Dream Solutions to Your Wedding Guest List Nightmares

No matter how unified a couple, there's one wedding war they will surely wage: the guest list battle. Read on to find out how to deal.

It's a simple fact: people cost money, and venues hold only a certain amount of people. Combine the money-space issue with parental input, and the scene is set for an explosive engagement. Tread carefully -- the field is strewn with landmines. Calling a long-forgotten high school friend may suddenly turn into an epic battle over whether that person makes the cut. Instead, evaluate, negotiate, compromise, and be realistic.

A Tale of Two Lists

Generate a fantasy guest list. Don't censor yourself. Instead, include every single person you'd like to invite. Then come back down to earth. Your target number will be determined by how many people the venue can hold and what your budget will allow. People will be cut-it's unavoidable. So to help make decisions, separate out the guests who must attend, like your favorite aunt or your fiance's godfather. This is your A list. Anyone not essential (no, we don't mean people you don't like, but rather colleagues you might be able to skip) should be added to the B list. These are people you would enjoy having at your wedding but who cannot be extended an offer in the first round.

You should invite approximately 10 percent more guests than your target number, since between 10 and 20 percent of those invited will decline. If more people decline than you originally anticipated, start inviting from the B list. If it's a week before your wedding and you guaranteed, say, 200 guests and only 192 are showing up, it's okay to call and personally ask people to attend. Apologize for the short notice and extend a heartfelt verbal invite.

Meet the Parents' Friends

Just who is Sylvia Klein and why is she invited to your wedding? You'll be asking yourself many of these questions. Traditionally the bride's parents paid for the wedding, giving them the upper hand in extending invitations. Now, many couples pay for their own weddings, but they're still subject to parental input on who gets invited.

You need to be respectful of your parents and future in-laws; realize they are as excited about the wedding as you are. They want to share their happiness with good friends, and you need to honor their wishes-or at least some of their wishes. One possible plan: If the two of you are footing most of the bill, give each set of parents a certain number of people they can invite.

Some couples on a budget let parents invite as many guests as they want-within the space's capacity, of course-but ask that they pay for those guests.

Office Politics

No doubt the talk at the water cooler will be who got the invite and who got the shaft. Deciding which coworkers to include depends on how big your office or department is. If you work in a group of six, you can't leave out the one slacker just because she pawns off her work on everyone else.

But if you have a huge office and collaborate with dozens of people, it gets tricky. A good rule of thumb is that if you socialize outside of work and have the person's home number and use it, you should probably invite them. It's okay to include close friends and key people who might help further your career in the future. But don't use an invite to brownnose-it won't get you a promotion or a bonus. As for the big boss (or bosses), choose which superiors you work with the most. Half the time they'll decline, note your generosity, and just send a gift. And if you want to keep who's invited on the down low, you can always ask those guests not to tell anyone they're invited.

Kidding Around

Weddings with lots of kids can be great for some couples, hell for others. It's your decision. But if you'd like an adults-only reception, you'll need to establish guidelines and invite children over a certain age-or keep anyone under 18 off the list.

Can't decide if kids are appropriate or not? If your wedding is in the morning or afternoon, it's more appropriate for youngsters to attend. For one, they're awake! An evening affair is usually a kid-free zone and adults generally realize it's their time to let loose and not chase after their little ones on the dance floor or scold them for running fingers through the icing on the wedding cake.

If guests make a fuss and threaten not to come to your wedding without their toddlers or infants, express your regrets but tell them that it would be unfair to others you've said no to (the only exceptions are usually for immediate family).

Making the Cut

So you've followed these points -- and you still have 300 names and a location that holds 175. Oh, the guilt! While you might feel bad about deleting names from the list, you and your fiance need to develop parameters for cutting that won't make you feel terrible.

One groom's fantasy football league is another bride's book club. You'll both need to reflect on which of your acquaintances is important enough to witness your wedding. It's probably not necessary to invite your entire sorority pledge class if you haven't seen half of them since college. Focus on people who are relevant to your life now...and who will be relevant five years from now. You know that couple you keep bailing on dinner plans with? They can probably go to the bottom of the list.

You don't have to invite couples you're not close with anymore just because you went to their weddings. If anyone will understand, it's those who had to do the same. The key to the cut is doing it as efficiently and quickly as possible to ease the pain -- kind of like removing a Band-Aid.