how to plan your wedding guest list

Who should I invite? Who should I leave out? Figuring out the wedding guest list can be a daunting task. You don't want to offend people, yet the more you invite, the costlier the reception becomes. But don't stress out: Here are some ways to help make the process as pain-free as possible.

I need to compile a guest list but where do I start?

First, think about your budget and the style of wedding you envision. Do you want a big wedding with all the bells and whistles or a smaller affair with just your closest friends and family? And will your venue site comfortably accommodate the number of guests you want to invite? Start compiling your list with just your close friends and family, then add to it until you’ve reached the ideal number for the space you’ve booked.

My budget is for about 150 guests, but my current list is around 250. How do I make cuts (without feeling guilty)?

Our wedding day is so special to us we want to share it with everyone we know, but unless you’re a movie star with unlimited funds, you have to be selective. Try this: Divide your current list into two categories: “A Must Have” (those people you can’t imagine not having) and a “Would Like to Have” (those who could decline and you wouldn’t mind). Then start looking for people you can eliminate. Start by asking yourself: “How well do I really know this person? If we sat down together over coffee, could we carry on a fun, stimulating conversation for an hour or so?” If the answer is no, then cross them off your list. When you’re done, there shouldn’t be anyone you’ve crossed off that would be offended, as they probably feel the same way about you. Bye bye guilt.

My parents would like to ask some people. Can I edit their list?

Absolutely. But first give them a number to shoot for. Consider having the bride and groom share 50 percent of the guest list, then allotting 25 percent of the guest list to the bride’s parents, and 25 percent to the groom’s parents. This formula can help keep parents from taking over – after all, it’s your day. Ultimately, you are the ones to decide who you want to share your celebration with. However, if your parents are paying for the entire wedding, you can't get too picky when editing their list.

Do I have to extend a "plus one" to guests?

If the invitation is addressed to just one person, without the words "and guest" most people understand it's meant just for them. But if you know your guest has a "significant other," even if you don't know them personally, it's important to invite that person as well. However if you do receive an RSVP for two from an invitee, just pick up the phone and explain that you are on a strict budget and are limited to the number of people you've invited. They should understand.

We want to invite some of our coworkers to the wedding. Is it rude to only invite the people we like from our workplace?

As for inviting co-workers, if you don't socialize with them after work, then don't bother. The work friendships you have from 8-5 will probably not continue if/when you change jobs. Plus, if you invited everyone whom you were not close to, you run the risk of looking like you're fishing for wedding presents. With that said, if NOT inviting a co-worker or supervisor to your wedding would be akin to committing career suicide, then you should suck it up and invite them.

Is it ok to invite my ex to the wedding? My ex and I are friends but I’m not sure it’s a good idea.

If you feel at all uncertain, or think it may make your guests feel awkward, don’t do it. After all, your wedding day should be about you and your fiancé. If you and your ex have children, it could get confusing to the kids to have him at the wedding. But also, your former husband may not even want to see you tie the knot, therefore putting him in an uncomfortable position of declining, despite your good relationship. Whatever you decide to do, make sure your fiancé is 110 percent OK with it.

Some of our guests haven’t replied by the RSVP date. What should we do?

Don’t assume they’re not coming. There are a lot of reasons why someone may have not have RSVP’d by the deadline. Maybe the invitation was lost in the mail, or misplaced at home. Perhaps the invited guest is still waiting to see if their significant other can go with them. If your wedding is out of town, they may still be determining if they can afford to go or looking for travel deals. Whatever the reason, you need to know if they are attending so your caterer can prepare the right amount of food. Ask a friend or family member to call the guests to see if they’ll be attending.