I hope you’ve been following along with our series by Lisa Lyons, Wedding Venue Map’s modern wedding etiquette expert. This month, she is sharing all about wedding guest list etiquette.
Lisa has almost 20 years of experience executing and planning weddings. With a niche for sophisticated and refined events, Lisa is striving to raise the standards of events by teaching contemporary wedding etiquette for both engaged couples as well as wedding guests.
“Thinking about all of the people we wanted to celebrate our wedding day with us was a mixture of exhilaration and mental exhaustion.” Does this ring true for you as well? Wedding guest list etiquette can create both.
If I may ask that you take a moment to pause while gazing at that gorgeous sparkler on your left ring finger, I feel that it is high time we talk about a wedding topic that can get quite sticky, one that seems easier to brush under the rug, and a task that we prefer to save for another day. That’s right, the…WEDDING GUEST LIST.
I am going to break this down clearly and succinctly for you, because, quite frankly, you’ve got a wedding to plan! Before you dive straight into templates and spreadsheets, you need to start preparing your wedding guest list by considering your sensibility and budget. Would it make sense to you and your fiancé to have 300 guests at a wedding, or is that something that would make more sense for someone else in your family to do, and you would feel most content with 75? Financially speaking, you can account for the number of wedding guests that you have to provide food and beverage for, along with your venue fees to account for 50% of your budget.
I bring these two very paramount points to your attention as an impetus to begin a thoughtful conversation with your fiancé and your families regarding these priorities as you collectively prepare your wedding guest list.
WHERE TO START
Traditional etiquette dictates that the persons hosting the wedding determine the guest list. Modern etiquette, I dare to say, dictates a transparent conversation between the couple and their families to determine that each set of parents get one-third of the wedding guest list, and the couple gets the remainder.
Next, from a traditional or modern etiquette perspective, prioritization is key in this order:
- Immediate family, close family, and close family friends
- Extended family and friends (aunts, uncles, nieces nephews, and a wider circle of friends
- Cousins, and work friends (Budget permitting)
- Neighbors, parent’s friends, and reciprocal invitations
*Note, if you make the decision to invite an aunt or uncle, you really should invite all aunts and uncles, and the same would apply for cousins.
EDITING THE WEDDING GUEST LIST
The first list you comprise, will likely not be the final list, and you can consider this a fluid document until all are in agreement. Following, are some considerations to keep in mind:
Elegantly speaking, you should not explicitly say that children are not invited. Rather, this should be inferred by the way you address your wedding invitations, and how you (cleverly) have the invitations worded.
If hosting a children-free wedding, an example of a wedding envelope would read: “Mr. and Mrs. John Senise.”
If hosting a wedding where children were included, the envelope would read: Mr. and Mrs. John Senise, Elisabeth and Christopher Senise”
Your wedding invitation could also be noted with, “Adult reception to follow”
Throughout your engagement, you can also begin and maintain private conversations with those you may feel would wonder about their children, and gracefully explain your reasons to not host children at your wedding, as well as making these same subtle notations on your wedding website.
Equally as sticky as the “children or no children” debate for your wedding guest list, is the “Plus One” dilemma.
To start just because your plus one managed to gain a spot on someone else’s wedding guest list at another time, does not necessarily warrant theirs. Weddings are personal and relative, and it is perfectly acceptable to not have a carbon-copy version of their wedding at yours.
Here is some guidance on how you can set those parameters, and who should get a “Plus One” invitation on your coveted wedding guest list:
- Committed couples- These couples are either married, cohabitating, or engaged to be married.
- Wedding Party- Any and all of your wedding attendants should be afforded a “Plus One” on your wedding guest list.
As you prepare these criteria on your wedding guest list, it’s best to have a confident reply to those who may step over these boundaries and ask you for their guest anyway. Remember that you have taken every proper step while preparing your wedding guest list, and as such you don’t have to be apologetic, but you can be empathetic. A short and simple answer could be. “We have worked tirelessly to make this an intimate affair, and we hope you will still consider celebrating with us.”
Be resolute. You deserve the best day and wedding experience ever!
Now that you have had the conversations, gathered names for the wedding guest list, and considered your sensibilities, budget, children, and plus one’s, it’s time to get organized!
* Spreadsheets/Templates – There are several free downloads you can get on Google Docs like this one here
You can also work within an excel spreadsheet, and be certain to include full names, addresses, the event(s) they are invited to and an area to record their RSVP, and even menu choice.
As a wedding planner, I offer an online planning portal in which each of my clients gets their own personalized page with planning tabs. The client-favorite tab is always the wedding guest list! In it, we have all of the events that their guests are invited to, full names, addresses, etc. and it even collects the data once all RSVPs are recorded to assist in the seating assignment task. Make today’s technology work for you!
Lisa Lyons Planning Tip: Number your RSVP cards – This tried and true trick will save your sanity and your soul, trust me!
After eighteen years of planning weddings for my clients, I continue to be amazed by how many people do not write their names on their returned RSVP cards, but if you can’t beat ‘em, you can take this extra measure to keep everyone on the wedding guest list accounted for.
Simply number the back of the RSVP card in a lower corner, and have that align with the same number you have assigned to those guests on your wedding guest list. For instance, if “Mr. and Mrs. John Senise ” were number 8 on your wedding guest list, you will write the number 8 on the back of their RSVP card in the lower right-hand corner. If they forget to write their names on the RSVP card but indicate that 2 are attending, then you know who it is!
*Pro Tip: use an invisible ink pen! It’s more subtle, and all you will need is a black light to see it when it’s returned. Talk about manners and moxie! (Here’s a link to an invisible link pen on Amazon)
In short, this is your day! You should not have to, nor be expected to reach beyond your parameters of budget and family, to accommodate all who know you (or think they know you!) on your wedding guest list.
Nearly all of my wedding clients have been “stuck” with their wedding guest list for one reason or another, and I always pose the question to them, “Have you and your fiancé sat down with these people together and broken bread?”
In other words, if as a couple, you have not shared an intimate space and time with them, such as something as simple as enjoying a meal together and them getting to know you as a couple, then that hardly warrants a wedding invitation. (Hey, but it can certainly be another party for another time)
Remember, wedding etiquette, both traditional and modern, always leads with respect and kindness. You should rest comfortably and confidently as you guide yourself in this manner.
With that, I’ll leave you with a wink and a smile…
Meet Lisa Lyons
The Mary Poppins of weddings & etiquette. Style Maverick & Arbiter of Good Taste. Luxury Wedding Planner & Etiquette Coach.
Learn More at www.lisalyonsevents.com