Wedding set up outside at The 228 with chairs and benches in front of a large wooden moon backdrop. A small table has a chalkboard sign propped up in front of it that is decorated with stars and a moon and says to pick a seat not a side, you're loved by both the groom and the bride.

The more people invited to a wedding, the more the wedding costs. Couples on a budget may need to narrow down their wedding guest list. It isn’t always easy to figure out who to leave out. Here are a few tips on how to decide who gets a coveted invitation to the main event.

Decide Who Gets Input

Other people who contribute financially to the wedding may expect input on the wedding guest list. Before accepting any help, make it clear who gets input in the process and how much input they’ll have. Experts sometimes suggest dividing the guest list between all interested parties. Some people you don’t care about may get invited while others you really want there don’t make the cut.

Start With a Dream List

Some experts suggest starting out by listing everyone you want to invite in one big master list. If allowing parents input in the wedding guest list, all their potential invitees should go on the dream list. Anyone who doesn’t make this list definitely doesn’t deserve an invitation later. Once complete, prioritize narrowing the list down to a suitable number given the venue and your budget.

Set the Number of Guests Early

Before sending out any save-the-date cards or invites, decide on a firm maximum number of guests. Use the most people you can afford to host or the maximum capacity of the venue.

Never delete Names From the Original Wedding Guest List

When cutting back from the dream wedding guest list, eliminate no one. Instead, use some prioritization system. You may find that enough people can’t attend that you’ll be able to invite extra people. Maintaining the original complete list keeps potential future additions handy. Consider prioritizing people as must-invites, should invite, and could invite.

Consider Having an A-List and a B-List

If you send out invites to your first-choice guests early — about 10 weeks before the wedding — and give them about three or four weeks to RSVP, then you can send out some invites from the B-list if some guests can’t make it. Just make sure that the B-list people get invites with a later RSVP date and that you don’t invite them less than about 6 weeks before the wedding. A B-list is controversial, with some experts recommending for and others recommending against it. Some people even have C and D lists.

Use Set Criteria to Include and Exclude People From the Wedding Guest List

Having rules about whom to invite and who not to invite limits any drama and makes the decisions easier. Some suggested rules include not inviting anyone you’d only invite out of guilt, anyone you haven’t spoken to in the last year who isn’t a relative, or anyone that either the people getting married hasn’t even heard of before.

You Need Not Invite All Friends

If you haven’t spoken to or got together with someone in years and don’t think you’ll do so within the next year, either leave them off or put them on the B-list, regardless of how close you were in the past.

You Need Not Invite All Relatives

Likewise, not all relatives deserve invites. The closest relatives — such as parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, and first cousins — usually merit an invitation. Anyone else doesn’t have to get an invitation. However, if you invite one second cousin, it’s a good idea to invite them all to avoid issues. If one member of the couple is closer to their extended family, they may want to invite more family members.

Deciding Whether to Invite Co-workers

If there’s room on the guest list, invite either everyone in your group or department or none. However, anyone you see socially outside of the office can be an exception to the rule. They are friends and not just co-workers. For a large wedding, invite your boss, especially if you work at a small company. With smaller weddings, only invite people you’d see if you no longer worked at the same company.

Make a Set Rule About Plus-Ones and Children

Keep things fair and make a set rule about plus-ones. Either everyone gets one, or everyone in a long-term relationship, or nobody. Exceptions sometimes include the wedding attendants. The same is true with children. People typically say no children, no children except close family, only children above a certain age, or all children. Just make it clear on the invitation whether it includes children and plus-ones.

Think About Added Value as a Guest

If you’re on the fence about inviting someone, think about the added value they may have as a guest. For example, some people are great at getting other people to get up and dance or can talk to virtually anyone. They may carry a table and get people talking who don’t know each other. These guests may make other guests enjoy the festivities so invite them if possible.

Consider Including Names on RSVP Cards

Sometimes people RSVP including people you didn’t mean to invite. To help avoid this, include names on the RSVP cards or allow options only for the number of guests invited. A checkbox list with either one or two guest options is one example.

Deciding to Invite More Guests Expecting Some to RSVP No

Some people invite a certain percentage of people over their maximum total expecting some guests will RSVP no. This can lead to problems if more people than expected say yes. Some people recommend B-lists to solve this problem. About 75 percent of people come, including about 85 to 90 percent local people, 65 to 75 percent of non-local people, 85 percent of family, and 50 percent of friends. With weddings under 50 guests, 90 percent of those invited typically attend.

Potential Ways to Include More Guests

If budget is the reason for not including some guests, consider making cuts in other areas to afford more guests. Choose less expensive options for food, limit the decorations and flowers, and cut out some extras people don’t care as much about, such as printed materials at the wedding and wedding favors.

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