As soon as you start planning your wedding, you begin to realize that you can’t invite everyone you’ve ever known in your life unless you have limitless budget and space. Even at that, you’re faced with guest lists being thrust at you from all sides. What with your fiancé’s basketball pals, your mother’s extensive clan of cousins, and your future father-in-law’s business associates, it’s starting to feel as if Dodger Stadium wouldn’t be big enough to host your nuptials.
Getting back to that imaginary unlimited budget and space, do you really want to have a wedding that’s indistinguishable from closing night at Coachella? Your wedding should be a very special and exclusive celebration of a sacred commitment. You want people there who mean something to you and to whom you mean something.
Getting ready to winnow the lists and decide who you want to invite? Follow the guidelines diagrammed on our chart for wedding guest list bliss.
Are They Family?
First and foremost are family members from both sides. Relations by blood and by marriage should be the first names on your list. The people who knew you when you were little and watched you grow up, the people who love you no matter what. These are the folks, perhaps above all others, who will enjoy seeing you take the next step and who will be hurt if they’re not included. Not that sparing feelings should be the primary reason to invite someone, but as you head into this new phase of your life you do want to start out on the right foot.
Inviting immediate family goes without saying. That means grandparents, parents, and siblings and their spouses. Aunts, uncles, and cousins of your generation come next. If you’re inviting children, then nieces, nephews, and maybe young cousins should be on the list.
For some large families, these people alone will just about fill your venue. It might mean reconsidering the rest of your list a bit, but think how lucky you are to have such a big circle of family adding their warmth to your day.
How far out you stretch the list of family is up to you. In-laws of in-laws? Third cousins? The determining factor should be whether or not you feel close to them. Family trees often don’t tell the whole story.
Are They Friends?
There’s a difference between friends and acquaintances. For one thing, friends are people who know and love both you and your fiancé, or at least know your partner’s name . If your save-the-date is going to come as a huge surprise, then that person probably isn’t part of your inner circle. But you might have lifelong friends that distance or the exigencies of life have separated you from and yet would still bring special joy to have with you on your wedding day.
What about your parents’ friends? Some may be as close to you as relatives, and absolutely belong on the list even if they’ve never met the wonderful person you’re about to marry. Others not so much. This will take some honest conversation with your parents, especially if they’re paying for the wedding. If they’re important to your parents, and there’s otherwise room to include them without bumping your own besties, go ahead and invite them.
Are They Co-Workers?
This one is easy. If you often hang out outside of work and are involved in each other’s lives, then those co-workers are in the friends category and are absolute invite ‘ems. As long as you don’t make the other people you work with feel excluded, they’ll all understand. The same rule of thumb should apply to people your parents work with. That nice woman in Accounting would probably be shocked to get an invitation anyway.
Are They in a Special Category?
There might be some people in your life who aren’t the nearest of relatives and aren’t the closest of friends but will add something extra to the occasion. If you can’t imagine your wedding without them, then there’s nothing more to discuss. Especially if they’ll make the occasion more fun or more meaningful to you. It’s one of the most important days in your life, and you should be surrounded by people it will make you happy to share it with.