You've got enough money in your wedding budget for 70 guests, maybe 80 tops— but you've got 200 on your invitation list. It's time to get brutal with the red pen, or apply for a home equity loan. What are you going to do?
Before you start cutting, review where you are in the process. How did you get to the headcount you're working with now? Is this a culmination of lists from you, your fiancé, and both sets of parents? Compromise and diplomacy will be needed but make sure that the list is complete before you begin the massacre. Once you're finished, there are absolutely, positively no more additions.
So start cutting using the following five tips:
1. Reconsider all the plus-one invitations you're extending.
I know you hate to do it, but when you have to cut a list, wouldn't you rather start with people you don't even know? If a friend is in a serious relationship, you must invite their partner. But you are not obligated to include anybody's "flavor of the month." So anybody who doesn't currently have a significant other doesn't get to bring a date.
2. You don't need to invite your work colleagues.
If they're not actually social friends, there's no obligation to invite them to your wedding. Most couples only invite their bosses, and maybe a bestie from work, because once you start inviting people, it's awkward not to invite everyone.
3. Don't invite people you're not close to anymore just because you attended their wedding years ago.
If their wedding wasn't recent, and you're not in touch on more than Facebook, cross them off the list. This also goes for friends whose weddings you were in many years ago.
4. Unless you've got a lot of children in your life that you're very close to, keep the big day "adults-only."
Children count as people, for guest list purposes. You'll likely pay a reduced rate for their food and bar, but you still have to count them in for everything you're paying for across the board. Also, you cannot let one friend bring children, but tell another friend their kids aren't invited, without hurting feelings. You can make exceptions for children that are actual family members of the bride and groom.
5. Big families come with lots of extended family — and you might not be able to afford to invite everybody.
If one of your parents has six siblings, and each set of aunts and uncles has a few children your age, and some of them are married and have children, you may have just filled up every seat at your wedding before you started inviting any friends. It may be a good idea to cut things off after first cousins, unless you're particularly close to any others.
Sandy Malone is the owner of Sandy Malone Weddings & Events, a full-service traditional and destination wedding planning company and Do-It-Yourself wedding planning consulting service for DIY brides and grooms based in the Washington, DC area. Sandy is the star of TLC's reality show "Wedding Island," about her destination wedding planning company, Weddings in Vieques. Sandy's book "How to Plan Your Own Destination Wedding: Do-It-Yourself Tips from an Experienced Professional," is available online and where books are sold.