The 5 Stages of Cutting Your Wedding-Guest List

It's one of the most grueling wedding-planning tasks.

Contributing Writer
Photography by: Katie Stoops Photography

Planning your wedding is the biggest event you've planned in your life thus far (unless of course in your family, birthdays are more like bar mitzvahs). So, naturally, you'd want everyone you know to revel in your celebration along with you. But when you add everyone you know with everyone your fiancé, your parents, and his parents know, your list can grow, exponentially, in a matter of minutes. Witling your guest list can feel like sacrificing a limb. The struggle is real and documented right here.


Tips for Putting Together a Wedding Guest List

Come one, come all.

You're in a state of engagement bliss and can finally put that guest list you've been secretly making and adding to year by year to use IRL. Your family, your friends, your acquaintances, your co-workers, anyone who's ever invited you to their wedding is included. The more the merry. This is your day, and you are all about sharing the joy.


The long of it.

So your (very healthy) list is compiled and your S.O.'s list is in, and somehow together, everyone you've ever known, as well as a good number of complete strangers, have made the cut. Hmm, you weren't exactly considering your budget while rationalizing inviting your doorman and your super. Now it seems, there are more people accounted for than dollars set aside for the wedding itself—and this is before you've added in your husband's family's list or anyone your parents had in mind (they are paying after all).


Do you really need to invite your future sister-in-law?

In the midst of gathering and compiling everyone's list into one master document, you suddenly realize that you don't have the budget to cover nearly one quarter of the people on said list. Why oh why did you ever tell your in-laws they could invite whomever they wanted? Were you trapped in some sort of post-engagement euphoria that left you incapable of making sound decisions? Apparently. Somehow you need to cut three quarters of the names, so anyone you moderately dislike or who has made your blood pressure go up a notch is gone—so guess that means your future sister-in-law will be on the cutting room floor. Just kidding. Sort of.


Eloping is starting to sound very tempting.

Things just got complicated. If you invite your second cousin on your mom's side, that means you have to invite her sister, brother, and mother, or else a rift of earthquake proportions will rattle the very core of your family. Ok, so no extended family is invited. But oh no, if you invite your officemate, that means, your entire department will expect an invite, too. There's no good way to do this without feeling a sense of guilt that cuts to your toes. Why didn't you just plan a jaunt to city hall? Maybe it's not too late to change your plans? Or at least get married on a remote island in Thailand. At least that will guarantee about half the declines needed.


Maybe "short and sweet" should be your motto after all?

Because really, it's not about just filling a room, right? It's about being with your nearest and dearest. People who invited you to their wedding eight years ago but haven't seen since aren't waiting with baited breath for an invitation, and your doorman doesn't even have to know you're getting married at all, and really, your coworkers will feel relieved they don't have to give you a wedding gift. Now if you only had had this rationale from the get-go!

About the Author

Jennifer Tzeses

As an eight-time bridesmaid Jenny knows just a little bit about mitigating a makeup meltdown and distracting a meddling mom. As a former editor for Martha Stewart Weddings magazine, her knowledge of all things weddings extended to bridal beauty and fashion, etiquette, and honeymoons. Her writing (weddings and otherwise) appears in such publications and websites as Martha Stewart...


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