Thursday, June 17, 2010

Guest List Hell

  • Jason's draft invitation list: 145
  • My draft invitation list: 93
  • Total draft invitation list: 238 
  • Current, edited down, invitation list: 202
  • Our (hopeful) venue's capacity and our line-in-the-sand budgetary limit: 150
  • Our backup venue's capacity (and no, we're not going to discuss the budget about that one): 130
  • People who thought this would be easier and smaller since we're paying for the shindig ourselves and presumably that would make family politics easier and guest lists smaller: 1
  • People who clearly underestimated their partner's family size and close friend circles: 1
  • People who are actively worried about the possibility that more than 150 people on the 202 invitation list will accept our invitation, despite a large number of out-of-town guests: 1
  • People who have issues with uncertainty and lack-of-control when it comes to event planning: 1
  • People who are spending far too much time dealing with the other partner's stresscase hysteria: 1
  • People who wish they'd had the opportunity to meet more important people from their partner's guest list so the wedding doesn't feel like a giant meet-and-greet but actually feels like a communal celebration: 2
  • People who are fed up with guest list negotiations: 2


    1. I'm sorry, I didn't catch that. I was experiencing a terrible flashback consisting of a 3 hour stalemate on the couch with my fiance in front of an excel spreadsheet full of unrecognizeable (to me) names and a vague sound of "but my parents..." coming out of his mouth over and over and over again. Must go back and re-read.

      (That was all to say I'm quite empathetic of your situation. Hang in there.)

    2. I recognize that feeling. Good luck!

    3. Yes hell. You have to stick with 150. Is there a single group which you could not invite. Work colleagues? Seriously distant family? Harsh but maybe your only choice.

      Venue numbers are fixed. You have to be strong and cross people off. Bean and I had similar numbers and we whittled to 60ish because we wanted an intimate celebration. I promise it can be done. Mutter economic downturn and venue numbers and big family.

    4. I had a similar terror thinking about our guest list. We had a smaller one to begin with at 130, but we had a limit of 100 people at the ceremony site. And you know what? Only 90 people showed up because so many of the out-of-towners couldn't make it.

      Here is something that actually worked pretty accurately for us, and helped me not freak out quite so much: I made a list in Excel with everyone's names and addresses. Next to their name(s) make one column ("column A") and fill that in with the number of people in the group. In the next column ("column B"), indicate how likely that group is to come from 0-1, so if there is a 50% chance, put .5, or if they are certain to come, put a 1, etc. Then, in the next column (column C), make a formula for the number of people times the likelihood [ =(columnA)*(columnB)]. Now sum column C and you have an approximate number of attendees. And in the interim when you talk to people about whether you think they will be coming and they say "Yes! Or we'll see, but...", you can go back to the list and fiddle with their likelihood again. It doesn't solve anything, but it does soothe a planner's angst (a little.)

    5. Eeek! What a mess invite lists are. We thought we had ours all settled and then BAM - insert family drama and we are back to negotiating! poopy.

      I'm the same way and can not deal with uncertainty and was gripped with fear that too many people would RSVP yes. While I used to be against it, can you do the list A and list B? It feels shitty to rank people...but it might help reduce the stress.

    6. If it makes you feel any better, we invited 198 (most of whom are out-of-towners), and only 112 are coming. And we're awesome people.

    7. Oh girl!! How I totally remember this part of our planning process! We had a guest list of 300 people! We cut out all the children (except for family members and a few very close friends). Then we cut out some out of town people that weren't family and some local people that we placed on a B list.

      The final number of people who were invited came in around 245 total. We ended up having a budget and venue space limit of 202 people. I was fully stressed that we were going to go over and 1) have to come up with more money and 2) have to put people outside on a patio instead of inside the reception room! Especially when people I had not even planned on coming from out of town started telling us how excited they were to attend!

      In the end, it all worked out because we had enough no responses that I was even able to add some last minute guests to our list the week of the wedding! The final numbers came in around 195 and I honestly think there was probably only about 185 to 190 who actually showed up. We had 1 couple not show at all and then 2 couples who only came for the ceremony and then left for whatever reason.

