It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it - and when it comes to cutting down your wedding guest list, that someone is you.
No one understands the relationships you have with your friends, family, colleagues or neighbours quite like you and your partner, so it falls to you not only to build the guest list for your wedding, but to trim it back when things start to get out of hand. It’s a common issue that hundreds of couples end up facing, and one that requires very sensitive handling.
When the tier system returns, the number of guests is likely to be capped at 15 or 30 and, with couples looking to host more intimate celebrations in the future, it's important to how you can uninvite guests or cut down your list without hurting anyone's feelings.
We know that wedding planners always have a trick or two up their sleeves when it comes to these awkward situations. So we asked two brilliant industry experts – Cherelle Joseph of Perfectly Planned 4 You and Assumpta Vitcu of AVE Creations – to share the pointers they give the couples they’re working with when the numbers just aren’t adding up.
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How to Cut Down Your Wedding Guest List
1. Start Early
Your final edit informs so many other factors – from seating plans to overall costs – that this is a job to be tackled sooner rather than later. ‘Be realistic about your guest numbers to avoid stress later on,’ advises Cherelle. ‘Choose a number larger than your venue’s capacity, and you’ll be holding your breath every time you open an RSVP.’
If you know you intend on having a small, intimate ceremony, you can even make a point of mentioning this when people congratulate you on your engagement. Then when invites start going out and they don’t receive a fancy envelope in the post, they’ll be less likely to take it personally.
2. Pick Plus Ones Wisely
List already made, and way over the limit? ‘Eliminate plus ones and parents’ friends,’ Assumpta suggests. ‘That may sound a little harsh, but when spaces are limited, it is advisable and understandable to prioritise immediate family and very close friends only.’
If you don’t want to cut out plus ones completely, you can at least be selective about who you’re giving them to. Those who have been coupled up for a long time are more likely to be upset if only one half of their duo is invited, while those in fresher or more casual relationships will probably be more understanding – particularly if you don’t have much of a shared history with their new partner. It can be controversial, but you could even consider going for a ‘no ring, no bring’ approach.
3. Get Firm with Family
‘If you haven’t spoken to some of your relatives in years, don’t feel obliged to invite them,’ insists Cherelle. And she’s right: remember, your wedding day is for you and your partner, not an excuse for a family reunion for people you haven’t been in contact with in recent memory.
Try to make a rule and uphold it across both groups – for instance, if you’re not inviting aunts and uncles on their side, don’t invite them on yours, so no one feels like the odd one out. Of course, no two families look the same, and there always needs to be a degree of flexibility, but if you want to go down the fairest possible route, this is a kind, considered way of explaining the decision to all parties.
4. Have a Child-Free Wedding
Another key piece of advice Assumpta puts forward to her couples when they’re feeling overstretched? Respectfully specify that your wedding is just for adults. Now, we know that for some, having children involved in the wedding will be non-negotiable – especially if you have kids of your own! – but if not, an adults-only affair could be the slimmed-down solution you’ve been searching for.
As with family limitations, she says that it’s best to stick to this principle for all, to limit the offence caused if you have one or two children present. ‘This can be a sensitive subject,’ she admits, ‘but while children add a certain charm to the day, removing them from your headcount not only helps to cut your numbers but also gives their parents a night off to really let their hair down.’
READ MORE: Is It Selfish to Have a Child-Free Wedding?
5. Don’t Return the Invite
It’s all too common to feel like it has to be a like-for-like situation, but Cherelle insists otherwise. ‘If you have anyone on your guest list you’re inviting just because they invited you to their wedding years ago, do yourself a favour and cross them off,’ she says.
You can still enjoy those fond memories of their big day, but if that friendship has since fizzled out and you’re not really in contact anymore, they’ll almost certainly not be expecting an invitation regardless. Imagine how you’d feel now if the situation was reversed – based on your current status, you probably wouldn’t be surprised if you didn’t make the cut, so chances are they won’t be either. No guilt required on this one.
READ MORE: 18 Rules All Wedding Guests Should Follow
6. Cut Out Your Colleagues
Office politics are already hard enough to navigate without adding a wedding into the mix. But if colleagues you don’t even spend time with outside of work start assuming that they’re going on the guest list, it’s definitely okay to let them down gently.
Making this a blanket policy is the easiest option, but as ever, there will be exceptions – you may have a smaller, more close-knit circle of co-workers that you can’t imagine not having with you on the dancefloor. The key, once again, is consistency – if you ask everyone but one or two people on a small team, it can feel a little mean, so be as considerate as you possibly can. And no, unless you’re BFFs outside of the boardroom, you absolutely don’t have to ask your boss.
7. Ask for Help at Your Own Risk
‘You may have the urge to show your guest list to your parents and your friends, but be warned, they may come back with a list of people they think you should invite,’ Cherelle notes – thereby making the situation even worse.
Parents often feel like they get a say, especially if they’re footing part or all of the bill, and if space allows you can try to accommodate this – but ultimately, it’s your wedding and you get to prioritise the people you love the most.
‘Remember, every single person you invite to your wedding, you have to pay for them to be there, so choose your guests wisely and only invite people who really mean something to you,’ she adds.
READ MORE: 10 Creative DIY Wedding Invitation Ideas
8. Be Honest
Sometimes, even despite your best intentions, you might find yourself in the uncomfortable position where you need to uninvite some guests. ‘Honesty is the best policy,’ Assumpta says of this situation. ‘Let them know that they are important to you, hence your initial invitation, but due to external factors, you have to reduce your guest numbers.
‘If feasible, you can arrange a virtual celebration post-wedding that includes many people or an in-person affair when things settle. To make uninvited guests feel included and remembered, you can send a wedding announcement with your favourite picture from the day, once you get your wedding photos.’
Cut down your list? You'll want to discover the best ways to keep your guests entertained - here's 48 ideas they'll love.