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The 5 Biggest Factors That Affect Your Guest List

Wedding guest lists are known to cause a few headaches. Here are some tips to help smooth out the process.
The Knot
by The Knot

Your partner has a friend you can't stand, you have long-distance relatives you feel obligated to invite and your parents want to include everyone they know—welcome to your wedding guest list. While it takes a bit of work (our Guest List Manager can help with that), we promise your list doesn't have to be one, big headache. Couples—along with their parents—have been successfully making guest lists forever, and you'll figure out your final headcount soon too. Here are five common guest list conflicts you may have to work through along the way. 

1. Who's Chipping In

If you're running into the question of how to divvy up your list, consider who's contributing what. Since the bride's parents have traditionally paid for the wedding (and still do in many cases), they would usually determine the number of guests and tell the groom's parents how many people they were allowed to invite. 

Now couples and their parents tend to divide the wedding bill any number of ways, so it can be trickier to nail down a hard-and-fast formula. But, for example, couples who pay for their own weddings can decide how many people to invite, then divide that number between their two families. Another way to do it is to split the list into three, taking half the list for yourselves and giving a quarter to each of your parents. 

If you go the traditional route where one side's parents are footing the bill, you need to take their wishes into account and do your best to compromise. At a large wedding, a few extra people won't make much of a difference. But if your goal is intimacy, don't be afraid to stick to your guns, no matter what pressures your family unleash—especially if you're paying.

2. Catering Costs

Because food is usually one of the largest costs associated with a wedding, and because catering costs are determined on a per-person basis, keeping your guest list small is a major money saver. Depending on what you serve, the per-person price tag can range anywhere from $20 to $200 (it'll be more in large cities for elaborate affairs). If you like, start by making as big a list as you can—your dream list. Then get ready to make some firm rules and cut your list until it works with your budget. It's helpful to make a list of top priorities when it comes to your budget and guest list: Would you rather go with a less expensive fare and add 20 more guests, or keep your list tight-knit and splurge on the menu? That's a decision you and your partner should make together.

3. The Venue Factor

Your choice of a reception venue is also dependent on your guest list is.  If you have your heart set on a tiny, rustic inn, but plan to invite 200 people, you might have a bit of an issue. So, once again, prioritize. Figure out which is more important to you, more guests or a specific venue. If you choose more people, find a venue that'll comfortably accommodate everyone. If venue is most important, find out how many folks your space will hold and invite accordingly.

4. Hurt Feelings

This one can get sticky and can often depend, case by case. If the issue at hand is the potentially hurt feelings of the uninvited, make sure you have a sound justification for not inviting someone, whether it's a budgetary, spacial or so on. This is your wedding, so if you've made a rule (like saying no to children, coworkers or people you haven't spoken to in over five years), stick to it. A wedding isn't an excuse to round up every long lost acquaintance—you can focus on people who matter now. But if your reasoning for excluding someone is a little less concrete, or your invites are inconsistent (say, you invited some cousins, but not all of them), be prepared to field some potential complaints. Ask yourself if it's really worth hurting someone's feelings or ruining the future of a relationship.

5. Your Partner's Friends

When it comes to your partner's guest list picks, be ready to compromise and go with the flow. Your partner's list might be much larger than yours, or maybe they have a group of friends you're not exactly obsessed with. But here's the thing (actually two things): You're two different people with different circles of loved ones, and that's natural—however, you're also a team now. If having someone is important to your partner, it should be important to you. What's the harm in sharing some champagne with them on your day, especially if it makes your better half happy?

For more guest list tips and advice, here's how to cut your guest list

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