What's the Deal with Standby Guest Lists, Anyway?

Etiquette, Planning Tips

There's probably never been a wedding where every single invited guest was able to attend. If budget or venue capacity constraints are keeping your guest list small, is a standby guest list ever appropriate? We found a common question about this etiquette problem, and sourced an expert-approved response so that you can know whether you should go ahead with that B-list!

My future mother-in-law says it's appropriate to have a standby guest list ready when guests from the main list decline. Is this proper?
It's a risky proposition. There is potential for hurt feelings and for guests to feel slighted. It does, however, provide a practical solution to controlling the numbers and budget. When possible, it's far better to invite your entire guest list. When it's carefully planned, and when you consider the likelihood that typically 10 to 20 percent of invited guests decline — this approach is more straightforward and less deceptive than employing a standby list.

See more: 10 Ways to Ensure Your Guests Have an Absolute Blast

If you and your fiancé decide to take the standby list approach, be very discreet. Guests must not have even the slightest idea that you have a B-list. Plan for enough time for responses from the master-list guests to be received—no less than four weeks — to invite guests who are on the standby list. Make this choice early in your planning process so that you will be ready to send the second group of invitations.

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