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Common Wedding Guest List Problems, Solved

Practical advice for navigating this tricky aspect of planning.

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Photography by: Abby Jiu Photography

Your coworkers? Dad's golf buddy? Who's in and who's out? When it comes to creating the guest list, you'll want to tackle this task early—your numbers will affect your venue and many other decisions. We asked planners Bryan Rafanelli and Ivy Robinson to weigh in on some common conundrums.

 

Related: Your Wedding Guest List Etiquette Questions Answered

 

We don't want kids at our wedding. How do we let people know?

Common sense and etiquette say that only those named on the invitation are invited. But it pays to be more direct: "Have the biggest family gossip start spreading the news," Robinson says. Putting "adults only" on your invitation may be inappropriate, but you can "share the information on your wedding website," Rafanelli suggests. "And over-serve your guests with information on babysitters at the hotel." If you're still concerned that certain guests will think their kids are invited, give them a call. "Being passive about your wishes will only result in hurt feelings," Rafanelli says.

 

We don't know where to draw the line when inviting coworkers.

This can be tricky. "If the office is really small, then it's all-in or all-out," says Robinson, "unless you want to sneak your BFF coworker an invite." Rafanelli sees more gray area, and says at a smaller wedding, it's okay to invite select coworkers. "It's a good idea to ask them not to discuss the wedding with colleagues so that 
no feelings get hurt," he says.

 

Our parents want to invite people we've never met.

"If the parents are paying, it's hard to say no," says Rafanelli. At a larger wedding, or one where you're splitting costs, you might divide up the total guest count and allot each person a specific number of invites. But if you're hosting, you can limit the list—and it's diplomatic to say you want to share the day only with people you personally know. "Then Mom and Dad can host their own party later," suggests Robinson.

 

Who should get a plus-one?


"If a guest has a significant other," says Rafanelli, "then it's important to include that person." It's best to put his or her name on the invitation. That said, "most single folks don't want to roll up to a wedding solo," notes Robinson, "so it's a nice gesture to add a plus-one for single guests, unless there's a secret plot to set them up with bridesmaids or groomsmen." (The reply card is a good place to invite a plus-one, by including a line for that person's name.) If someone replies with an uninvited extra? "It's appropriate to send a note saying that you're keeping the wedding intimate and are looking forward to seeing close friends," Rafanelli says.