To Invite or Not to Invite? Constructing the Perfect Guest List

Did you know that there exists a wedding equivalent to the question of what’s the meaning of life? We do not mean that the answer will be the same, but rather the process that goes into finding the solution.

And what’s the question you ask? Yes, you guessed it: how does the couple cut the wedding list without hurting anybody’s feelings?

Many a planner have probably found themselves in exactly this situation: the bride and groom changing their mind regarding who to invite over and over again, resulting in a seating chart that needs to be updated once every couple of days. To avoid such a situation (and a fair share of the associated headache), here is some advice to share with your clients to help them create an enviably sensible guest list.

Divide and Conquer

The very first concern a couple can face is how to split up the guest count among themselves. While the decision, among many other factors, depends heavily on the relationship dynamics, these general guidelines are usually a good place to start from.

  • Option 1:

Divvy the guests up into three equal parts: one for the bride and groom and the other two for each set of parents. This works especially well for weddings that play a large social role and may include people who are not necessarily in touch with the fiancées but whose presence is, nonetheless, essential (traditional Indian ceremonies are a good example).

  • Option 2:

Advise the couple to get half of the guests and split the rest evenly between parents. The bride and groom might also want to assign the count proportionally to footing the bill, in which case it is best to get to know their plans in advance. Alternatively, the chances of the guest list ending up being unbalanced, subsequently leading to extra hurdles with the seating charts and logistics, grow exponentially.


The next important point is which plus ones must make the cut and which could be let go if need be. The usual no-drop list would include the officiant’s spouse, the parents of children in the wedding party, and the spouse or live-in partner of each invited guest. Now, the last point could be quite subtle and needs additional dwelling on. While the couple may have different preferences, it is probably best to advise them to make a simple rule at the very beginning of the process and stick to it no matter what. For instance, if the guest and their plus-one have been dating for over six months, the partner gets invited. If not, well, till the next time.

Trimming the List

Finally, the most interesting part with the biggest potential of making your life easier is helping your clients shorten the list up. Depending on the cultural setting, it might be wise to remind the couple that their wedding is not a family reunion, thus the occasion does not require them to invite every second cousin of Aunt Marie’s husband. Beware the cultural context though and think twice before getting on with this suggestion!

  • Estranged Friends

    • Some future husbands- and wives-to-be may fall into the trap of wanting to rekindle the relationship with their estranged friends. While such a desire is understandable and an occasion as grand as a wedding seems suitable for the purpose, it might not be a good idea. Make sure your clients understand that between mingling with all other guests and squeezing in some one-on-one time with the new spouse, their wedding is far too busy an event to attempt to grow back together with a friend or two.
  • Work Friends

    • Another potential category to get off the mind is work friends. Just because the bride shares a cubicle with a person at work or the groom eats lunch with them on occasion does not mean that they have to make the list. In case the couple still feels like this would be impolite, suggest they plan a work happy hour to celebrate instead.
  • Parent's Invitees

    • Finally, a more heated discussion could transpire when touching the subject of the couple’s parents’ invitees. While in our opinion, the line should be drawn at the people the future spouses have never seen in their lives, the context might dictate a more nuanced and tactful approach, which is why here we prefer to always leave some wiggle room.

To conclude, it is important to remember that a perfect guest list is not only rightly balanced between the bride’s and the groom’s sides but is also fair for both parties and, ideally, simple to manage. That last point will likely save you a few grey hairs and minimize the chance of possible mishaps!