Before You Create Your Wedding Guest List, Read This

Dining table at an outdoor wedding reception/dinner party. Table is complete with place settings, flower arrangements and gold decor with number seven.

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When I got engaged, my mother presented me with a completed Excel spreadsheet of 145 "must-invites" along with addresses and the appropriate salutations less than 48 hours after my fiancé proposed. True story. And I know I'm not the only bride who has faced a headcount dilemma.

Your wedding budget increases exponentially with your guest list—you have to feed and water all of those people. And send invitations. And buy or make favors. Not to mention that you need a venue that can hold all of your guests. Size matters, especially when you're looking at 50 guests versus 250. Here's how to create the tightest list possible.

Determine Your Ideal Wedding Size

If you only want to invite family, do it. It's your choice. Let your friends know right out of the gate that you'll be having an intimate ceremony with only immediate family. Although some may be disappointed, they can't actually feel hurt about being left out. If you want to have a massive wedding, you should start out planning on a big budget.

Split the Guest List Multiple Ways

Theoretically, once you've established a headcount you believe you can afford, you have to split it in quarters. Both sets of parents should be allowed to invite a specific number of guests. Family should be included in that headcount. It's only fair because if one of you comes from an enormous family, that side of the guest list will totally eclipse the other. If you want it that way, it's your prerogative. But weddings tend to be more fun when they're balanced.

Make a Decision About Extended Family Members

You have to decide how far out into the extended family you want to go—if you invite your aunts and uncles, you have to invite all of them. If you invite your first cousins, you should invite all of them. And so on. Big families can kill your budget. If you're close, you have to figure out a way to make it work. If not, be ruthless with the red pen on your list.

Limit Co-Worker Invites

Don't invite more people from your office than you absolutely have to. It's appropriate to invite your boss, but you can't invite only half of a team you work closely with if you don't want to hurt somebody's feelings. Sometimes you cannot get around this.

Be Specific About Plus-Ones

You do not have to let every single guest bring a date. You should automatically include any fiancés, live-in partners, or long-term boyfriends and girlfriends you regularly socialize with, but you are under no obligation to let anybody bring his or her flavor of the month.

Sandy Malone is the owner of Sandy Malone Weddings & Events and author of How to Plan Your Own Destination Wedding: Do-It-Yourself Tips from an Experienced Professional. She was the star of TLC’s “Wedding Island” where she planned and coordinated weddings on Vieques Island in the Caribbean.

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