wedding planning

Lex Loves Weddings: How to Build a Small to Medium Wedding Guest List

Even before the pandemic, Brian and I wanted to have a small-ish wedding. Small or medium-sized weddings are significantly more stressful on the guest list front. With a larger wedding, you can pretty much invite everyone that you want to. A more intimate wedding means that you have to be selective. Here’s how we built our guest list!

Start with a number in mind.

Before you do anything wedding planning related you need to know how many people you like to invite. Outside of your wedding guest list, every wedding vendor will ask how many guests you plan on having. The venue, cater, wedding coordinator, DJ, florist, decorator, everyone — they all ask. It determines the cost and how they can meet your needs.

Also, having a number helps you be more thoughtful when adding a guest to your list. So, take time to think about your wedding guest count.

Envision your wedding day, who do you see around you?

Close your eyes. Think of yourself walking down the aisle after the ceremony. Who do you see in the crowd? Now think of your first dance. Who is gathered around the dance floor watching you? Dinner and speeches are over, and the DJ has everyone on the floor dancing. Who is dancing with you?

Whoever comes to mind should absolutely be on your guest list!

Who did you tell that you were engaged right after it happened?

If this major life event happened and your first thought was to call or text them, then, of course, they should be a part of your big day!

Think about who congratulated you (and how they did it)

Someone told me this years ago. It sounded petty at the moment, but after getting engaged, I understand it. After you get engaged, there’s this flood of well wishes that lasts days. In that flood, you may notice some people don’t reach out or do the bare minimum.

For me, I didn’t include the people who didn’t reach out via text or a phone call. If the only form of congratulations was via a direct message or a comment on Instagram, I did not include them on my guest list. While the love was appreciated, it was also a clear signifier that we are not that close.

Fringe friends cannot be included.

This brings me to fringe friends. The older you get, the more of these you will collect. That girl you were kind of close to in college. A sorority sister who you haven’t seen in person in half a decade. A work friend you talk to often, but don’t see much (or at all) outside of work.

I have a lot of fringe friends. The pandemic made it more evident. There are people that I haven’t seen since 2019. We live in the same state and barely kept in touch in 2020. Any connection that we had to each other ties to pre-pandemic activities. I hold no ill will towards anyone as everyone has had to be careful about who they choose to spend their time with. We weren’t that for each other.

But if we weren’t that for each other in everyday life, why should we be invited to each other’s weddings? A small-scale occasion especially makes that question important.

Be thoughtful when inviting extended family

The best way to put it is, with a small guest list in mind, who can you invite (or not invite) without offending/causing family problems? I have some family that I see every holiday and also in between. Then there’s the family that I haven’t seen in years (or only a handful of times in my entire life). The latter will not make the guest list and wouldn’t be offended by that.

If we were having a larger wedding, I would invite all extended family. Since the wedding is small, it just isn’t possible.

Be selective with plus ones.

Plus ones are the easiest way to quadruple your guest list. How you choose to go about deciding on who gets one is your call. Here’s who we are giving a plus one:

  • Married couples (duh)
  • Couples that are official by the time that we are getting ready to send our invites.

That’s it. Of course, we will make exceptions on a case-by-case basis, but as a whole, that’s the criteria we used.

Who is paying?

If parents are paying for your entire wedding, they get a say on the guest list. Hate to break it to you. It’s your day, but they’re paying for the party. They cannot cut people from your guest list, but they certainly can add people (as many as they want).

If both you and your parents are paying, they still have a say. Less of an opinion, but a say all the same. Since it’s a tight guest list, you can politely push back if they want to invite someone completely random or that you have no personal relationship with. You have to allow them a few guest invites though.

If you’re paying for the entire wedding, you owe your parents nothing. Sorry, parents! To be kind, you can take guest list suggestions, but your final decision is yours and yours alone.

Everyone isn’t going to be available, it’s okay to over invite.

Don’t assume that everyone you invite to your wedding will be available. Twenty percent of the people that you invite will not come. For a multitude of reasons. So, you should always invite more people than the number you’re expecting. Make sure that you’re only inviting a reasonable amount of extra guests.

Note, the extra guests should not be a B list. I know people have them, but I find the concept to be rude. These guests should be on your original list. We have hopes that most or all of our invitees will be able to attend. Realistically, there will be natural drop off.

Remember it’s your day

It’s YOUR day. Guest lists can be one of the most stressful parts of wedding planning. If you keep in mind that it’s your day, it helps.

Have you started your guest list?

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