Wedding Bells: My Guest List Rule

As you might remember from the wedding planning timeline, drafting your guest list is one of the first steps after you get engaged. The number of guests affects everything from your budget to your venue choice, so it’s important to have an approximate headcount before you get too far into the planning process.

Deciding who makes the cut can be very difficult, which is why I came up with a few guidelines for drafting my own guest list. In an ideal world I would invite everyone who has ever been a positive part of my life. But of course that’s just not possible and the guests add up faster than you can imagine. So here’s what I came up with…

My Guest List Rule

I have one hard and fast rule: If we haven’t sat down and had a meal together in the past two years, you’re probably not going to be invited. Since all of my close friends and I dine together regularly, this helps separate the people I’m still close with from the friends I’ve lost touch with over the years. I think it’s a pretty fair rule.

The Plus-One

I also had to come up with some guidelines for determining who gets a plus-one. A plus-one is a must for anyone who is married, engaged, or in a long-term relationship. No exceptions there! A plus-one is also thoughtful for anyone who is single, but won’t have any other friends attending. But if someone is single and will be amongst friends or family, giving them a plus-one is not necessary. Who knows, they might meet someone special…

Deciding who will and won’t be there to witness your marriage can be very stressful, but everyone is different and will have their own way of deciding. Also, it’s important to remember that once you’ve finalized your list then the fun begins. Cake tasting anyone?

If you’re married or engaged, what’s your rule for narrowing down your guest list?

Also, what other Wedding Bells posts would you like me to write?

Please share your thoughts below!

XO Lauren

  • Natalie, that is not a rule of etiquette, although many brides choose to treat a longterm (3 year +) relationship as equivalent to engagement. To be ‘classy’ a bride must be consistent, but there are several levels at which she can plan the guest list. Here are some ‘examples’ of what a bride might choose.

    – Immediate family only, no plus ones or other friends/relatives
    – No +1s except for marriage
    – No +1s except married or engaged for at least three months
    – No +1s except married/engaged/long term
    – No +1s except married/engaged/1 year + dating
    – Every single guest gets a plus one
    – Every guest or family gets a plus one

    All of these fall within the bounds of etiquette.

    I got married just last year. We did not allow plus ones, but every guest knew at least two other people at the wedding. We made sure in the seating chart that people would be comfortable. The guests were happy, not grumpy, and conversation was lively. Everyone enjoyed the ‘tasty food’ from Olive Garden to. (Far cheaper than catering!)

    I have been at weddings that were huge, but they were not fun. Guests were grumpy because they were hungry, and there were so many people that it was hard to interact.

  • Melinda Palumbo

    If you are engaged to the bride’s brother. But, you are not close to the bride or groom.
    Should I feel bad that I am not invited? My fiance the brother of the bride and they are not close either. But, he is invited. We will be getting married at the end of the year. It is a shame the family is not close. Should I be hurt for not getting an invite? Help!!!

  • Amanda DeVincenzo

    We chose our guests based on the family and friends that have influenced our love the most! Since we’re in our mid 30s, never married, we felt strongly about sharing our day with those that have helped shape the way we see love, the way we live out our love everyday, and the way we’ll continue to throughout our lifetime. It didn’t matter if I hadn’t talked to someone for years. What mattered is how they influenced me and supported the path I am embarking on with my love. Some friendships run much deeper the longer you have them, and those are the ones I want surrounding me on my special day!!!

  • Andrea

    That’s actually not always true. I’m in this business and most wedding locations/caterers have a deadline they set for the bride and groom to turn in their finalized headcount. Therefore the bride and groom can take all the RSVPS that have arrived on the day they were due and add up who is bringing a guest or not/attending at all. This wys it’s an accurate headcount. Sure you give a generalized number of attendees when you first book but you get to follow up with the actual number of attendees. Therefore if someone was given the choice of a +1 and chose not to do so and responded in such a way, the bride and groom wouldnt have lost any money because that would be factored in when they give their venue/caterer their final headcount. Anyone that doesn’t show up day of wedding, that’s a different story where money was lost. Also, anyone that doesn’t RSVP by the deadline if I was the bride (which is something a friend did) they gave up their right to a +1 one as it’s rude to not RSVP by the time requested.

  • Katherine O’Donald

    You arent really a very good friend either if you are so selfish you cant see that weddings can be underwhelming to people who aren’t in your family and dont know most/even half of people there, the way the bride and groom would. having a date ensures that you will have someone to talk to and not get bored considering the bride and groom will spend at most, 30 minutes engaging you as an individual. so we should all spend hours just staring and discussing the couple? at some point thats going to get old and its nice to have company. Youre supposed to care about your friends too, not just invite people places because YOU want them there.