You haven’t seen wedding planning drama until you’ve tackled your guest list. Almost every engaged couple will have to deal with some tricky guest list situations, whether it’s parents who insists on inviting way too many people; the dreaded “plus one” question; or distant friends and family who vocally share their disappointment that they aren’t making the cut. The drama seems inevitable, unfortunately. Therefore, this is the time when you need to choose your battles wisely and learn to grow some thick skin, because your budget and your venue’s capacity are both finite resources, so you’re going to have to hurt a few feelings when finalizing your guest list (and sometimes those feelings are your own). But don’t worry, Joy is your wedding day fairy godmother in sticky situations like this and we’re here to help “bibbidi-bobbidi-boo” you through seven of the most common guest-list conundrums that nearly every couple faces. (*Poof* fairy dust everywhere)
1. YOU’RE TOO POPULAR FOR YOUR BUDGET OR VENUE CAPACITY
Sorry to break it to you, but if you have a huge family or a million best friends, you’re going to have to hurt some feelings, unless you want to pay an arm and a leg to invite everyone under the sun. Your wedding is a day for you and your partner to share your love with close friends and family, not the entire world, so don’t feel bad for leaving out people who aren’t pivotal in your life. Mature adults will understand that weddings are expensive and not everyone will make the cut. For those family and friends who find your decision to leave them off the guest list unacceptable and egregious, well, that’s when you have to count your losses and ignore the haters because, as they say, “Haters gonna hate.” Your guest list should comprise your A-list family and friends… and those few stragglers that you have to invite (ugh!). We’ll get to that later.
2. YOUR PARENTS WANT TO INVITE A BUNCH OF PEOPLE YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW
Let’s just ease your frustrations by acknowledging that, yes your parents are probably getting carried away and acting like it’s their wedding day, but it’s also worth pointing out that they are doing so because they’re over the moon about their “babies” getting married. However, there comes a point when you need to set some ground rules with your ‘rents and in-laws before they get out of hand and nixed from the wedding completely. The best way to do so is to allocate a set number of guests your parents and in-laws can invite. A good ratio to work with is 50% of the guests should be the family and friend of your and your partner’s choosing, then 25% is allocated to your parents and their spouses (if your parents are divorced and re-married), and the remaining 25% will go to your in-laws. Of course, you may have to give up a little ground if your parents are footing the vast majority of the weddings’ cost – remember that nothing is truly free.
3. SOMEONE’S “PLUS ONE” IS SOMEBODY YOU CAN’T STAND
This is one of the most common and most frustrating guest list situations a couple will run into, and it’s also the situation that will cause the most drama — because who wants to share such an intimate and special day with someone they hate to share oxygen with? However, as we mentioned earlier, you’re going to have to suck it up and invite a few people you really, really, REALLY don’t want at your wedding. If he or she is married to someone important to you or your partner (e.g. your dad’s absolutely atrocious wife), you have to ask yourself if excluding the awful person is worth causing drama between you and somebody you love. We understand that it sucks in the worst way, but you also have to weigh the options. To be honest, this is one of those situations in life where you have to bite your tongue and be the better person, because if you don’t, you run the risk of damaging a relationship with the person who matters.
4. SOMEBODY INSISTS ON BRINGING KIDS TO YOUR CHILD-FREE WEDDING
No matter what the relationship is or how far this person has traveled for your big day, if the invite indicates that it’s “adults only,” then your guests need to respect that and leave their kids with the sitter. Sometimes people assume that, because you’re having kids in your wedding (flower girls and/or ring bearers), it’s perfectly fine to have their kids tag along, too. Right? Nope.com, rude! There are one or two exceptions that would be understandable, like if your matron of honor just had a baby and can’t leave the newborn. But in general, if a guest is demanding that she bring her kids because she either can’t get a sitter or simply feels her kids have a right to attend, then, unfortunately, you have to find a polite way of telling her to kick rocks or bow out of the wedding. Bye Felicia.
5. INVITING CO-WORKERS AND BOSSES
You spend a lot of time with coworkers, and their opinion of you can make your break your career, so coworkers and superiors at work are an extra-sensitive guest list topic. Extending invitations to people in the office is tricky. Do you invite your boss? Will your coworkers feel uncomfortable doing the Macarena and guzzling champagne if their manager is in attendance? If you’re a manager or executive, do you invite a few select members of your team, all, or none at all? You see how this can get stressful, right?
Remember that most of your coworkers, and especially the ones you like, are adults who should understand that there are few seats available for colleagues at a wedding. Nothing against you, but the excluded co-workers from your lunch crew will probably thank their lucky stars that they don’t have to buy you an expensive wedding gift or call on a sitter to watch their kids. And your boss may be the one who is worried about getting too cozy at the cash bar at your wedding in front of other direct reports. In any case, confide in your wedding coordinator or a close friend about what the final decision should be, just try not to lose sleep over it.
6. AVOIDING WORLD WAR III WHEN DIVORCED PARENTS HAVE TO MINGLE
Here’s the deal, your parents are adults and they need to understand that their petty drama needs to be left at the door when your wedding day comes around. This doesn’t mean they have to sit next to each other during your ceremony, nor do they have to sit at the same table at the reception, but they should be respectful enough to tolerate one another for a day. In the same breath, don’t expect or request that your parents fake the funk and act like BFFs at your wedding, because that plan will only worsen the already-heated situation between them. Also, chances are, your parents will have separate groups of family and friends that will be attending your wedding, so seat them at separate tables for the reception so everyone is happy. For the ceremony, all eyes will be on you and your partner exchanging vows, so who cares where your parents choose to sit — as long as they don’t go to blows over who sits closest to you during the ceremony, you should be fine.
7. DECIDING WHO GETS A PLUS ONE
The rule of thumb here is, plus-ones should be granted to guests who are married or engaged, or to couples who are in long-term relationships and you know both of them well enough to have them at your wedding. If your lack of extended a plus one was done in error, then, obviously, then this is the time to reconsider that guest’s invitation. However, if plus one invitations weren’t extended to certain guests intentionally, then there’s usually a reason for that and people need to get a clue. Your wedding isn’t the place for your single guests to be introducing their “flavor of the week,” so don’t feel bad for declining extra plus-one requests. Furthermore, it’s also incredibly rude for a guest to expect you to pay the per-head cost for her “friend” to tag along. To put it in perspective, it would be like this person showing up with an uninvited guest to a dinner where it costs $100+ per person and her expecting you to pay for her meal and her friend’s meal. Who has two thumbs and isn’t paying for inconsiderate, freeloading guests? You, that’s who.
Here at Joy, we hope that we can provide you with some peace of mind during the stressful and trying times of your wedding planning. Therefore, when planning your guest list out, be sure to remember that this is your big day and you can’t please everyone, so throw that crazy notion out the window right now. The most important aspect of compiling your wedding guest list is to, first and foremost, include the people that are nearest and dearest to you, then start adding in the friends and family members who have supported you and your partner through it all. When the big day finally comes around, the only thing that will matter is that you and your partner are surrounded by people who love you and can’t wait to see you both live happily ever after.
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What tricky guest list situations are you facing right now that you need help resolving? Share your frustrations with our community on Facebook, Twitter or in the comments section below. We can guarantee you that you’re not alone!