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.
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.
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.
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?