Wedding Confessional Pt. I: Guest List

Last March my now fiancé Andrew proposed during an ice skating adventure.  After he went down on one skate I experienced about 20 minutes of pure bliss. I was freezing, on ice skates, my runny nose was frozen solid and I couldn’t have imagined feeling any happier.

Fast forward three days and I was an emotional wreck that the frozen girl on skates wouldn’t have even recognized. I had gone from blissful to frustrated and unprepared.  Sure, I was ready for marriage (I wouldn’t have said yes if I wasn’t!), but I had no handle on the emotional money-suck that is planning a wedding.

Why do I start a wedding advice post off by telling you I was a complete mess as I started to plan my wedding? Two reasons: first to remind you that anyone, small budget or large, unprepared or binder equipped, can survive planning a wedding. And second, because I wish someone had told me to simply enjoy the first week (or more) of my engagement.

So if you are reading this and are recently engaged STOP. E-mail this post to yourself or add it to your favorites. Click on it again once you have thoroughly enjoyed the first few days of your engagement. Bask in the love and all that is beautiful with you and your spouse-to-be.

OK now. First things first: the guest list.

According to most of the “experts” the guest list is the first thing every couple should tackle. It makes sense. I mean, you can’t pick a date, book a venue or get quotes from a caterer without knowing how many people are going to attend your party.

As one of my fiancé’s groomsman told me as I was agonizing over the guest list, “Cut people out. Who cares what anyone else thinks.”  The journey toward advanced coupledom requires you to remember one thing: you will never please everyone. The only people you should try to please: yourself, your partner and then to a lesser extent, those financially contributing to your big day.

If you are lucky, this will be an easy process where you and your fiancé write down the names of your close family and friends, count 'em up and call it a day. If you’re like me, you’ll have hour long talks with your parents discussing the pros and cons (so many cons…) of inviting cousins you’ve never met (I literally have 150+ first cousins).

I suggest being really organized with the guest list from day one. Andrew created an Excel spreadsheet complete with formulas that added and subtracted the total count for each side of our families. We then sat down with my parents (as they are financially contributing to the wedding) and determined where we were drawing lines. For example, we are stopping at first cousins on my side but allowing Andrew to invite his cousin’s children as his family is quite small.

I’ll leave you with my top three wedding guest list tips:

1. Create five columns on your initial guest list: name, relationship to you/fiancé, importance of invite (high = you really want them there), the person’s likelihood to attend and if they do/do not need a plus one

2. Include five to ten open guest “spots” for people you may meet/grow close to between now and your wedding day

3. Cut people out early in the process. If you are working with a budget or have a dream venue that only fits a certain number, this is a must. I recommend starting with unnecessary plus ones (your eighteen-year-old cousin really doesn’t need to bring a date) and work out from there.