How to Downsize Your Wedding Guest List

Experts on how to handle the hard yet necessary task.

Sage Green Guests Sign

Signage by Made by Wood and Wood; Floral Design by Monstera Floral Design; Planning by Natalie Ellen Weddings; Styling by Fleur & Fig

As you begin preparing for your wedding, you may realize early on that your guest list is getting out of hand. While it's natural to want to have as many family and friends with you on your big day as possible, an oversized guest list can pose a lot of problems. While it might seem less than ideal to have to cut down on the friends and family members you have at your wedding, downsizing does come with its share of upsides.

For starters, less guests means you can save money. “Splurging for upgraded table settings such as chargers, gold flatware, unique designer plates, specialty glassware, and luxury linens can really add up when you have a guest list of a few hundred people, but for 30 or so guests, providing everyone with an upgraded experience is a lot more tolerable,” wedding planner Oniki Hardtman shares. She adds that you can always throw a huge party later on in a more fun and relaxed setting without many of the formalities that come with the traditional wedding day.

Meet the Expert

With a smaller guest list, you can also focus your time and attention on more of your wedding guests. When you have a larger wedding of, say, 150 or more guests, it’s almost impossible to do the rounds and make conversation with each and every individual, let alone snap a picture with each guest. A smaller guest list will also make your guests who are attending feel more a part of the festivities. There's a sense of intimacy that comes along with having a micro wedding.

Wedding planners agree, however, that cutting down a wedding guest list is much easier said than done. If you’re faced with this difficult task in preparation for your big day, here are some pointers worth considering to help you get the job done.

Easy Ways to Cut Down on Your Guest List

Need to reduce the number of people on your guest list? Here's a few ways to easy cut it down.

Make It Adults Only

If you’ve invited a lot of families to your wedding, making it adults only can help reduce your guest list. This is probably an easier thing to do if you are younger and don’t have kids of your own already. However, this might be a difficult move if you have kids and most of your wedding guests have kids, too. Plus, many couples want all of their family at the wedding, so eliminating those under age 18 may not be an option. 

Eliminate Plus-Ones

In your effort to keep your guest list as small as possible, it makes sense to eliminate the offering of allowing guests to bring a plus one. Most guests will completely understand your need to cut down on your guest list and, if you’re someone they truly care about deeply, will still be in attendance without their significant other. If they decide not to attend without a plus one, you were doubly successful in cutting down your guest list.

Ask Guests to Attend Virtually

Ivy Summer, owner of Voulez Events in San Francisco, recommends brainstorming ways to incorporate your virtual guests into your big day. “Ask your wedding planner about ways to incorporate your virtual guests,” she says. “Make sure that your key virtual guests know how to submit a request for a song to the DJ or can make a toast when it's time for speeches. These small details can create unforgettable moments on the wedding day."

How to Determine Who to Uninvite

If your guest list is still too large, you may have to disinvite some people. Here's some tips how to determine who to cut from your list.

Cut Anyone You Don’t Talk to Regularly

This may not be easy, but it’s one of the most cut-and-dry tactics for limiting your wedding guest list. O’Mara recommends only inviting those guests that you have had very recent and regular communication with. “Leave off the long-lost cousins, college buddies you haven’t heard from in a decade, or your previous neighbors from three years ago,” she suggests. Most guests will not only be understanding but also respectful of your decision to narrow down your guest list. It's your wedding day, after all.

Determine Your VIP List

These are the people that you absolutely want to have at your wedding, no matter how small of a guest list you’re working with. “Think about those people that were the very first ones you couldn't wait to tell about your engagement,” Hardtman says. “They are likely the same ones that you have very regular (text) conversations with, so they are the ones you should add to your list first.” It’s wise to reach out to these individuals (over text or email or on the phone!) to confirm that they’re available on the date you intend to get married. Doing so will help you determine how many additional guests you can still invite.

How to Uninvite a Wedding Guest

While it's not an easy task, uninviting guests may be an inevitability. Here's how to do it in the most respectful way.

Let Them Know ASAP

Like many other things in life, being open and honest as soon as possible is important if you’re uninviting a guest. You should be prepared to explain why you’re cutting back on your wedding invitees. Some people will surely take the news better than others, but most people will understand. The longer you drag out uninviting someone, the worse they will take it.

Be Honest and Make It Personal

Again, most people are forgiving and understand that weddings can be complicated and quite expensive. Explaining to them the reasons you are uninviting them to the wedding will help them understand and allow you to move forward. 

Try to Meet Face-to-Face

Uninviting someone by e-mail or voicemail is pretty insensitive. If possible, try to meet with each uninvited guest in person and explain what’s happening. If they don't live near you, try to do it on Facetime or Zoom. Taking the time to explain face-to-face why you’re uninviting them shows that you care about them.

Suggest Alternative Ways to Celebrate Together

While your uninvited guests will be disappointed to miss your wedding, you can plan some alternative celebrations. This could be a gathering for drinks before the big day or a dinner after you get back from your honeymoon. You can ask people to do these get-togethers one-on-one, as a small group, or with a special group of similar friends (think co-workers or friends from college.) 

  • Is it rude to uninvite someone to a wedding?

    No, but it can be rude if you don’t take the time to explain to your guest why they’re uninvited. While the news may be hard to take, your uninvited guest will at least understand why they are uninvited, assuming that you sit down with them to explain the situation.

  • How do you politely say no plus ones on a wedding invitation?

    The most direct way to say no plus ones is to just write the invitee’s name on the invitation.

  • Is it ever acceptable to uninvite wedding guests?

    It’s not ideal, and if there’s any way to avoid uninviting guests, then you should try not to rescind invites. However, if circumstances change and you’re not able to accommodate everyone you’ve invited, then uninviting guests may be your only option.

  • What is the etiquette with gifts received before uninviting a guest?

    When you talk to the guest you are uninviting, it would be appropriate to offer to return their wedding gift. Your guest may take it back or tell you to keep it. However, you should leave that decision to be made by your guest.

Related Stories