Taming Your Guest List

Figuring out whom to invite—and not invite—can be a breeze

Ah, the guest list. According to your recently married friends, it's breeding ground for teary showdowns with your fiancé and shouting matches with Mom. (Thank goodness Dad is neutral.) Why is this must-do task plagued with such drama and tension? Because, in most cases, your budget doesn't match your wish list, which means you can't invite everyone. Or one of your parents insists you include relatives you never see or don't like. Or maybe you want to have a small wedding (50 people, tops) and your fiancé has dreams of reconnecting with his bunk mates from summer camp. Just take things one step at a time—we'll tell you how—and put together a list that everyone can happily live with. No argument there.

Getting Started

If you haven't done so already, figure out the general size of the wedding you want. Are you dreaming of the biggest party imaginable? Or do you picture a more intimate event, the two of you spending quality time with each and every guest? Next, consider your budget for the reception, from flowers to petit fours. Most couples plan the guest list around these two all-important numbers, and quickly realize when they're at odds. If, for example, you've got $10,000 budgeted for the reception, and 250 people on your wish list, you'll be spending more than a few sleepless nights scheming how to host everyone for $40 a head.

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