How to Decide Who to Invite to Your Wedding Like a Pro

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It’s exciting and stressful all at the same time when planning a wedding. One of the most challenging decisions you may face is “How to decide who to invite to your wedding?” Consider your budget, the location’s capacity, and your personal tastes; follow wedding etiquette; and invite the people you love to partake in your joyous occasion. What is the best way to make sure that everyone, even yourself, is happy when you are making a guest list?

To assist you in managing this crucial aspect of wedding planning, Viva Wedding Photography has compiled a comprehensive guide that can aid you in prioritizing certain guests over others. We also help you determine who you truly want to invite and who to say “Sorry, you’re not invited” to. 

1. Who to invite to your wedding?

How to determine who to invite to your wedding
How to determine who to invite to your wedding – Photo by: Brides

When deciding on your wedding guest list, it is advisable to categorize your friends and family members into groups based on your relationship with them. Your inner circle consists of those who are closest to you, while as you move outward, you encounter individuals who are less essential to the guest list.

Some couples establish guidelines for their guest list, such as exclusively inviting people whom they have personally met or engaged in a phone conversation with within the past year. If that option suits your needs, feel free to proceed with it. In case you anticipate numerous exceptions to the rules, it may be necessary to evaluate each potential guest individually.

Here is a list of the different groups of people you might want to invite:

1.1. Members of the immediate family

Wedding guest list etiquette for family members
Wedding guest list etiquette for family members – Photo by: Wedding Wire

In all situations, you should prioritize inviting your immediate family members, including your parents, siblings, and grandparents, as well as your own children.  If you have stepparents, step-siblings, or half-siblings, they are also considered in this context.

1.2. Members of your wedding party

When considering who to invite to your wedding, it is important to prioritize your wedding party, which includes the maid of honor, best man, bridesmaids, groomsmen, bridesmen, grooms ladies, flower girls, ring bearers, ushers, and any other individuals who hold a special role in your nuptials. It is probable that these people are also part of the other categories mentioned here. 

1.3. Your extended family

After you have included your VIPs in the list, it is time to include close family members such as aunts, uncles, and first cousins. The decision of whom to invite to your big day depends on factors such as the number of relatives, your relationship with them, and the desired size of your wedding. You can invite all of these relatives or choose to invite only some of them.

Wedding etiquette for guest list when inviting your close relatives
Wedding etiquette for guest list when inviting your close relatives – Photo by: An Endless Pursuit

If you plan on inviting one of your first cousins to your wedding, most wedding guest list etiquette advisors suggest that you should invite all of them. However, it is not necessary for your fiancé to do the same. You and your partner might want to assess the level of closeness within each family and then apply the “all or nothing” rule accordingly. If someone mentions that their first cousins were included while yours were not, simply explain that their family has a closer bond.

1.4. Family friends

Your family friends are those who have witnessed your growth, and if you are still in contact with them, they may be included on your wedding guest list.

1.5. Casual Friends

This grouping is quite broad and encompasses various aspects of your life. You likely have friends from different periods, such as childhood, school, sports, work, clubs, social or religious groups, and more. It is advisable to only add friends whom you are currently in touch with.

1.6. Parents’ friends

Do account for friends of your parents when consider who to invite to your wedding
Do account for friends of your parents when considering who to invite to your wedding – Photo by: Martha Stewart

Unlike family friends, these people are your parents’ friends, but you may not know them well. If your parents provide financial support for your wedding (more details will be discussed later), they may have certain people they would like to include on the guest list. 

1.7. Distant relatives

It’s likely that you have distant relatives that you only see every few years. Feel free to invite them if you think they would brighten your day and you would enjoy spending time with them. However, if you are not close to them, it’s an acceptable wedding guest list etiquette to cross them out of the list of invitees.

1.8. Acquaintances

wedding guest list etiquette related to acquaintances
You can invite casual acquaintances if desire – Photo by: Martha Stewart

Guests for a wedding should not include acquaintances such as social media contacts, former colleagues, or neighbors with whom you are not well acquainted. In case you are planning a grand wedding and want to invite all the people you have ever met (and have the financial means to do so), it may be appropriate to include them.

