Miss Filly and the Magically Expanding Guest List

Back when Stallion and I got engaged, one of the very first things we did was put together our guest list. We put together our family, friends, and parents’ requests, and we had a list of approximately 175 people. Knowing that not everybody would actually attend, we figured that for budgeting purposes, we’d go with a 150 person head count. The end.

Or not.

Some of you might remember Mrs. Panda writing about the phenomenon of “guest list creep,” and I’m here to tell you that it does exist. Our guest list blew up like poor little Violet Beauregarde.


(via Tumblr)

Like Mrs. Panda, our creep happened so gradually that we didn’t realize what had happened until it was too late. People would mention how excited they were for the wedding, we’d think, “Oh, I guess they really want to come,” and we’d add them to the list. Our parents requested that certain people be added, and we happily obliged. Adding a couple or a family here and there didn’t seem to make a big difference until it was time to order invitations, and we realized that our manageable invitation list of 175 people now stood at 241.

Yep. You read that right. Over the course of our engagement, 66 people were added to the guest list. Who’s got two thumbs and is a complete freaking idiot? ME.

Thankfully, from the get go, we’d booked a venue that could accommodate guest lists far larger than our behemoth, and we had enough flexibility in our budget to not worry about extra people. We were lucky in this regard—we didn’t have to worry about making any cuts. All along, we’ve had the mindset that our wedding is just as much about our families as it is about the two of us, so if our parents really wanted somebody there, we didn’t want to say no.


(via Giphy)

Looking to avoid the creep? Learn from what Stallion and I didn’t do:

  • Just because someone tells you they want to come to your wedding does not mean you are obligated to invite them. We had a hard time with this, because we’re pretty non-confrontational. But you don’t have to be rude to get the point across. If you keep talking about your small, intimate, family-only wedding, maybe people will get the hint and quit begging for an invitation.
  • Give your families a set number of invitations, or set an overall target head count before you get started. Again, we felt awkward doing this, so we didn’t. But if you’re worried about your head count, it’s a must.
  • Communicate! Stallion’s parents just gave us their Christmas card list. They thought we were going to go through the list and choose who we wanted to invite; we thought it was their list of must-have guests. A five minute conversation would have cleared up the confusion.
  • Could I identify this person on a crowded street? If not, no invitation. Common sense, right? Since we failed to abide by this, Stallion and I have the potential for some serious “stranger danger” moments in the receiving line should certain invitees choose to come.

And things we did do to help keep things under control:

  • Do not send save the dates to your entire guest list unless you are 110% sure you will be sending each and every one of them an invitation. We only sent save the dates to VIPs, so if we did have to make guest list cuts, it wouldn’t have been a big deal. Rescinding an invitation once someone got a save the date, however, would have been a pretty big deal.
  • Choose a venue that can accommodate the biggest guest list you can imagine. Considering that my guest list increased by nearly forty percent, doing this saved my butt.
  • Draw the line somewhere. Last week, a distant relative of Stallion’s called his mother, wanting to know where her invitation was. Lady, you didn’t even make his family’s Christmas card list (see my third bullet point above); you’re seriously expecting a wedding invitation? Really??

Last but not least, strategies that we do not recommend:

  • B-listing. No, no, no. You can certainly prioritize your guest list so you know what names you can cut if need be, but do all that before any save the dates or invitations are mailed. Your guests aren’t dumb; they’ll figure it out if they’ve been B-listed, and there will be hurt feelings. It’s okay to not be able to invite everybody you want. Even with our massive invitation list, we’ve still excluded some people, and guess what? They’ll live.
  • Being too stingy with plus ones. The way Stallion and I approached it, if you’re in any sort of relationship, your significant other is welcome. If you won’t know a single other soul at the wedding, you’re welcome to bring somebody. If you’re truly single and you’ll have people to hang out with, that’s where we’re drawing the line. Choose wisely, guys. I’ve seen serious hurt feelings resulting from a “no ring, no bring” policy, so I don’t recommend taking it that far. At the end of the day, the purpose of our reception is to thank all of our guests for coming to the wedding, so we want everyone to be comfortable and at ease.

My last hint: take your current guest list and add ten percent, because guest list creep is pretty much unavoidable. Better safe than sorry!

All that said, I’m at peace with our guest list. It may be a lot bigger than we initially envisioned, but I have a feeling we’ll have a larger than average decline rate due to our semi-destination setting, so I think things will shake out all right in the end. And even if they don’t, and we have a higher attendance rate than planned, we’ll make it work. If these people think highly enough of Stallion and I that they want to travel to our wedding, then we’ll accommodate everybody and show them a good time.

Anyone else dealing with guest list creep? What did you do to keep your head count under control?


Mrs. Filly

Boston, MA
Wedding Date:
April 2014
Picture Perfect: Hamming It Up for the Camera
Searching for the Big White Dress
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  1. Member
    cakeyp 2562 posts, Sugar bee @ 5:49 am

    We asked my mom and FMIL to give us their guest lists for us to go over. My mom invited no one (sigh), and my FMIL tried to invite 26 or so people, plus their kids. We said NOPE and FI sat down with her to whittle down her list.
    After all her friends, she’s still inviting three of her bosses (there were two others on there but we said sorry, you don’t actually work with them so the answer is no) and has about two table’s worth of people going, but it could have been worse.

    We’re paying for the wedding ourselves, so I feel that it’s nice enough that we even gave her the option to invite so many people. It made it MUCH easier to say “No way can you invite Boss #3’s two kids we’ve never met!!”

