The Guest List: A Foundation of Planning Your Wedding

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Before you choose a gown or decide on a menu, there’s one task that you must begin as soon as possible. A well-thought out guest list can save time and money as you plan your wedding.

Many prenuptial arrangements can’t be made and checks can’t be written until you’ve prepared a meticulous guest list. Invitations, postage and deposits for ceremony and reception sites, caterer, baker and rental of tables, chairs, linens and place settings all hinge on the length of your guest list.

Get started on your guest list as soon as the diamond goes on your finger, and refer to it often as the weeks progress.

Start with a mini file box full of index cards or create a spreadsheet. Either way, you’ll be set to stay organized as you receive RSVPs and gifts. Keeping track of the thank you notes you’ve sent will be a breeze if you make notes as you go, plus your efforts will provide a head start on future Christmas card and baby announcement lists.

Keep track of the guests’ names, address, phone number, email address, and number of guests for that address. As they RSVP, everything you need to know will be at your fingertips.

Ready to begin your guest list? It’s easy as A-B-C! An A-B-C list, that is.

The A list is family, the B list is long-term friends of five years or more, and the C list is people you’d like to invite if your budget allows.

As you get along in the planning and it looks like you can only afford 75, cut it at the B list and leave it at that. Move on. Or, as you receive regrets from people on your A and B lists, begin sending invitations to those at the top of your C list. If you’ve planned ahead and mailed your A and B invitations early enough, your C list invitations will arrive in mailboxes with time to spare – and your C list people won’t even realize they were on the C list at all.

How many guests do you anticipate from your side of the family vs. your fiancé and his family? Start out on your road toward marital bliss by deciding early on how you’ll divide the invitations. Should your family send out half and his family the other half? Or maybe you’ll divide the stack of invitations into fourths, keeping a portion for yourself and giving the rest to your fiancé, your parents, and his parents.

How many guests should you expect? Each invitation usually represents two people. However, that doesn’t mean 200 invitations will yield a crowd of 400. Most brides end up with fewer guests than originally expected. There will always be a few guests who send an RSVP but don’t attend for whatever reason.

Will children be welcome at your wedding or had you hoped for an adults-only affair? The best time to make this decision is while honing your guest list – not when your distant cousin with screaming triplets shows up at the ceremony.

The best way to let guests know whether kids are invited is by writing on the invitation’s inner envelope only the names of those who are invited. Instead of “John, Mary and family,” write “John and Mary.” Whatever you do, don’t state, “No children, please” on the invitation or the envelope.

To make sure certain guests are in attendance, send save-the-date cards. They’ve gained popularity in recent years, and are an especially thoughtful way to provide out-of-town guests plenty of time to schedule time off work and make travel arrangements.

Feeling pressured to invite your entire company? Invite immediate co-workers and those you interact with each day. Others will understand. If necessary, pass the word that the hall only holds so many people.

Bottom line, invite those who will be honored to attend and will consider it a compliment to be part of your day.