Aside from the location, dresses and wedding themes, the guest list is one of the most stressful parts of wedding planning. It can be fractious, cause arguments, hurt people, annoy others and generally be more trouble than it’s worth.

Wedding guest lists are the sole reason why some couples elope, that’s how troublesome it can be!

However, if you’re planning your own wedding, tackling the guest list shouldn’t fill you with dread. This article should help you manage the list and offer some useful advice on how to handle guests and family members alike.

Need to know

Once you’re wearing your engagement ring and have told your nearest and dearest, don’t tell anyone else anything about the wedding itself until you’re ready. You can of course include close family as you’re going to invite those anyway. Everyone else is going to have to wait.

Before even thinking about guests, you’re going to need to decide on what type of wedding you want if you haven’t already. What kind of wedding is it going to be? How big is it going to be? Where is it going to be? How many people will the ceremony venue hold? How many can the reception venue comfortably cater for? And most importantly, how many guests will your budget allow you to have?

All those questions will need to be answered before you tell anyone else about what’s going on.

Divide guests equally

Depending on family circumstances, it’s usual to divide the total number of guest places in two and the bride and groom take half each. Not all families will fill a big list, some families will be larger, or smaller than others so this isn’t set in stone.

Some parents will have divorced and have their own families. Their guest allocation should then be divided between the respective families as you see fit. If you want them there keep it equal. If you don’t, don’t. It’s your wedding, have it your way.

Dividing guests equally between the bride and groom is not only fair, it also avoids conflict. It can avoid conflict between bride and groom, friends and family. If people aren’t being invited, you can say that the guest list has been split fairly and there simply isn’t room. While the uninvited may not like it, they can’t argue the logic.

Have a plan B

Most wedding planners will suggest having an “A” list and a “B” list of guests. This is a good idea as long as none of your guests ever find out which list they were on!

It’s usual to have guests invited who cannot attend. We all have busy lives and lots of priorities competing for our time. It’s normal to have anything up to 20% failure rate on a big wedding, so don’t take it personally. This is where the “B” list comes in.

Although, don’t make the mistake the bride and groom of a wedding we held recently made. They pencilled each invite with an A or a B and wrote them in advance to save time.

The intention was to remove the A or B before they sent each individual invite. Only they forgot and sent the invites with the marks still on them. The guests soon figured it out and began making quite a fuss!

Have a plan B

Traditionally, engagement party guests will also be your wedding guests. Try not to invite anyone you won’t be sending wedding invitations to. It creates expectation and can cause problems you don’t need. It’s much better to invite someone to your wedding and not the engagement party than the other way round!

Other than that one caveat there are no hard and fast rules about the guest list. Just invite your family, friends and anyone else you want to share the good news with.

Specify names on invites

It used to be the norm to just use “Plus one” on guest invites. In most cases that is perfectly acceptable. That is until one of your friends or family invites someone unsuitable like an ex, or someone the family doesn’t get on with. Never underestimate people’s ability to cause trouble either on purpose or accidentally.

Therefore, it really benefits you to put all relevant names on the invites.

RSVP date

Include an RSVP date on each invite too. Wedding planning is stressful enough without wondering whether guests are coming or not. Or having to chase them to find out. Including a cut-off date for an RSVP is the logical thing to do to make the planning process easier.

If you do need to dip into your “B list” those guests are going to need sufficient time to plan their own attendance. So make the RSVP date a realistic one.

Say no when you need to

The other main challenge with guest list planning is handling conflict. In almost every wedding we have ever assisted with, there has always been some kind of issue with the guest list. It’s just the way it is.

It is important to remember than your wedding is exactly that. YOUR wedding. You will need to support each other as a couple and stand firm on denying requests for more guests, changes to your list and other such things.

Listen to requests by all means because some might make sense, but be prepared to stand firm on your decisions. Remember, if you cave in to a request, news spreads fast and you could be quickly inundated with other changes or requests. You have enough to do already with your wedding planning without having to find space for more guests!