Your first order of business when planning your wedding is to finalize your guest list – and sometimes, this is actually the hardest part! Not only do you and your fiancé need to decide who you want to witness your special day, but you also need to consider family obligations, who your parents want to invite, and etiquette rules, all within the confines of your wedding budget and venue capacity. Luckily, there are a few wedding guest list rules that should put your mind at ease. Remember: There are few people you are required to invite. At the end of the day, your wedding day should be filled with friends and family who make you happy and are happy for you!
Read on to discover the people you don't need to invite, as well as the people who should receive an invitation. Once the invites are in the mail, breathe a sigh of relief, cross that item off your to-do list, and have confidence in your selections!
Wedding invitations are not "payback" or sent out of obligation just because you were invited to their wedding or another formal event. If you're not very close anymore or you are trying to keep the wedding small, no need to add them to your guest list just to repay the favor.
If you are actually friends with a few of your coworkers and see them socially outside of work, go ahead and invite them. However, don't feel as though you must include everyone (including your boss). Just keep wedding talk to a minimum at the office to avoid any hurt feelings or awkwardness – and while you're at it, limit posts on social media about the wedding if you're friends on Facebook, Instagram, etc. with coworkers who weren't invited.
Gay, interfaith, interracial, and even marriages between young people sometimes bring out the worst in acquaintances who don't approve of the union. People who don't support you and your fiancé (and may even be disruptive during the celebration) have no place on your guest list. Why allow negative energy to permeate this special day? Populate your wedding with loved ones who are excited for you, not judgmental.
This obviously depends on your cultural practices – in many traditions, everyone the newlyweds and their parents know is invited to attend. But if your guest list isn't influenced by cultural norms, and you see names on your parents' lists that you're not comfortable with, it's time to have a talk with them. Go over their list and discuss who you're not comfortable inviting and why. While you shouldn't feel forced to invite anyone, your parents will appreciate being able to have a few of their friends at the celebration (especially if they're footing the bill!). So figure out a compromise everyone can live with.
It's rude to invite people to a pre-wedding event (especially one that includes gifts!) and then not invite them to the wedding itself. The only exception is an office bridal shower. Anyone else who helped you celebrate before the big day should be welcome at the event.
This is a tricky one. If you have a friend who won't be able to attend – say, she has a work event she can't get out of – sending an invite anyway can come across like you're fishing for gifts. However, they might feel hurt if you don't formally invite them and want to have the invitation as a keepsake. So, send invites to those you genuinely would love to have at your wedding no matter what, like family and close friends. And you never know – they might end up being able to go after all!
Imagine your friend's confusion and disappointment when she receives a save-the-date card in the mail, but never gets an actual invitation. It doesn't matter if your wedding budget changed, your large venue fell through, or you decided to replace some guests with others – it's incredibly rude to tell someone they'll be invited and then take it back. Do not send out save the dates until you have finalized your guest list, because everyone who gets a save the date gets a wedding invitation. Of course, the pandemic altered this for couples who were forced to cut their guest list down to honor regulations and restrictions. There are certainly exceptions, but generally, the advice above holds true.
Weddings are governed by so many traditions and family obligations that it can be easy to forget that this day is all about you and what makes you happy. Invite anyone who would bring a smile to your face as you're walking down the aisle: old friends you don't get to see often, your mom's best friend, a mentor from a old job, even a former teacher. Let your wedding truly be a celebration of you and your fiancé and your journey to "I do."
For more wedding guest advice, discover tips on how to have a guest list you won't regret, find out the best way to accommodate guests at a destination wedding, and see the worst wedding guests and how to deal with them.
Opening photo by Roey Yohai Studios; From Real Wedding: Romantic New York Real Wedding with Upscale Summer Camp Feel