1.9. Children

wedding etiquette for guest list related to children
Children can be invited, but they’re not top-tier guests – Photo by: Pinterest

The decision of whether or not to invite children to your wedding is entirely up to you. Asking the little ones to stay home is not considered bad wedding etiquette for guest list. If you have kids who hold a special place in your heart, such as nieces and nephews, you can include them in the nuptials and limit the guest list only to children in the wedding party (flower girls, ring bearers, etc.). Remember to stick to this rule and avoid making any exceptions.

1.10. Plus-ones

The topic of plus-one has attracted plenty of heated debate from wedding guest list etiquette experts. In short, anyone in a committed relationship (engaged, married, living together, dating for more than a year) could be invited with a plus-one, whether you know the partner well or not. If you want to allow every one of your single guests to bring a date (and can afford it), feel free to do so. However, it is essential to note that this is not an obligatory requirement.

>>> Recommend reading: Must-know Wedding Plus-one Etiquette for Zero Awkwardness

2. Who should not be invited to your wedding?

2.1. Estranged family members

Weddings are typically occasions that involve the whole family. However, in cases where certain relatives do not show support for your relationship, you may find it unnecessary to extend an invitation to them. Your nuptials should be focused on you and your partner rather than being a platform to revive old disagreements or create tension within the family.

2.2. Co-workers 

Co-workers are not those who to invite to your wedding
You don’t have to invite your colleagues to your wedding – Photo by: Shelter Lennox

Just because you share a workspace and have group lunches together, it doesn’t mean that the entire office will automatically attend your reception and consume all of the expensive food. Unless you have a long-standing friendship with your colleagues and spend time with them both inside and outside of work, excluding them from your invite list is acceptable. No one will be bothered by this decision!

2.3. Exes

Having your exes at your big day is a big “Don’t” of wedding guest list etiquette. We do not recommend inviting an ex to your wedding unless both you and your partner are friends with your exes and any of your relationship issues are water under the bridge.

2.4. Someone invited you to their wedding, but you’re no longer friends

If a friend had invited you to their wedding in the past, but you are no longer as close as you used to be, there’s no need to reciprocate. Some experts advocate the ‘one-year rule,’ which states that if you haven’t had any communication within the past 12 months, you don’t have to send out a like-for-like invitation.

3. How to decide who to invite to your wedding: Factors to consider

3.1. Who should provide input into the guest list?

wedding guest list etiquette for splitting the nuptial invitees
Finalize who invites guests to a wedding before making the guest list – Photo: Bridebook

If either your family or your partner’s family is contributing financially to the wedding, whether partially or in full, it is reasonable for them to have a say in the guest list. While there may be potential for disagreements, it is crucial to prioritize fairness and equity to avoid further complications and conflicts in the planning process. Based on wedding etiquette for guest lists, there are two common ways to divvy up the nuptial invitees: 

Split the guest list into 3 parts:

  • One-third of the guests are invited by the bride’s parents
  • One-third are invited by the groom’s parents
  • The rest are the couple’s guests

Split the target guest count 50/50:

  • One-half for guests from the bride’s family
  • One-half for the groom’s side of the family

With this method, each partner collaborates with their family to contribute to their portion of the list. It is certainly possible for one partner to have a significantly larger family than the other. If one partner’s family wants to invite more guests than the other, they will likely need to bear the financial responsibility for the additional people.

3.2. Wedding style

Envision the big day to figure out how to determine who to invite to your wedding
Envision the big day to figure out how to determine who to invite to your wedding – Photo by: Here Comes The Guide

One of the first things to know who to invite to your wedding is to consider the bigger picture: What do you want your big look like? Do you see all your friends and family members mingling and dancing on the dance floor or sitting together at a long banquet table for a cozy, intimate meal? These styles ask for quite different headcounts. 

If you desire a more personal and intimate celebration, we highly recommend having a small wedding guest list. Are you unable to imagine your wedding without a spacious ballroom filled with loved ones? Your list will probably be longer. Additionally, it is crucial to consider whether you are hosting a destination wedding or a hometown event. For a destination wedding, having a smaller guest list may be more suitable, whereas a hometown celebration can accommodate a larger number of guests. 

