Ah, yes. The age-old question of who should be in attendance for the biggest day of your life. For some this may come easy, but speaking from experience, it can also be a challenge.
You’ve found the venue that your princess bride has been dreaming of since she was a little girl. Date works, location works… capacity? Not so much. Let the cuts begin.
Obviously, you have certain family obligations to uphold (whether you actually like the person or only your daddy does and he’s writing the check). So uncles with elaborate comb-overs aside, make a reasonable agreement with whoever is splitting the bill. Give them a table of friends and a couple of tables for family. If they are kind enough to throw some money your way, hopefully they can be persuaded that it’s your day (not theirs).
It may help you to separate guests into lists (A, B, C and D-efinitely not) to better visualize what you’re dealing with. Then you can move them up and down as you hone in. And maybe allot a third of the guest count each to bride’s family, groom’s family and people that you want there (friends).
Kids… Oh boy. If kids are your thing, then by all means. But this is your night to celebrate with people that understand the gravity of the event. Don’t feel bad about doing an adult-only reception. Nothing screams (well kids do) dying reception like a gaggle of caffeinated yahoos doing donuts on your dance floor. Inability to find a babysitter is not a usable excuse for people that you’re inviting. Do an across the board rule. Someone will get their feelings hurt if they see another person’s kids there.
With the cost of weddings always expanding, there is a budget angle to this question as well. For just food, you may be looking around $20/person. There’s a quick way to eliminate a college acquaintance that bought you a beer at a bar once. And that’s just the food per guest. You also have to consider seating, bar, cake, ceremony capacity, reception capacity and more. Each of these details is on a sliding scale of price affected by the number of people you invite. It’s easy to think, “Oh that’s just $5 more per guest.” Well in going from $20 to $25/guest with a guest count of 150, you just upped the cost $750. Easy there cowboy.
Plus ones are usually safe to give to people that have been in a relationship for over a year. If you both know the person’s plus one and you like them, then invite them (why are we even still talking about them?).
There are many tools out there that can help you down this path. Obviously, everyone’s priorities are different but this infographic has a box that we like. “Will they tear up the dance floor and add a ton of fun to your wedding?” I mean what are we here for? You’ve hired a DJ, allotted the time for dancing and then you got everyone drunk. Let’s do this!
In the end, you almost have to adapt a sense of ruthless rationalization. The fact is that this is your day, your (parents’) money and your memories for the rest of your life. Make the guest list count.