The time between the Christmas holidays and Valentine's Day is the busiest for people to get engaged to be married. But once that bliss fades away, it's time to plan the wedding. The average U.S. wedding has at least 175 guests. How do you know who to invite, who not to invite and how to properly get the invitations out? Peggy Post, author of “Emily Post's Wedding Etiquette,” visited “Weekend Today” to share tips for compiling your wedding guest list. Here's an excerpt from the fifth edition of her book:
Nuts and Bolts: The Guest List
What constitutes a guest list? A guest list consists of a magical number of family and friends that (1) suits the size of your ceremony and reception sites, (2) corresponds with the level of intimacy desired for the wedding, and (3) can be accommodated within your wedding budget — an important reality.
How many guests can each family invite?
Traditionally each family is allotted half of the desired total guest count, a ﬁgure largely determined by the person hosting the wedding. A way of starting the process is to combine four lists, which when combined become the master list. Start with lists from the bride, the groom, the bride’s parents, and the groom’s parents. It is necessary that everyone make up their lists realistically. As acceptances and regrets become known, the “weights” of the lists may vary.
Don’t forget these guests:
Must Be Invited
- The spouse, ﬁancé, or live-in partner of each invited guest — even if you’ve never met
- The person who performs the ceremony, and his or her spouse
- The parents of ring bearers and ﬂower girls
Nice to Include
- The parents of the bridesmaids. It’s a nice gesture when feasible, especially when the bride knows them well.
Not Necessary, but Meaningful, to Include
- Counselors, advisers, or mentors to the bride or groom who are not close friends but who have been an important part of their lives.
Should children and guests of guests be invited? It’s a personal decision. Your budget and the size of your reception site play a role. Neither inclusion is necessary, but both necessitate “proper etiquette,” meaning consideration and sensitivity.
Who should be invited to a destination wedding? It’s more difficult for people to attend a destination wedding, so your guest list will likely be limited to immediate family and closest friends. Even then, some may not be able to attend.
Should fewer guests be invited to an encore wedding? It’s up to you. Some encore couples prefer to limit the guest list at the ceremony and reception to close family and friends and to enjoy a later, larger get-together. Keeping the guest list short is considerate of guests who may have attended (and purchased a gift for) your ﬁrst wedding. Other couples plan the large and elaborate celebration they’ve always dreamed of. As a general guideline, invite those you couldn’t imagine getting married without.
What if a good number of guests send their regrets? Be prepared. Wedding industry experts predict that 15 to 20 percent of invited guests send regrets. That means if you are planning to have 150 guests, invite 170 to 180 people. (Some people are more comfortable estimating a 10 percent margin for regrets.) Prior commitments, illness, and unseen circumstances will likely prevent more people from attending than you expect. Talk to your reception site manager to ensure that a few additional guests can be accommodated if more than 150 attend. This approach is far better than creating A and B lists of guests, the B list guests being sent invitations only after those on the A list send regrets. The potential for people discovering this and feeling hurt is too great.
Is there any way to categorize the guest list? Yes. It’s a good idea to do this, so that if (or when) the guest list must be trimmed, clear distinctions can be made. Ask each family to identify their lists in the following way:
- First tier: immediate family (parents, siblings, grandparents, the couple’s own children)
- Second tier: extended family members (aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews)
- Third tier: family friends (parents’ close friends, longtime friends and neighbors, childhood friends and their parents if close to you)
- Fourth tier: bride and groom’s friends, in further tiers of closeness to you (childhood friends, high school and college friends, work friends, new friends)
- Fifth tier: parents’ colleagues (associates, employers, employees)
Of course, these guidelines should be based upon what makes sense in your case. Any planning must be adapted to your situation. If you and your ﬁancé are established professionally, perhaps marrying for a second or third time, you will probably be paying for all or most of the wedding yourselves. Perhaps your wedding will take place far from your hometown or where your parents live. Under any of these circumstances, it could make sense to switch the third and fourth tiers.
Trimming an Overambitious Guest List
Your invitation guest list can be pared down in a number of thoughtful ways, including the following:
Excerpted from “Emily Post's Wedding Etiquette, 5e” by Peggy Post. Copyright © 2005, Peggy Post. All rights reserved. Published by . No part of this excerpt can be used without permission of the publisher.