      I am sure it will work out...just breathe through it. Plan for the worst and hope for the best.

      Btw, is the '1' person in all of those items above YOU? ;)

    8. and by list A and B i meant sending out a batch of invites to those on list A. Then, for all from list A that RSVP no, you can move into list B and invite from that list.

      Would that maybe work?

      And its probably a good idea that list A and B people don't really know each other so that they don't find out they were on the B list...

    9. Wow, sounds exactly like me and Ryan's guest list back-and-forth. I wish I could tell you something to make you feel better...but all I've got is "I'm there."

    10. Guest list decisions were the worst. We basically grouped our guest list into 1 (guarantee they're coming), 0.5 (maybe they'll come), and 0 (we'd love them to come, but they won't). This we used to assess our numbers and has been pretty accurate. Just over half of our maybes thus far have been yeses, but there's some 1's that became no's (i.e. they live in the city our wedding is in but have something else that day) so it worked out.

      If you do cut people (either your friends or your parent's friends, etc.) make it clear to everyone with guest list input so the issue of "why wasn't X invited?" doesn't come up. That's been our biggest challenge, but at least I saved all of those e-mails so I could copy and paste something that was a year old.

    11. YES.

      josh wanted to invite people that he hadn't seen since grade school, i swear.

      when's the venue's deadline to get their act together? maybe guest list decisions can be postponed until you figure out the venue issue.

    12. what tamar said is true, too. we organized our list that way as well- and it came out pretty accurate.

    13. it's funny how many friends we suddenly have now that we're approaching the wedding. I've come to realize every person we hang out with between now and the wedding will ask "where's my invite?"... even if this is the first time we've seen them in 8 months and it's just because they're fixing our car. I feel ya, girl.

    14. I don't know why I thought WE were going to be the ones without guest list angst. What part of "laid back get together" does my guest list not understand?

    15. Sounds like you two need to get out and have a drink and either vent about the guest list to a couple that understands your frustration, or just have a night away from the guest list all together.

    16. The amazing part is all the people we DIDN'T include on the first draft lists. Honestly, he just has a big family and a lot of close-knit groups of friends he's actually kept in touch with. Which is great, until you start dealing with guest lists. And the family politics thing has been really surprising. I shudder to think how much worse it would have been if they were helping pay.

      @stephanove @tamar - oh good. we've been trying a similar system of ranking yes/no/maybe likelihood. It's calming to know it might be remotely accurate.

      @Jen - the issues is the group overlaps, I'm afraid. The A and B list idea doesn't seem to really work for us.

      @Davanie - hahahaha. My "laid back get together" guest list angst feels your pain.

    17. Oof. I feel you. We also thought we'd avoid trouble by paying ourselves and not inviting parents' friends, etc. And it still took not inviting a ton of our own friends we'd like to invite to get down to the 150 line . . .

      And we were still planning for a sizeable number of no's, since our rain plan has a space limit and we've been building our budget with an eye towards about 100-120 people. We thought that was a safe bet, based on our one-by-one projections of who would come and the fact that everyone will have to fly btw 4 and 18 hours to get to our wedding. But so far, everyone we didn't expect to come is coming, and it's looking like we may only have 5 declines.

      . . . which is awesome, and I'm so grateful. But also terrifyied for the budget. (So I guess what I'm saying is be careful if the 150/130 is a hard limit -- your invitees may well surprise you.)

    18. 1. This too shall pass.
      2. Get goal oriented - you need to cut your list down by another 50 people. Get a bottle of wine, the list, and go for it.
      3.Instead of thinking (which leads to madness) how are we going to get this list down, think, what 50 people can we cut?
      4.Your wedding is going to be wonderful, I promise. And you know it. :-)

    19. Sending good guest list vibes. Whittling is really hard. You just want to share your joy with everyone! I know I do.

    20. This is where the Miss Manners formula falls flat: First make a guest list (ideally "everyone who would take joy from seeing you married", then a venue you can afford (ideally someone's house), then figure out what you can afford to feed them (ideally cake and punch).