3.3. Budget

How to decide who to invite to your wedding based on the budget
How to determine who to invite to your wedding based on the budget – Photo by: The Brewery London

The budget you have for your wedding significantly influences the guest list you can create. Wedding costs are typically calculated on a per-person basis, meaning that the more guests you invite, the higher your expenses will be. Based on our experience with wedding guest list etiquette, the average couple spends about $200 per guest. Therefore, even reducing the number of guests by just 5 can result in savings of $1,000. Our best advice is to determine your total wedding budget first. Once you have that number, you can use it to establish a target guest count. 

3.4. Venue

How to determine who to invite to your wedding based on the venue
How to decide who to invite to your wedding based on the venue – Photo by: Here Comes The Guide

According to wedding etiquette for guest lists, it’s better to determine an estimated headcount before beginning your search for a venue. However, if you already have a specific venue in mind, you will need to create your guest list to ensure it fits within the space’s capacity.

When planning your wedding, you should keep the capacities of both the ceremony and reception spaces in mind if they are held in different locations. After selecting your venue(s), finalize your wedding guest list to ensure that you do not invite more people than the space can comfortably accommodate. 

4. 5 Tips for making a small wedding guest list 

4.1. Not invite children at all

Small wedding guest list etiquette when not including children
Small wedding guest list etiquette when not including children – Photo by: Yana Photography

Limiting the number of children your guests can bring can significantly impact your overall guest count, especially if you have a large family. However, including the phrase “adults only” on your invitations could be considered poor wedding guest list etiquette. The most appropriate way to indicate that children are not invited is to omit their names from the envelope.

Another way is to include a note on the save-the-date cards and hotel information saying something like, “Since children will not be invited to the ceremony and reception, please let us know if you will need assistance finding a babysitter.” You might also phone the parents on the guest list before sending out invites to let them know their kids won’t be invited. 

>>> Recommend reading: Save-the-date Etiquette – Top 9 Rules For Porper Invitations

4.2. Close friends & family only

You could invite only close friends and family – if you want to keep it extremely intimate, limit it to parents, siblings, grandparents, and a few close friends. 

4.3. Keep your guest list private

Wedding etiquette for guest list suggest to keep list of invitees confidential
Wedding etiquette for guest list suggests keeping the list of invitees confidential – Photo by: Wedding Wire

As word spreads about the guests invited to your wedding, you may feel increasingly pressured to extend invitations to individuals who were not initially on your list. We recommend keeping your wedding guest list only between you and your partner. However, if you choose to share it with others, kindly inform them that the list has been finalized and that you are aiming for an intimate gathering. 

4.4. Stick your ground 

Feeling obligated to invite an old friend or a distant cousin to your wedding simply because you were invited to theirs is a common sentiment. Remember, it’s your special day, and you have total control over who to invite to your wedding. There’s no rule stating that you must invite anyone you don’t want to, especially if you’re aiming to keep the guest count low. Consider your current relationship with this person; chances are, if you aren’t that close to them, they won’t be offended! 

4.5. Have an intimate ceremony but a large reception 

How to decide who to invite to your wedding when having a small event
How to determine who to invite to your wedding when having a small event – Photo by: A Very Sweet Blog

The after-party offers a wonderful opportunity to gather with all your cousins, old-school friends, and great-grand-aunts for a delightful evening of drinks and dancing. According to small wedding guest list etiquette, it’s completely acceptable to invite some people only to the party. But, when doing so, the ceremony should not be mentioned anywhere in the wedding invitations, including the answer cards or save-the-dates. If a reception-only attendee inquires about why they were not invited, kindly explain that the ceremony is for immediate family members only and that you hope they will attend the party.

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We hope this article has helped you learn the ins and outs of how to decide who to invite to your wedding. Remember, your wedding is your day, and you should invite the people who matter the most to you and your partner. However, you also need to be realistic, respectful, and flexible when creating your guest list. By following the tips and advice Viva Wedding Photography shared, you can make the process easier and more enjoyable for everyone involved.

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