Five things to think about when choosing your wedding guests

Albert Pamies

If you didn’t realise it before, your wedding guests have the potential to take your whole day to a different level and make your day even more incredible than you ever imagined. Sorry to disappoint if you thought it would be you and your love who’ll be making your day special, most of that is down to your guests and your guests alone. These gorgeous people who will be joining you on your wedding day will be bringing a lot more to the proceedings than some nice presents, they will also be bringing their presence. And so it is important to surround yourselves with the people who will bring the best presence, ambiance, love and energy to your big day, people who share your vision and life ethos.

This is a reason why none of my uncles came to our wedding. I love my uncles dearly, but I would not have liked them being at my wedding. For my uncles, weddings equal food, not love. And they would have spent the entire time asking when the food was to be served, wondering if there was West Indian rum, wondering if there would be chicken and rice and peas, moaning loudly about the food not being served and then wondering when more food would be served. Okay, so I’m exaggerating ever so slightly, maybe the moaning would have been more quiet!

My point is, your guests will influence the tone of your day, so you’ve got to choose the right folks to help you celebrate your day in your way. So how the hell does one do that?

1 Be ruthless

I’m quite an Olivia-Pope-trust-my-gut kind of woman (sorry if you don’t watch Scandal!), which helps me to be quite clear and concise when I have to make important decisions. I know when we got married we made a huge list of everyone we knew and who we thought we’d like to have at our wedding. Then we went back over that list and crossed off everyone our gut said to cross off. And boy, did we have to be ruthless because we didn’t want to have more than fifty people at our wedding. And fifty people when you look at it is 25 people each, which when you look at it is roughly 12-14 couples each and a few single folk. That is not much, but that’s what we wanted and I think in the end we had 52.

Crossing people off a list doesn’t mean you don’t like or love them, it just means you have a budget, you have a limited number of people and you’ve got to stick to it. Check out these two graphics below. The one that I stole borrowed from is super ruthless (I dare you to use this one!) and the other is a bit more gentle and thorough, but either way both get you asking the questions you should be asking and help you to get those numbers just where you need them to be. That said, the second one goes against some of what I believe, for instance I don’t think that just because your parents are paying for your wedding they should be able to invite people that you don’t want there! It’s still your wedding and your parents don’t own it! I talk about this a bit more, below.

I also had a little rule that if there was a name that I was saying ‘oh, okay then,’ to, then they shouldn’t be on my list. It’s either a firm ‘hell yes’ or nothing, in my books!

Wedding guests list planner



2 Wear a shield

Not literally of course. I don’t want you walking around like you’re in a Game of Thrones battle but you will need to put the mental barriers up because there will be people who’ll be upset about not being invited to your wedding. They’ll be the ones who don’t tell you and the ones who do! Or those who let you know via other people!  My mum, bless her, did a very good job at letting me know about all the aunts and uncles we pissed off, hee hee! Ruthlessness does come at a cost. Just put your shield up and bear with it. They’ll get over it. It’s just a big of ego-bashing, that’s all! Some of my cousins are talking to me now, er hum, eleven years later, so people do get over it! And on the other side of the coin, I can remember getting a bit upset that I wasn’t invited to an old friends’ wedding. I told my friend who did go and it got fed back to the bride and basically the message came back to me that they were a bit like ‘why?’ Why would you be upset? And they were right really. We’d not seen each other or been in contact in ages, and I should have understood that you cannot invite every single person who you’ve shared a moment with in your life to your wedding. Not unless you are the Sultan of Brunei and can afford it.

Albert Pamies

With the right guests your wedding will be nothing but a success. Photo by Albert Pamies

3 Parents

Parents can be a giant pain in the ass and I say this in the nicest way possible, as someone who loves her parents deeply but also recognises their immense pain-in-the-ass capabilities. When we were getting married there were suggestions on all sides of the parental fronts about inviting so-and-so who I’d not seen since I was twelve or so-and-so that my dad played cricket with and so-and-so who was my husband’s second cousin, once removed who I’d never met. You’ve got to shut them down, people. Do not compromise. If your heart is not feeling these people, then don’t invite them to your wedding. I know it’s easier said than done, especially if your parents are paying towards your wedding day BUT giving you money doesn’t not mean they are buying group passes to one hell-of-a wedding show. It should mean that they are helping you out and not expecting anything in return. This should also mean that you should not invite anyone as a favour for, or to be nice to anyone else, other than yourselves. Just saying. If your parents or in laws are bordering being labelled as pushy, you might want to read this about pushy wedding parents.

4 Numbers

The other day, one of my Spanish friends was telling me that her cousin had 800 guests at her wedding. I almost fell off my chair. Who knows 800 people?? Okay, so this is a little extreme and I’d like to think that most people would be as shocked as I was by that number. I think it’s important to set the number of wedding guests by not just what you can afford but also and more importantly, how many you would actually like there to be, because when you look at it, the two things are very different. We were lucky in that we could only afford to have about 50 guests, but at the same time, we didn’t want any more than that, even if we could have afforded it. So I think it’s important to think of what number of people suits you best. You may be someone who feels happy with thirty guests or someone whose nearest and dearest reaches comfortably into treble figures. For us, 50 was ideal. We spoke to everyone, we knew everyone, we liked everyone and even 11 years down the line we can still remember every single wedding guest that was there.

Recently, I was chatting to the sister of a groom whose wedding I did and she said to me that she wished she had had a smaller wedding. There were 60 people at her brother’s wedding and she had had 250. She told me that she had been looking through her own wedding photos prior to his wedding and many of the guests she no longer saw and in some cases couldn’t remember who they were. Ouch! This doesn’t mean that a big wedding is not a great wedding but it does mean that you should be absolutely 100% certain about every single person you invite.

5 Back-ups

It is okay to have a back-up list of people, for when your priority guests can’t come through for you. Obviously, it’s best not to let them know that they were on your back up list, as no one really needs to know that! ‘Hey mate, we’ve had some people drop out of our wedding, do you want to come instead!’ Yeah, probably not the best way to give some one a heads up. This is probably something my husband would have done!! I daren’t ask.

When some of our first choice guests couldn’t make it all the way out to Mexico for our wedding, we invited some of our newer friends who we’d meet whilst living there and they were such great guests to have. So back-ups are good and having a secondary list will probably be very handy. You’d have to be very lucky indeed if everyone your invite to your wedding can make it.

It’s not the end of the world

It is your day, people. You have to stop yourself from feeling pressured or bullied into having people that you don’t want at your wedding day. You have to look closely at your list and decide how much that person means to you both, what their presence does for you and what it will add to your big day. Never invite people because you feel you have to, because they last thing you’ll want it to resent them being at your wedding. These things seem so obvious, yet we forever hear stories of couples tearing their hair out over wedding guest lists.

These people will make your day. Choose carefully and wisely and if it really gets too much, sod it all and elope!

Is your wedding guest list giving you a headache? Why?

About the author

Natasha Johnson

Natasha Johnson is an experienced Wedding Celebrant, blogger and writer on all things related to weddings, in particular wedding ceremonies. Her mission is life is to encourage couples to see the importance of their wedding ceremony and to get married in just the way they want to. Make sure you catch her on the Engaged and Ready Wedding Podcast, here or on iTunes and Stitcher.


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