      Because if you further follow her recommendations around guestlists, she is very emphatic about inviting family and important family friends. And really, if we invited everyone we and our parents condsidered family or important family friends? We'd be up to 400 people. With no venue in our area large enough to host them... and those that are large enough require you to buy a fully catered dinner.

      You can't win for trying. Seriously. It's, like, the only flaw in her books... but it's a big one.

    21. Oh, no. Oh, no.

      I too second (or third, or fourth, or whatever) the whole "ranking likelihood of RSVPing yes" practice. We've done it to get a more accurate hold on our budget. And while our RSVPs haven't begun rolling in yet, we feel fairly confident that we won't be too surprised.

      Granted, the beau has a really small family of mostly old people who cannot travel to our wedding. So that totally helped whittle our numbers down to manageable. Still. It's hard to draw that line, especially when people you used to be close with, years ago, but have currently drifted away from are emailing you to say, "You better invite me!" Um, say what?

      Strength. I wish you strength.

    22. Making our guest list was the most tense thing we navigated in this process. I really wanted something intimate, with only people I knew (excluding family I hadn't met of course) and he wanted to invite everyone and their uncle.

      We figured it out and you and Jason will too. Like Anna said above, venue limits are venue limits. It's not pretty or easy, but it does make for a good excuse when you are hit with the inevitable where's my invite question.

      Hang in there!

    23. Oy vey! My fiance has a family filled with cousins and uncles who aren't even related: he's just Italian and that's what they do! Thankfully, my own family is very, very small, but I empathize. Good luck!

    24. Oh, I feel this on so many levels. Finding where to draw the line for invites is so very difficult.

      We've taken to drawing arbitrary lines: This entire group gets invited; this entire group does not. That way we hope to minimize hurt feelings.

    25. It's precisely posts like this that give me hives thinking about starting planning our wedding...sigh. I should probably start preparing myself.

    26. Oh dear, how terrifying.

      We're doing 50 people for the Aussie wedding (mostly family with our very closest friends), and 100 in Ireland (also mostly family with a few friends).

      I can't imagine having that many people. I am stressing just thinking about it.

    27. Ooh nice layout!

      We did something similar to what Tamar did (I went to grad school abroad so my friends were literally all over the world).

      We actually have a guest list that grew at the very end. I was strong about not having a lot of random family. Our initial number invited - 190, expected - 120, came - 150 (due to last minute concessions to mom).

      Just keep on going back to the list. Cut out kids. Nix partners that aren't serious (aka random dates). Sigh, I don't know what else to say dear but breathe and believe it can be done (perhaps with a few drinks and more negotiations).

    28. Sorry, Becca. I have no good advice for this.

      We cried, fought, pouted, stomped and shouted our way through the guest list. You'll widdle your way through it somehow. Ok, I lie. You may also take a machete and chop your way through, too. Good luck! Trust me, it gets better.

    29. So an idea I've heard about and will use when deciding my list is this:
      Start small and work your way out.
      So you start with two.
      then add the most important people as if you are having a courthouse wedding or a very small wedding.
      So siblings, then parents, then bestest best friends (the ones that are your maid of honor/ best man) then the best friends that are your that are your wedding party.
      Then it gets difficult, I probably won't go any further than that.. unless I invite grandparents too.

      so then your parents immediate family, Then friends you see the most often and so on.
      Maybe that would make it easier to list people that way.
      Start small (so you don't miss the MOST important) and work your way larger until you reach 150.

      I hope that makes sense!

    30. If you invite 200, you'll be fine with a 150 hall. We invited 170 or something, and ended up with 110. Which sucked. As did the economy.

      In retrospect, the guest list always ends up the most stressful, and the thing you should just brush off. Which I didn't. But whatever. I look through wedding pictures and ask, "Who is that again?" But you know what? They were really important to someone, and they took nothing away from my experance of the day.

      So you're probably fine. Unless you need to do the backup venue, and then you should probably shave off 25 people or so.

    31. yes it is such a challenge, isn't it? when I got married, we were still going back and forth over the guest list even days before the wedding!


    I love active conversations, including (civil) disagreement. I don't love spam or people who use internet anonymity to be rude and disparaging. Spam and rudeness will be deleted.