How to Tastefully Navigate Your Wedding Guest B-List

Escort Cards with Floral Arrangement

Photo by Carrie Patterson Photography

It’s so exciting to dream about celebrating your marriage with your closest family and friends. Less exciting, though, is actually making the guest list. Even if you’re trying to keep your wedding small, there are always a few people you wish you could invite but can't, because it could mean going overcapacity at your venue or over budget.

So what’s a couple to do? Create a B-List. It’s a little tricky, but with some extra prep on the front end, you’ll be able to navigate it without any faux pas. Just follow these expert tips to make it a whole lot easier.

wedding guest b list etiquette

Alison Czinkota/Brides

1. Decide on a B-List early

If you think you might need to separate your guest list into an A-List and B-List, make that decision as soon as possible. This will give you time to decide who is on which list, as well as figure out arrangements for invitations and RSVP deadlines.

2. Organize intentionally

More than just making a B-List, you’ll want to organize it in order of priority, putting those who just didn’t make the cut at the top, and those who would be nice to have toward the bottom. Hanna Ramleth, event producer at Posh+Folk, explains: “For example, if 10 people from your A-List RSVP ‘no,’ you’ll want to know who the first 10 people on the B-List are, so you can send them an invitation.”

Meet the Expert

Hanna Ramleth is the event producer at Posh+Folk, a full-service event planning and design firm in the San Francisco Bay Area.

3. Keep close friends and family on the same list

The last thing you want is a couple of friends comparing when they were invited and figuring out that they may have been on the B-List. Decide what qualifies someone for the A-List versus the B-List, and apply that logic across the board to keep things consistent and groups together.

4. Send invitations early

Etiquette states that the RSVP deadline should be around three weeks before your wedding date, with invitations getting mailed six to eight weeks in advance (giving guests plenty of time to check their calendars and mail back their RSVP cards). If you have a B-List, though, using that timing for your A-List means B-List guests could get their invitations after the RSVP deadline has passed. Mail your A-List invitations around 12 weeks in advance, which will give you plenty of time to see who can’t make it and get those B-List invites in the mail.

5. Have two sets of RSVP cards

Of course, you’ll want the RSVP deadline to match up with the timeline of the invitation. Print two sets to make this easier. The first, going out with the A-List invitations, should have an RSVP deadline around eight weeks before your wedding (giving guests four weeks to receive and reply to your invitation). The second, going out with the B-List invitations, should have an RSVP deadline around three weeks before your wedding (lining up with traditional etiquette and still giving you plenty of time to get a count to the venue and/or caterer).

6. Mail all the B-List invites at once

Choose a date as the deadline for adding B-List guests to your “invited” list, and mail all of those B-List invitations on the same day. This will help you keep track of whom you’ve added, as well as ensure that invitations are arriving in a more timely and predictable manner. Even if you find out two weeks later you’ve got five more spots you could fill, leave it be. It’s those straggling invitations that go out a week before the RSVP deadline that will tip your guests off to the multiple guest lists.

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