Battling the Guest List

From the moment you get engaged, you begin to hear constant wedding advice. Not marriage advice. No, that comes later I assume, when you’ve already walked down the aisle and eaten the cake.

I was engaged on a Saturday evening, and by Sunday morning, I’d heard so much wedding planning advice that I could have written a book. Instead, here’s a blog about  one particularly special piece of advice.
On the night of my engagement, I called my brother Morgan to tell him that his little sister was gettin’ hitched. He offered up, what so far is, the best advice I’ve received. Morgan and his wife Missy were married last winter in a beautiful Southern California mountain wedding. The venue was a treehouse-like patio in a forested area near Lake Arrowhead. The venue had limited space and they had a limited budget, so the guest list became a major deal. With that in mind, Morgan offered up this gem: Invite the people who you want to surround yourself with on this incredibly meaningful day.

Don’t invite the people you think you should invite,” he said, in his wise older brother voice. “Invite the people you want to invite.”

That has become my mantra as we begin this planning process and especially this weekend, when my fiancé and I finally sat down to put together an initial guest list. Our wedding day is more than a year and a half away, and we want fewer than 100 guests (ie. We can afford to feed 80 guests). We want an intimate wedding. We want it to be personal and, most importantly, fun. I don’t want to look into the crowd and see my lame second cousin from Phoenix using our program to pick his teeth. I don’t want to hear my maid of honor’s roommate saying that our basil and cucumber signature cocktail tastes “weird.” And I don’t my former co-worker—you know the one—to give my friends dirty looks when they begin doing Irish car bombs.

But I digress.

We want a good group of guests who will celebrate with us. And that’s how Jon and I began our battle of the guest list. We silently sat in our living room holding large notebooks, making individual lists. This, to me, was important. I didn’t want us arguing about each guest, and who was or wasn’t inviting who. I didn’t want us to have to fight for the guests we really wanted. So separate lists were a must. And we split our mutual friends up evenly.

While we sat there, meditating on the people who mean the most to us, it brought up all sorts of questions. Do you invite people who you know won’t be able to attend? What happens if you make new friends between now and the wedding? Do you invite the cousins you never see or your best friend from high school? Jon has family members who never get invited to family events (apparently, he says, they’re a little weird). “I feel bad that they never get invited,” he said, “so I kinda want to invite them.” We talked through each issue as it arose. Yes, we will invite a few people who we know won’t be able attend. No, most likely we won’t invite the cousins we never see or the childhood friends who we only see on social media. We’ll give ourselves a few openings for any new friends. Yes, Jon will invite his weird relatives. But that’s what works for us.

I also had issues just remembering people. And then I struggled picking which friends/family I wanted there and the ones I could do without. I went through my Facebook friends to make sure I wasn’t forgetting someone. If I questioned whether I wanted them there or not, I tried to picture them dancing with me at 11pm to “YMCA” or watching me as I read my vows. If I couldn’t picture it, they didn’t make the cut.

Once the lists were as complete as possible, we counted: Nearly 125 total. I had 64 and Jon had 60. It’s actually better than I thought it would be. With Jon’s giant extended family and my bevy of step-siblings and step-nieces and step-nephews, somehow I thought our list would be around 200. I’ll call it our first planning victory.

They say that about 2/3rds of the people you invite to your wedding will actually attend. We’ll likely have to make a few more cuts. But we’ve highlighted the folks who will likely not attend, and we’ve highlighted guests who may get the boot (sorry but weddings are a tough business!). For the next 12 months, until we send our save the dates, we will consider this list a working document. As a couple, we decided we’ll only offer plus ones to guests in serious relationships, and we will nicely ask our guests not to bring children unless noted on their invitation. These will be the rules we will ask our g
uests to respect.

I know a lot of people dread the guest list process. But I think it’s a pretty cool endeavor. I get chills when I think about bringing all our favorite people into one room to celebrate with us. Even if it is a battle, it’s a good thing to fight for.