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So, my little brother's high school graduation party was last Saturday.

guest listIsn't he cute? (:

Anyway, we have a ton of family from out of town, so it was suuuuper fun to have everyone together at my parent's house to celebrate. There were a lot of family friends there, too–many of whom we haven't seen in for-ev-er (You probably know where this is going…).

As the evening was winding down, I was saying goodbye to a few families when family #1 says,

“See you in October!”

The problem? This particular family is not on the guest list. Then, family #2 says,

“Oh yes! We're so excited!”

They aren't on the guest list, either.

So then like, what do I do? I felt a few things:

guest listConfused

guest listStressed

guest listAwkward

guest listCrazy

Etc. etc. etc.

…but I didn't quite know how to respond verbally. I know what etiquette magazines advise, but when you're in the actual situation, it's so much more difficult to actually say it! I really don't want to hurt feelings or cause any waves!

The next day Justin and I pulled out our guest list and added and crossed out and counted and crossed out and re-counted and added and crossed out more and re-counted (so on and so forth) for what seems like eons (I literally don't even know what an eon is but I feel like it's an excessively long time).


We're trying to fix this in a number of ways:

1. No kids.

I know. I knooooow.  This one is quite possibly the trickiest one and we certainly don't want to hurt feelings, but I think it's the best route to take. It won't only save money, but it will help create the nighttime reception that we really want to have (I want the parents to be able to relax and have fun!) (: Except I know that sometimes, reactions to this type of event are less-than-pleasant.

2. Limiting plus-one's to only those who have long-term significant others.

This one is difficult, too, because it fluctuates. And how do you define “long term”? One of my friends starting dating a guy a few weeks ago–should I invite him, too?

3. Inviting our parents' friends, but not their (adult) children.

We saved nearly 30 people this way!


I honestly wish I could throw the biggest party and have every single solitary person who wants to come celebrate, but we all know that that's really not in the realm of possibility, especially with a budget! HOPEFULLY, this will keep our numbers a bit more manageable so we can still throw the best party we can!

Do you have any other tips to keep the guest list from skyrocketing out of control? OR any advice on how to respond to people that, like, assume they are invited? Or have any thoughts on adults-only receptions and how to navigate throwing them? I need massive help this week!

Have beautiful weeks!

guest list


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  • Theresa

    Hey Katie,
    We are having a small wedding and I have had to deal with much of this. When I get greetings like those above I explain that we are having a very small wedding with immediate family, most understand.
    We are also not inviting childres ect….. for the same reasons. I have found the most polite way to do things is just leave the names off the invitation. Most will get the hint, others who really want to bring so and so will bring it to your attention and ask if it is ok. I hope this helps in easing your stress :o)


    • Theresa, oh it does help, believe me! It's nice to know I'm not in this boat all by myself (: I wish you mountains of luck with all of your preparations and hopefully your guest list is EXACTLY how you want it to be. THANK YOU!!

  • Brittany

    We both had large families and on my side alone was nearly 90 first cousins! There was no way to invite all of my aunts and uncles and assume no children would come along. On our invites on the reception card we put "due to limited seating we graciously ask that children enjoy an evening at home". Yes we had some people so mad they didn't come, but on the other hand I was able to enjoy my day and not worry on how many parent's would go ahead and bring their children. We also had great feedback that it was the excuse they needed to get babysitters. Just putting it on the invites gave me so much more peace of mind that our guests knew what our situation was.

    • Hi Brittany! I agree with you–it makes me nervous to just have the names of parents (sans children) on the front and assume people will get it. I'm glad that the parents that attended your wedding had a fantastic time and–even better–that you did, too! Thanks for giving me hope that this crazy thing will work out (:

  • Kate

    Hi Katie,
    We've been running into similar problems with our wedding! The easiest way I've found to explain it, is to say, "I'm so sorry, our venue only allows ___ guests, and we've cut our guest list to the bone. I wish we could invite everyone to our wedding, but the venue and our budget have very little wiggle room. People WILL get mad, and they WILL be hurtful, but do your best to let it roll off your back. Remember that it's your wedding, and while you want to be a gracious host, it's important for you to still have the wedding you want!

    • Thanks, Kate! Isn't it nuts?! You really don't realize how many people you know and are close to until you put them all into a spreadsheet and add them up (: BEST luck to you in figuring it out!! And with all of the rest of your planning, too (although, at least to me, the rest of it doesn't seem quite as difficult)!!

  • Kirsten

    We are having to make cuts too and what I found helpful was to group people by category (ie "work people", "2nd cousins") and that way we could eliminate groups of people and not chance the "but you invited co-worker so-and-so but not me?!" grumble from the girl in the next cubicle. Actually, no, we didn't invite any co-workers. Also, just a gentle reminder that there are reasons Family #1 and Family #2 didn't make your guest list…. don't cut people you wanted to have there just to make room for family that isn't that close to you. They will get over it. Last thing (rambling, i know)…. I have been invited to many weddings and wasn't allowed to bring a plus one bc I didn't have a long term boyfriend at the time…and it SUCKED. sitting down at a table of couples…ALONE, going to rehersal dinners…ALONE,…. seriously there is nothing worse than arriving at an event that is celebrating partnership with no partner. I so wish I would have been allowed to bring a girlfriend, my brother or just SOMEONE. Seriously, I would have rather not been invited then have to attend by myself. So, just my opinion, but having been there many many times, I would suggest allowing people – long term relationship or not (really, they havent found "the one" yet and theres no worse place to single the singles out then at a wedding – a union of two people) or just don't invite them. Anyway, advice from a stranger, take what you will. 🙂

    • Oh Kirsten, I LOVE the category idea! That's really how my brain works, anyway (Justin's more alphabetical so our guest list is all in ABC order–the mix of my family, his family, my friends, and his friends drives me NUTS!!). And believe you me, I totally get you on the plus 1 (or lack of receiving one)–Justin and I have been together for like 6 years and there have been quite a few weddings over that period of time that I was invited to and he wasn't 😛 I have a pretty fortunate situation in that many of my single friends are also in the same group of friends (my sorority) so they all know each other anyway (and I mentioned it to them beforehand so they are all planning to go together!). I totally appreciate your advice though!! And literally I'm going to re-do the guest list in categorical order like, NOW! (:

  • v.n.

