Tuesday, January 20, 2009

our planning :: 11 :: the guest list

The guests -- they are VIP, close to the bride or groom, and are about to create the life of the party. Initially, couples usually have a pretty good idea of who they will invite, but don't realize until later, how difficult it is to create one. Biggest issue: keeping the list to a minimum. For the majority of brides and grooms who are required to stay within a specific # due to a particular budget or venue space, drafting the guest list is quite challenging. I've only been to maybe three weddings that had an "open guest list" -- where as an invitee, I was allowed to bring as many guests as I wanted. Yes, they exist, and these weddings usually abide by certain cultural customs or just have a limitless budget. I have also heard of brides who were simply hesitant to designate a particular seat #. My personal opinion, if you can afford an open guest list, why not? But if you, like most couples, have a more rigid budget, it's important to be very particular about who you invite. NOTE: If you have other people (parents) sponsoring a portion of the wedding, it's fair to allow them to have their own guest list (obviously determining a reasonable # of guests they can invite based on what they are putting in). I've shared some ways of keeping the guest list organized and to a minimum.

Set some boundaries or criteria in determining your guest list.

  1. Agree on a # of guests and stick to it, keeping in mind your budget and space of the venue. The more guests you invite, the more tables, entrées, linen, and favors you'll have to get.
  2. What type of event are you planning? Is it a black tie event with an open bar and adult party feel? Or a casual beach wedding with a family gathering feel? Who you plan to have at your event reflects the type of ambiance you're trying to create.
  3. Figure if you want an open guest list or pre-determined list. Most couples pre-determine the # of seat(s) made available to each invitee on the invitation response card -- usually 2 -- to ensure their head count.
  4. Determine if you would like to invite children. This totally depends on the couple's feelings and type of event, but if you are seriously tight w/#'s, inviting the children to the shower or morning-after brunch, instead of the wedding might be the way to go. Most guests will understand.
  5. If your parents are helping out, tactfully communicate that you will figure a # of "VIP" seats that you will make available for them and their guests -- and do this early. That way, you've prioritized their needs. Be sensitive in the process; parents are super excited to show to their friends that their children are getting married. Try to be reasonable as well, giving only five seats might not do it. If they're still insisting on inviting 100 of their own guests, some of whom you don't even know, figure if they are entitled to it -- are they paying for a majority of the wedding? If not, and all else fails, you can get technical and calculate the % of $ they put in to determine how many seats they've alloted themselves. Your excellent communication skills will be important!
  6. Prioritize. Typically, the list starts off with family, bridal party spouses, relatives, friends, close neighbors, and co-workers. But, friends could be closer to the couple than the couples' own families. For co-workers, keep it to a minimum or if you're # crunching, it's ok to keep them off the list. *Keep wedding plan conversations to a minimum at work -- esp if you're not inviting any co-workers.
  7. A-B-C lists. A-List for immediate family, bridal party & their spouses, and close friends. B-List for distant relatives and friends, close neighbors. C-List for all others. You could decide to mail out A first, then B, then C after you've received declines from A/B. *A courtesy invite could be sent out to your immediate relatives who live outside of the country and you know most likely won't attend.
  8. Begin requesting addresses right away. Create two separate guest lists in Excel using the same template (one for the bride and one for the groom). Each of you can be responsible for your own list. At the end, you can easily combine them.
  9. Do they know the both of us? You don't have to base your guest list on this criteria, but it definitely helps in trying to keep the list down, esp if you're having a difficult time. It's easy and a reasonable way to invite guests. I think people appreciate a couple's wedding more when they've seen the couple together.
  10. Trust yourself in your decision making. I've never limited myself to rules like, "I'm only inviting people I've seen or talked to in the last three years." Surprisingly, some books say to do that. I think it's circumstantial. Yes, it makes it pretty easy to cut down on the guest list, but in reality, many people are more likely to get their feelings hurt that way. People look forward to being invited to something huge like a wedding. You might have a childhood friend that you haven't spoken to in the last three years, but spent 18 years of your life with -- weigh it out and trust your gut feeling. It might make it a little more challenging, but it's better than dealing with an upset childhood friend later on, sometimes resulting in a broken friendship.
Abram and I started working on our guest lists early, dividing it exactly in half -- we were each responsible for creating our list and obtaining addresses. My family is bigger than his, so I had a harder time -- my list consisted of probably 80% family and really the rest were my bridal party and their families, and my other really close friends. Good thing we have some of the same friends, so he was gracious to put them on his list!

Our space accommodated 200 in the main room comfortably w/ a large dance area and stage for a band, and knew it was going to be verrrry difficult since we had a lot of family and friends to consider. Because our venue is a high liability space, with $$$$ art installations hanging on the walls and high-tech fixtures, we didn't want to be responsible for any damages, resulting in an adult-only event. It took some communication to relay this info to relatives, but once they stepped into the reception area, saw the art, glass fixtures, open alcohol bar, live band, and dimmed lights, I think they knew that it was designed to carry an adult party feel. And oh, boy, it was so nice to see our friends and family step out of their element w/o kids to babysit all night! We did invite the children to our shower and other celebratory events.

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