the last minute.

What if I have a gigantic family and my fiance has a small family. Can I invite more people than him?

You and your fiance will have to talk through this. He might not have a big family, but maybe he has a lot of close friends that he wants to invite. It will be better to cut the guest list in half and then go from there. He might not be able to fill his half of the list and be happy to give those spots to you. But, be sensitive, especially if he does not have a lot of family due to a divorce or other tough situation.

wedding guestlist etiquette
Photo Kostis Mouselimis from this chic modern wedding

What are the most important things to consider as you build your guest list?

First consider the size of your venue and your budget. Once you know how many people you can invite, give your fiance half and you take the other half. Be sure to save 10-15 spots for friends of your parents and grandparents. Compile a list of everyone that you want to invite and put them in order of importance to you. Start with immediate family, your bridal party, very close family friends, extended family and go from there. Get back together with your fiance and compare lists. You will probably have some of the same friends listed. Once you take off the duplicates, the hard part begins – cutting your list down to that magic number. Be sure that you and your fiance are making the same amount of cuts from your respective lists. He should not have to cut 10, but you only cut 5 or vice versa. Keep going until you reach the magic number. It sounds a bit like The Hunger Games and it is not always easy! But, you want to make sure that you have the right people there on your big day!

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How do we decide who can bring dates?

If the person is engaged or has been dating the same person for years, let them bring their date. Or, if you are inviting a friend from work that might not know anyone else at your wedding, let them bring a date/friend so that they do not feel uncomfortable. Other than that, your friends that all know each other will be fine on their own!

Intimate Monochromatic Wedding Inspiration Modern 19
Photo Emily Wren Photography from this monochromatic wedding feature

Is it rude to have a child-free wedding? How do we convey that in the invitation?

It is not rude at all! Actually, most parents enjoy a fun, kid-free, evening out with amazing food and drinks. To convey your child-free wedding, there are a couple of options depending on the type of wedding you are having. If you are having a formal wedding, I would include the following on an RSVP or information card: Please make arrangements for our adults-only ceremony and reception. If you are having an informal wedding, I would include something a little more fun: “While we love your kids, we would like to have an adults-only celebration. So call the babysitter, grab your dancing shoes and get ready to party! Be sure to add this information on your wedding website as well. You will always have someone that still wants to bring their kids. The only exception should be nursing babies, a flower girl or a ring bearer. When that person calls you to ask about their child attending, be firm! Let them know that there are a lot of factors that went into making this decision and that you did not take it lightly. Remember, if you give in to one person, word will get around and everyone will want to bring their kids.

We are having an adults-only reception, but we are ok with teenagers attending. How do I convey that on the invitation?

Be sure to include the teenager on the front of the invitation. For example, say you want to invite your friends John and Jane, and their son Jack. You would address a formal invitation as follows: Mr. and Mrs. John Doe with Mr. Jack Doe. And for an informal invitation, you would include first names only: John and Jane Doe with Jack Doe.

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