The wedding guest list may not be the sexiest part of wedding planning, but deciding who will be there to celebrate your nuptials is the crucial first step in putting together your dream day. Your headcount dictates everything from your budget and the venue you choose to whether or not you can really splurge on those fancy welcome baskets you saw on Instagram. And it can be more than a little daunting to put together.
To get started, put together a list of every last person, you, your future spouse, and your parents would love to invite. Then start winnowing that tally down using these expert-generated queries. If you answer no to any of the below, it's a sign that invitee shouldn't make the final cut. Happy trimming!
Are they family that's still, well, familiar?
While immediate relatives—think parents, siblings, grandparents—are generally a must, "You're not required to invite extended family members just because they're extended family," insists lifestyle and etiquette expert Elaine Swann. "For example, you may have cousins that you don't really have any contact with." If that's the case, notes the pro, "don't feel compelled to invite them."
Would you have them over for dinner?
When considering which friends to ask, use this query as a guideline, suggests Swann, "Because this is one of the most intimate occasions that we could have in our lives." If this pal is someone you "would welcome into your home," says the expert, by all means, keep 'em on the list. But if they've never made the cut for past parties, there's no need to start now.
Are they part of your everyday life?
Maybe you promised your third grade bestie she would stand by your side on your wedding day, but promises like those were made to be broken. If it's an old friend that you're not really tight with—meaning you haven't talked to them outside of Facebook in years—leave them off. "Being connected on social media because you were friends from second grade or high school or college does not necessarily mean that you get an invitation to the wedding," notes Swann. Instead, try this test from wedding planner Kristine King, president and lead event director at Kristine King Events: "Ask yourself if you would change the date of your celebration so that this person could attend," she says. "If the answer is yes, then this person is a must-have."
Do you spend time with them outside of work?
"Coworkers need not be invited, unless you have an actual personal relationship with them," insists Swann. Translation: You guys have made and kept plans to hang outside of the office. Same goes for your boss. But if you intend to invite a few close work friends, be mindful of your other colleagues' feelings. Mail invites rather than hand them out at work, says the pro, and ask potential guests to keep the ask discreet.
Are they committed to your good friend?
Plus-ones can get tricky—and cause your headcount to rise dramatically, so Swann suggests following one simple rule: "Couples should be invited if they have a ring or a long-term thing." As for single invitees, it's cool to ask them to attend stag, says King, but if they don't know anyone else on the guest list, it's a nice gesture to offer a date. "The last thing you want is to invite a friend and then they don't feel comfortable coming alone," she says.
Would you like to have kids running around your reception?
It's your prerogative if you'd prefer an adult-only affair. "In my opinion, a wedding ceremony and the reception are certainly up to the discretion of the bride and groom in terms of the type of event they would like to host," says Swann. King agrees. "If the thought of a crying baby at your ceremony or a giggly toddler during your first dance doesn't suit you," she says, "I suggest opting for a kid-free wedding." But if you make that choice, be consistent. Whether you decide to only allow nieces and nephews or the kids in your wedding party, says Swann, "Be sure that you do it all the way across the board."
Are they one of your parents' closest friends?
Handling how many colleagues and pals your parents can invite can be tricky—particularly if they're paying for the affair. Swann suggests working with your parents to determine a set number they can invite and letting them make that list. Even if it's that friend you find kind of annoying—or someone you've never met. "On your wedding day," recommends Swann, "You just say graciously, 'Hello, thank you for coming,' and that's it."
Do you really want them there?
Avoid extending an invitation out of guilt, advises Swann. You're not required to include someone just because you went to their wedding or because they're tight with your other friends. If you feel it's going to be a touchy situation, you could even address it head on, she notes, "Say, 'Hey, I know you heard from so-and-so that they were invited. I just want to let you know we really are just keeping this very intimate. And maybe we can all get together for dinner later on.' Something like that."