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Guest List Advice Part II: The Compromise.

My last blog was all about how many people to invite to your wedding and figuring out exactly how many will show up. This time, we tackle a stickier topic…who gets one of those coveted limited edition invites?


I’ve seen arguments over the guest list escalate into all-out war, complete with tears, swear words and a lot of hurt feelings.  While there is no easy formula for deciding a guest list, there are some things you can do to make it a little more fair.


First off, there are generally four parties to please when it comes to creating a guest list. The bride, the groom, the bride’s parents and the groom’s parents. You might think the people responsible for paying for the majority of the wedding would get to invite the majority of the guests, but that tends to be a very sensitive issue (which leads to the tears, the swear words and the hurt feelings).


My favorite way to start is to just have everyone involved write out their Dream List. This is the list of guests each person would invite if money and space were no object. Look for cross-over between lists and mark off duplicates, then count ‘em up. You might be surprised. Maybe this number is actually something realistic, or maybe everyone will need to cut a few. At any rate, this list gives us a starting point for compromise.


Now there are several ways to compromise. You can just all NICELY sit down and make cuts on each list until you hit the magic number (remember, you can invite 30% more people than you expect to show, based on the 70% attendance rate rule). You can also be a little more creative…


Have everyone involved write down their “A” list and their “B” list. “A” list people are non-negotiable—we’re talking family and friends who would bail you out of jail. The “B” list people would understand the phrase “we need to keep it small.” Sometimes brides and grooms send out invites to the A-listers first and then if several send regrets, they send out the B-list invites.


Another creative solution is to have three different invites. One is for the ceremony, one is for the reception dinner and one is for the dance. You can send out one, two or all three invites to each recipient and hope people follow the rules. This route can be hard to keep track of and hard to enforce, but it’s something to think about if you’re in a real pickle. Plus, if your mother-in-law is upset her bridge club can’t come to the ceremony, maybe she’ll be happy to host them at the reception.


If you’ve done everything you can and STILL need to shorten the invite list, try this rule: cut business associates, colleagues and acquaintances before friends and friends before family. If you haven’t talked to the person in more than three years, consider a cut unless they are related. Use the phrase “intimate wedding celebration” to ease the pain of the snub…and stick to your guns. Don’t let a whiney co-worker weasel an invitation after you’ve had to cut your east coast cousins.


If all else fails, give me a call. I’m an excellent mediator and I love coming to the rescue. Good luck!

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