DIY Bride #3: The Damn Guest List

The last post we were talking about was on the Date and Venue. Being that this is such a VAST subject, I thought to do a follow-up for venues and how to manage the BIGGEST HEADACHE in planning a wedding: The Guest List.
bum bum bbbbuuuuuummmmmmm!
While looking at venues, you should have a basic idea of how many guests you intend on having at your wedding. You want to look at venues that not only can accommodate the appropriate number of guests, but that won’t look completely EMPTY even if everyone shows up. A good rule of thumb is for a wedding, expect 25-30% of your invited guests not to show.
I know what you’re thinking, “But if the RSVPs come back, that’s how many!”
No. Not even close.
Though there are societies that covet the RSVP; for some reason, the tradition of advising the host whether or not you’re going to show, is becoming lost. Excluding the ‘acts of God’ people who do RSVP but incidents happen that prevent them from coming, for the most part, following the guideline of 25-30% no show, will make it easier to plan (the planning part being the most important part).
Let’s use our running example. In our example, the couple – Me and a Fictitious Chris Evans (if you’re going to get fake married, why not?) are planning our dream beach themed wedding with a budget of $10,000 and an approximate guest list of 100. We are looking at venues that are within the budget (we will use the assumption we are very DIY) of $900 for the ceremony/ reception venue. They also need to find a venue with capacity for 100, and can be a good fit into their beach theme.
Naturally, they will look close to the beach itself and see what can be had there. Unfortunately, staying within a budget of $900 for a venue that is actually on the beach or close to the beach is a little hard to come by, depending where you live and where you’re able to travel to. The options that were boiled down to are: a historical home, a state beach club house, and an outside museum.
Looking at the guest list – knowing out of 100 that will be invited, only 70-75 are actually going to show – they can take into consideration how many people would be in attendance and are able to eliminate venues from there. The museum has a capacity of 500 – since it’s an outside venue. The historical home maxes out at 150 people. The state beach club house maxes out at 100 but that has to include wedding party, service people, and any other staff that’s hired to work the event. The museum can be eliminated right away because – unless there’s something that makes the museum a better choice – a space for 500 people that will only have 75 people in it, will look empty; conveying the idea that the reception is boring and people will leave early.
The historical home has ambiance and the right amount of room for the proposed guests. It’s in the price range and seems like a good fit. Other things that would come into play is the location of the home. Is this a place that people have to drive far to? Is there a list of rules that are restrictive to the point where you’re not sure if it could be complied with? You have to weigh the pros and cons realistically.
Now it’s between the beach clubhouse and the historical home. The beach clubhouse has a very tight max vs guest restriction. However, since the beach is the main theme, the location alone is worth cutting the guest list down to make sure there won’t be any overage of guests, and it gives a serious leg up on the historical home just because of the proximity to the coast. It’s decided: We want the State Beach Clubhouse.
We secure the date by paying the deposit for the Clubhouse and start the search for invitations. To do that, they need to nail down the guest list.
Grab your spouse, two glasses, and about 6 bottles of wine – this is going to take a minute. And remember: Try not to divorce before your wedding!
Each of you make a list of every person you want at your wedding. Forget about limitation for right now, just write down every person you want at your wedding. Don’t think about location, timing, or even whether or not they’re currently alive. Just write down every person you want at your wedding. Have him do the same. This is not a group assignment. These lists should be completed separately. Doing this alone will keep any oversights out of the process so in two weeks you don’t say to each other, “Did we invite so and so?” This can take a couple days to fully complete.
Now, spend an evening sorting and eliminating your lists, and creating your Master Guest List (MGL). Here’s how:
  1. Cross off duplicates. If you each have the same person on your lists, they go onto the MGL.
  2. Move VIPs to the MGL. For example: Bride’s parents, grooms parents, siblings, their immediate families, BFFs.
  3. Mentors or influential people go next (influential like inspiring, not advancement).
This is where is gets tricky. Friends. Not best friends, not people that have been there through thick and thin. I’m talking the people who are closer than acquaintances but not so much best friends. Bosses would fall into this category. Clients; college friends that just never grew up; extended family that aren’t emotionally close.
There are just a few questions to ask yourself to get through this list.
  1. Will this person cause trouble if they’re drunk? Whether or not there’s alcohol, some people just have to be the center of attention. Lots of times they accomplish that by being asses. Booze is just an excuse to act like an ass to some people. If you even think there might be an issue, cut them from the MGL.
  2. Are they someone you haven’t talked to in over 6 months? If they aren’t, cut them. It might seem a little cut-throat but hard questions are necessary! Be honest with yourself.
  3. Is this person an ex? Your ex; his; who cares? Don’t invite them unless there is a special relationship AND your spouse doesn’t have an issue with your ex at their wedding.
  4. Is this person a frienemy? This is another question that honesty is the only way to truly get through this. I had a client once who invited select people from high school to her wedding. Come to find out, the people weren’t really friends with her, she just wanted to show them that she was getting married and that makes her better then them. Needless to say they had a bad time, the tension was THICK, and other guests were affected by it all. Frienemies don’t go to weddings.
Your MGL should be looking pretty good right now! It’s going to continue to recede and grow as the days go on but now you have a hard number of guests to invite.
Pat yourself on the back, you did good! Take a break, you earned it!
Next week we will talk about wording on invitations, and what exactly is needed; do you really need that tissue paper??


*This post was originally published 01/19/17*

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