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In our previous Blog Posts Part 1 we ran through not sweating the small stuff from general decision making & working with your partner to ascertain what you both want from the day & in Part 2 we chatted about all things budgets, money & prioritising your wedding needs. Today in Part 3 we are tackling the all import Guest List.

Something you will have on your to do list from the beginning of your wedding planning journey will be ‘The Guest List’. It’ll be fun at first, and maybe the first thing you start on, but don’t expect to tick it off in a hurry! From experience I can tell you that it may remain on your to do list until the wedding day countdown. You’ll compare it with your fiancee’s list, your mum will remind you how many cousins and school friends and aunties you have, and then the quote for the catering will come in. Then there’s the back and forth with invites, RSVPs, and those guests who sit on the fence until the last minute. Not to mention the latest dramas with coronavirus restrictions. The Guest List can be an absolute pest! 

But love it or hate it, the list must be wrangled and you’ll be glad when it’s done. In this blog instalment I’ll take you through the common pitfalls that couples face when listing their loved ones, and share a few tips that might help make the experience a little less stressful. 

How do I choose? 

This is such an individual question, as some couples will want the big white wedding with all their extended family, while others choose a more intimate affair. Ultimately though your guest list will come down to three main factors: your budget, who is paying for the wedding, and who you deep down want to attend. You might start by writing a big list of everyone you’d consider inviting, and then edit as you take each of these factors into account. It can be helpful to look at the practical side first: budget. What size venue can you afford? How many guests can the venue seat? How much will it cost you per head? How much of your budget can you afford to allocate towards food, drink and invitations? This should help you come up with a realistic number to work with. 

The question of who pays is important to think about too. If you and your partner are covering it, that’s great, you can be more ruthless with choosing who you want there – after all, you’re paying for the food those guests will be forking up. Your dad’s golf buddies don’t need an invitation if he’s not helping foot the bill. Same goes for extended family and friends. How often do you actually talk to that cousin or great uncle? Do you really want them there, or are you inviting out of obligation?

If, however, you are getting financial help from family, you might want to be a little more flexible. Parents may expect that some of their humans can attend if they are chipping in to cover costs. Traditionally, if both sets of parents contributed significantly to a wedding, the guest list was split into three between the couple and the two sets of parents. It’s up to you how far you take it, but it’s definitely not worth starting a family feud over four or five names on your guest list!

At the end of the day, what’s important is that your absolute dearest are there. Your besties, your ride-or-dies, your main squeezes. Work the list around the people you most want to share in your big day, and don’t sweat the ones who end up cut or on the fringes.

Little ones and plus ones

If there are a lot of kids amongst your friends and family, you’ll need to decide whether or not you make your event adults only. For some couples this won’t even be a question – the kids are a part of your world too and of course you want them there. But it’s important to think how little ones will affect your plans; consider things like menu, seating and kids activities (trust me, bored kids at a wedding can wreak havoc). Sometimes, the best thing to do is call the event adults only, and give those mamas and papas an excuse for a night out. People who know you well will respect your decision either way and work around it – just make sure you send your invitations out early enough for them to arrange a babysitter. 

Another guest list headache can be the plus ones. Some people will expect an invite for their partners whether you know them or not, but you’ll have to make hard calls here. If the size of your guest list is tight, just ask that friend to attend solo. This might feel harsh, but the truth is that you may be paying $150-$200 per person, and if you wouldn’t normally spend that much taking someone out for dinner, then do you really need them at your wedding? Your true friends shouldn’t expect you to invite their seventh boyfriend of the year. People who really matter won’t put any extra pressure on you, and respect your decision whatever it is. 

Seating Plan

Once you have a good idea of who can make it to the wedding, you’ll be able to work out your seating plan. Decide whether you want small or long tables, and then allocate guests to seats based on how close you want them to the action (you!), and who they may want to sit by. Get out some highlighters to order guests into friend and family groups, and draft a plan. Don’t stress too much the first time, as you will probably get some last minute RSVPs that change it up anyway.

If you just have too many people for the space, or you’re finding it hard to seat those two or three people who won’t know anyone else, consider a ceremony only invite. This can be a great way of managing numbers, as your guest can be there for the I do’s – which are the most important part of the day, after all – and then leave before the reception. Generally, it costs you very little to add one more person to the ceremony list in the way of seating and catering, as they will probably stand and leave before the canapés anyway. And if they’re a Nigel No Friends, they might thank you for letting them skip an evening of awkward chat with people they’ve never met! You might have 150 people at your ceremony and only 120 at your reception; just make sure you consider how to do this tactfully.

‘The Guest List’ can be a pain in the neck, and honestly you will probably end up offending at least one person. But your job isn’t to please everybody – it’s to invite your nearest and dearest to celebrate the commitment you and your partner are making. Do your best to account for everyone, but don’t waste any unnecessary energy trying to satisfy others. Your day will be amazing, and the ones who really matter will make the effort to support and celebrate you!

Mandi Turner

Creative Director
Ivy & Bleu