  2. Member
    znowbird22 318 posts, Helper bee @ 5:52 am

    That’s what happened to me! We went from a guest list of 40 to 80!! But we are putting our foot down to anymore guest! Thank god we too have a larger venue that could accommodate!

  3. milkcow Member
    Mrs. Milk Cow 215 posts, Helper bee @ 6:02 am

    I thought my guest list growing was bad – I feel so much better now. I’m non-confrontational and hate when people think they’re invited and they’re not, so I keep mumbling the small/intimate wedding line and then very awkwardly changing the topic. Not smooth.

    Also, that Violet image. So great!

  4. rucksack Member
    rucksack 518 posts, Busy bee @ 6:03 am

    We didn’t suffer from guest creep, but we were pretty stingy with our invitations and our plus ones. It might have been a little uncomfortable, but I don’t regret sticking to our guns in order to have our small wedding.

  5. Member
    alysee 1641 posts, Bumble bee @ 6:12 am

    We went from 60 people, including people we thought our parents would include, to 96 people once both sides of our families took a look at the list. The only thing I’m hoping for is some people don’t bring a plus one!

  6. Member
    luluvohn 1194 posts, Bumble bee @ 6:15 am

    Oh man. Are we having the same wedding? Seriously. I also did not realize the creep was happening until it had already happened. Our venue holds 150 comfortably, so we were also going to invite in the 175-180 range. We’re inviting 204 last I checked. The last time we talked to the venue they said they can go up to 180, but it’s tight and they have to move the bar downstairs, so it’s not ideal. The worst part is, I don’t even know where the extra people came from. You can at least pinpoint yours. But I can think of more people we cut (relationships that ended) than people we added.

    Our plus one rule was that they have to either be living together or dating for over a year (or married/engaged, obvi). One of my friends just put a relationship on facebook yesterday and I’d like to be able to invite her girlfriend, but she’s going to know a lot of other people there, so I hope it won’t be an issue.

  7. Member
    KingsDaughter 2560 posts, Sugar bee @ 6:23 am

    I hardly had a creep, mostly because my favourite answer during wedding planning was “no”. Lol….of course I never told someone they we invited to their face…I just simply kept my original number.

  8. pyramid Member
    Mrs. Pyramid 104 posts, Blushing bee @ 8:09 am

    Okay…so first, Willy Wonka has creeped me out since I was a kid, so this is so appropriate. But Lonely Island made up for it.

    Ours DEFINITELY creeped up, but it was before save the dates and all that, but it went from around 210 to 250…a lot of those are “out of town family – they’re not going to come!” so we shall see what happens. But seriously guest list gives me the most anxiety, I need a paper bag handy whenever I open my spread sheet.

  9. parisian Member
    Miss Parisian 588 posts, Busy bee @ 8:18 am

    I definitely didn’t expect a creep, but we’ve seen it already! Mostly with friends/coworkers since we’ve both changed jobs (and some friends) since we made our initial guest list. We do plan on sending less STDs though, just to be safe!

  10. panda Member
    Mrs. Panda 1359 posts, Bumble bee @ 8:43 am

    oh man, I love seeing the shape other people’s “creep” takes in their heads. Awesome.

  11. Guest Icon Guest
    Katie, Guest @ 3:13 pm

    I agree with your comment about plus ones! If you want most guests to feel more comfortable on the dance floor, allow the significant others. I think that made all the difference at our wedding.

  12. msfilly Member
    Mrs. Filly 65 posts, Worker bee @ 5:37 pm

    @CakeyP: That was definitely generous of you to give your FMIL so many invites. Glad your FI was willing to stand up for you guys and get her to narrow it down.

    @znowbird22: Exactly!

    @Miss Milk Cow: Yeah, my big takeaway from this is that I really need to grow a pair, haha.

    @Mrs. Rucksack: Honestly, I wish I had been able to stick to my guns at least a little bit. I need to grow a pair. I’m sure it was worth it to get the wedding you guys wanted.

    @alysee: Fingers crossed!

    @luluvohn: Haha, I think we are having the same wedding! Here’s hoping we have nice high decline rates 😉 I really think you’re fine re: your friend in a new relationship. He’s probably not part of your group yet, so he’d probably feel awkward not knowing anybody, and if your friend will know plenty of other people there, she’ll be fine. Does that make sense?

    @KingsDaughter: No is definitely a word I need to incorporate into my vocabulary, haha.

    @Miss Pyramid: Since everyone on our list is out of town, I’m really hoping for a lot declines. I’m so going to hell for that. But I swear I get heartburn every time I open up a “yes” RSVP, and honestly, we’re getting A LOT of yeses so far… gaaahhhhhh.

    @Miss Parisian: I think limited save the dates is your best strategy! Always better save than sorry!

    @Mrs. Panda: Any excuse to post Lonely Island GIFs :)

  13. msclover Member
    Mrs. Clover 123 posts, Blushing bee @ 6:04 pm

    Love the advice about 10% extra! I left some extra space, which was really important with a pretty firm limit!

  14. msfilly Member
    Mrs. Filly 65 posts, Worker bee @ 1:27 am

    @Katie: That’s exactly how I see it! Plus, any friend’s significant others that I haven’t met yet, I’m dying to meet anyway, so why not invite them?

    @Miss Clover: Smart thinking, lady!

  15. gondola Member
    gondola 1046 posts, Bumble bee @ 2:16 am

    Girl, I know all about the guest list creep- my wedding doubled in size. I like the advice about the extra 10% because think the creep is unavoidable for some families.

  16. msfilly Member
    Mrs. Filly 65 posts, Worker bee @ 3:05 am

    @Mrs. Gondola: There’s no escaping the creep, haha.

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