Do I Have to Invite My Extended Family to the Wedding?

A wedding expert weighs in on this delicate decision.

A bride and groom getting married at an outdoor wedding during summertime.

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Creating your wedding guest list is no small task, and it comes with a lot of questions—understandably! Once you know what size wedding you're planning, and how many guests your venue can accommodate, it's time to start compiling the list. And one of the big questions that you and your partner may have is: Do I have to invite my entire extended family to the wedding? Or: Who in my extended family should I invite—or not invite?

Fret not, because we are here to help with expert insight around this nuanced element of the guest list process. "I always say one of the most difficult tasks of the wedding planning process is creating the guest list," says Mindy Weiss of Mindy Weiss Party Consultants. "This is definitely a 'sit down' discussion! If you have chosen your venue and you know how many guests the venue will accommodate, that’s the beginning of splitting up the guest count," she explains.

And when it comes to choosing extended family members to put on the final list, Weiss understands that this is a delicate part of the process. "Often the couple doesn’t even know some of the extended family (due to distance or lack of past family events). These relatives are mostly 'obligated' guests and the parents feel it may cause issues if they are not included," she says.

Here, Weiss helps us unpack how to decide who to invite, and who not to invite—and how to navigate family dynamics along the way.

Make a List—and Some Rules

It might feel really difficult (and sort of strange) to list out family members by level of importance, but when it comes to making a concise guest list, you'll have to do this, especially if you have a large extended family. "Start by listing extended family by importance. In many cases, the couple is close to cousins their own age which could be a 'rule'—only same or close-in-age cousins are invited," suggests Weiss. "The 'great' relatives, like great aunts or uncles, could be on the B-list, especially if you have never met them. However, aunts and uncles are important; immediate brothers and sisters of the parents should be on the A-list!" she explains.

Keep in mind that if you're dividing potential guests into A and B-lists, ensure that you consider the timing of sending out save-the-dates. "Avoid sending those you are not sure of a save-the-date so you leave your options open," warns Weiss.

Be Open With Parents and In-Laws

It's likely that if you're considering whether or not to invite lots of extended family members, your parents or in-laws might be involved in the discussion—or have some strong opinions about who should make the list. When it comes to having a productive discussion about the guest list, Weiss recommends showing your parents and/or in-laws how the list is coming along before you even get to extended family members.

"Show your parents how you split the list starting with your friends! Parents will be surprised how that fills up the spaces quickly," says Weiss. "Then, make sure it’s fair between the parents and start your discussions. Be as organized with the list for your presentation as possible. And be sure to have the conversation about a B-list. Having that ready can help ease some concerns," she says.

Limit Plus-Ones

If you decide to invite certain extended family members who you may not be super close with, keep in mind that you can continue to keep the guest list count low by not giving them a plus-one option. "When you need to cut headcount, think about 'no ring, no bring,'" suggests Weiss. "If someone isn’t formally attached, cut the plus ones."

Remember That It's a Personal Choice

Lastly, Weiss emphasizes that creating the guest list and choosing who will attend your wedding is such a personal choice. Try to keep in mind that this is your big day, and as long as you maintain open communication with your parents, in-laws, and partner, you will find a way to create the guest list that makes the most sense for your big day.

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