    Katie, This is our problem too!! As for singling out the Singles…I've been to weddings where I've been asked to not bring my boyfriend/fiance and I will be doing the same at my wedding. I've never been offended, as I'm fully aware of the hard decisions the wedding couple has to make. It's a numbers game, and to be honest, the dates that you don't know personally are going to be super bored at the wedding. period. i've been one of those +1 many times and I feel awful for taking up a space that could have been used for someone who actually wanted to be there! For my singles, or the weddings I've attended as a single, as long as there's someone else there they're acquaintances with, it will be a good time! no fear! Don't feel pressured to put the +1 on the invite unless your guest is severely anti-social and is unwilling to mingle with your other guests. Just food for thought…!

    • Thank you, v.n.! (: it's so tricky, isn't it? I love your advice–I really hope my guests are as cool with it as you are! Most of the singles are in the same group of friends (my sorority, actually), so I think it might just turn in to a fun girls' night for them, anyhow!

  • Dani

    Hi Katie!
    We had a no-children under 16 policy, a because our family, and a lot of our friends, have little children and we just said that "due to the historical nature of the property, and number contraints, we appologise that we cannot invite children under 16 to our wedding". We did make one exception, and that was my little brother who was 8, and I was not going to ask him to not come! Also, the reason we said under-16 and not 18 was because one of my sets of cousins had three over 18, and one who was just 16 and i couldn't not invite her!
    Also, it might be a different thing in the USA, but here in the UK, it is acceptable to invite people just to the ceremony and nothing else, which is what we did with a number of church friends, family friends that we just couldn't say not to, it also helped that the church was not the same place as the reception venue.
    With plus ones, we had decided that if they were long-term and that we knew about them, then we would invite them. We didn't dish out plus-1s to anyone else, this sounds really harsh, but we have a lot of single friends and I didn't really want a bunch of random strangers at my wedding, especially when I had to say no to some of my family. But I did my own seating plan and made sure that everyone was sat with at least two people that they knew, and because there were so many single people, they weren't exiled to the "singles table" there were more singles than couples really! it did help that most of our friends are from the same city and only a few were from out of the city, and those who were out of the city had partners, so that was our situation!

    I hope this helps, I mean you need to find what works for you, and I have been to a few weddings and everyone moans about how hard the guest list works, and to be honest, one of my aunts is not speaking to me because I said she couldn't bring her little ones, but i was "allowing" my brother to come! I mean how ludicrous is that! So, you might step on a few toes, but it is your wedding, and you need to do what is right for you and your groom!

    Look forward to seeing more posts!

  • Elizabeth

    I have run into this, too. It's incredibly frustrating. We actually had a (non immediate) family member say, "I can't wait! I hope I get an invitation." Um… what? Since when do people actually think it's ok to invite THEMSELVES to something. So. Incredibly. Irritating! I was so flabbergasted, I said nothing and walked away. I wish people would not create these positively awkward moments. We've been in two other situations where we had people TELL us they were bringing dates (they are teenagers who were invited with their parents and without dates)… really!? We also had a cousin who was also invited with parents ask to bring a date. Though we hadn't planned for that, and it's still annoying, at least he'd asked politely. Assuming is NOT ok!

    Bottom line, it's tough to stick to your guns. I've said things like, "We need to look at our guest list, we're not sure yet if that will be possible."

  • Molly

    Hi Katie!

    I'm suffering with the exact same problem! We have two very large families and, in the end, I also had to cut a number of fairly good friends to keep our wedding at its 100 person size. This was really hard for me and actually resulted in a few tears and some of the first stresses of wedding planning. Finally, a good friend sat me down when I was awkwardly telling her of all our friends I had cut and she said "People are happy for you and understand. Those that matter don't care if they aren't invited and those that care don't matter." Its so cliche, but I really think people will understand. I'm on a tight budget bc both my fiance and I are in graduate school and he felt very strongly that family (at least aunts and uncles and some cousins) should be invited. We also sent an email out to people explaining that we understood our wedding was somewhat expensive (he's from the south, I'm from the north) to travel to and stay at, so that there would be no hard feelings if his family couldn't come (a polite way of gently encouraging cousins to decline).

    Also, we did not children & as for the "long term" we set the rule of 1 year or more though my sister has done "no ring, no bring". Just be universal about it without exceptions so feelings aren't hurt.

  • Alexis

    I define "long term" together-ness, as 2 or more years together, living together, married, or have children together (and are still together).

  • Oh thank you, Dani! I truly appreciate your advice; it was so kind! (: I kind of have a similar thing going on with the invitees without significant others that you had–so many of them know each other already that I just plan on seating them all together, anyway. I'm so glad that that worked for you! And, although it's less-than-pleasant, it's nice to know I'm not the only one nervous to break the news about the guest list, and how very nice of you to "allow" your little BROTHER to come to your wedding!!

    Oh… people sometimes, right?

    Thank you!

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