12 Ways to Keep Wedding Guest Numbers (and Costs) Down Without Causing Offence

With the high and ever-rising cost of weddings today, it’s not unusual for Brides and Grooms to want as small of a guest list as possible. Each guest can cost between $100-1000 dollars, so cutting 10-20 people off your list could mean saving significantly. Aside from the cost factor why should your second cousin’s on-off again date be there when you don’t really speak to them? Also, by only inviting your nearest and dearest, you’ll avoid people saying “Yes” out of politeness then not showing up, a hurtful snub that happens to almost every couple. Yes, even though we love big weddings, we get it, there’s just no way you can invite every Tom, Dick and Harry to your wedding. Whether it’s due to financial constraints or because you just want to throw something small and intimate, you’re probably going to struggle to cut your guest list down without stepping on anybody’s toes. People can be a little bit sensitive if they think they’re being purposefully excluded, so it’s best, to gather your courage and be honest and upfront about it from the very beginning.

Of course, as wedding planners, we’ve developed some courage building strategies to help our couples reduce the numbers on guest lists to something more affordable, so if you’re wondering how we do it while keeping everything cordial read on. Oh, but if you’re just looking for a company to take care of everything for you, don’t hesitate to contact us here.

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1. Have a destination wedding

One way to cut the numbers on your guest list is to have a destination wedding. Having it somewhere far from home will ensure the people closest to you, the ones that you want to have with you on your big day, will come while the less important ones may send apologies. It’s true that some guests will use your wedding’s foreign location as an excuse for a holiday, others may not have the financial capability or leave time from work.

2. Only invite your current friends

If you find that you haven’t really contacted or spoken to somebody in over five years, then you shouldn’t feel bad about giving them a miss. Being old school friends, or Facebook friends and liking their stuff occasionally is not an automatic qualifier for a wedding invitation. If you do happen to be fond of them, then, by all means, invite them, but don’t feel obliged by history.

3. Make it a family-only affair

If you want to keep it really, really small – just make it a family-only affair. No one will fault you for not inviting them if you’ve only invited your family. You can always throw a more affordable party in celebration of your marriage and invite everyone you know. Having family only at the ceremony may not be for everyone - you may have some really dear friends that you want to have there. If this is the case, maybe you can extend it to family only and three of your dearest friends on each side.

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4. Don’t invite someone just because they invited you

Maybe you’re trying to be polite and return the favour, but really, you don’t have to! The only people you should consider inviting in this area are those whose weddings you have attended in the last year. Just because someone invited you to their ceremony at some point in the past 10 years does not automatically qualify them for a spot on your shrinking guest list.

5. Be firm about how many people your family can invite

Parents might get a little carried away. They’re incredibly proud that their baby is getting married and they may want everyone, including the gardener, to witness the big day. Make sure you provide your parents with a very specific limit on how many people they’re allowed to invite.

6. Have an “A” list and a “B” list

If you don’t want to flat out deny people, the best way to reduce numbers is to invite the maximum amount of people you can afford to host then pray that a good number of them decline. Make sure you send out your priority list (A-list) first. This list includes the people that you’re really hoping won’t come. Once you receive those first apologies, you should begin to send out invites to your B-list. This might not be the best way to reduce the list but it can certainly help with keeping the numbers down. Keep in mind that the A and B list concept can be socially risky if you time them incorrectly and mix people up so be aware of who is part of which social group.

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7. Be clear – and firm – about who can bring a date

There’s a hard and fast rule when it comes to providing “plus ones” to your family and friends. You must invite any significant others who live together or who have been together for a long time. For example, if your friend has been with her boyfriend for three years, you should provide a +1 for him, even if you have never met him. But you can tell all your friends (without guilt) that you won’t be inviting anybody that’s been together for less than a year.

8. Say no to friends bringing friends along

If you’ve given out a plus one and your friend can’t bring her significant other for whatever reason, don’t say that it’s okay to bring a friend instead. Detract that invitation. No, it’s not harsh or tacky – you’re trying to keep the list down and you don’t need random people coming.

9. No children

This one seems a little bit witchy, but unless the children are wedding party participants like a ring bearer or flower girl, ask the parents to leave them at home. In case you didn’t know, you have to pay for kids just like you pay for adults. If all of your family bring their 2-3 kids along, that cost is going to rack up quickly. A good way to avoid offense with this is to break the news by communicating that you want them to be able to be fully present and enjoy the day themselves. Most people want to relax and enjoy the celebrations, not have to think about supervision and tantrums during the ceremony so they’ll quickly see the value of your request.

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Photo gratefully credited to: Playback Studios

10. No work invites

You’re not obligated to invite people at work unless they’re a good friend of yours. Oftentimes, guest lists are blown up by couples that mean well and don’t want to exclude any of the people they report to at work. But you really don’t have to do this. In all honesty, they are likely to have their own busy lives happening outside of the office. Secretly, they may end up being glad you haven’t invited them.

11. Be honest and upfront

If you can’t invite people for financial reasons, be upfront with them and let them know. Nobody worth your time is going to be angry or upset with you for not inviting them if your funds simply won’t allow it. Let them know that it doesn’t mean you’re not fond of them, you simply can’t afford to invite everyone.

12. Throw a picnic or party for those not invited

As a follow-up to #11, you can throw a little picnic or get together and invite those that couldn’t come to the wedding. If you had just your family for the ceremony, you’ll probably want to have a big party and invite all of your friends! They’ll definitely appreciate the gesture and will enjoy celebrating with you.

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If you’re stressed about planning your wedding, don’t hesitate to contact us at Botanica Weddings. We’re looking forward to taking some of the stress of your shoulders and making the process as relaxed and enjoyable as it should be. We know a lot about weddings and are here to offer you our expertise.