Probably no other part of wedding planning causes as much frustration and ill-will as the guest list. Just who will be present to bear witness to the big event is something that no family has ever been able to totally agree on. Sure there are those fairy-tale weddings where money is no object, but even those weddings have their limits. More often than not, it is the case that some of the prospective guests never actually make it onto the final guest list. And you know what? As devastating as it may seem at the time, it really isn’t the end of the world for those who don’t get invited.
When should the couple put together the guest list? Although it doesn’t have to be set in stone, a fairly approximate head count is needed early on in the wedding planning stage. The number of guests invited to your wedding will have a considerable impact on your wedding budget. Remember, they’re your guests and you’ll need to accommodate each and every one of them! You’ll need a venue large enough to hold all your guests comfortably, you’ll have to feed them, they’ll need invitations, and if they’re coming from out of town, they’ll likely need overnight accommodations. With an average cost of $25 per guest for food, every 4 guests will cost approximately $100 just to feed!
But every wedding needs guests (unless you’re planning to elope) so let’s think about whom will be attending. You and your mate will be there, of course. After that, add your immediate family to the guest list. Notice I say ‘immediate’ and not ‘extended’ family. Mothers, fathers, step-parents, brothers, sisters and grandparents are absolute musts, unless personal situations dictate otherwise. According to the above estimate, you’re already spending about $300 for food just on this group! That should make you rethink your grand illusion of 250 guests!
It is tradition to have wedding attendants and they should be added to the guest list next. A maid or matron of honor and the best man are absolute minimums. From there, the number of bridesmaids and ushers is purely a personal choice. But remember, even though the attendants will be paying the costs for their attire, the number of wedding attendants will have an impact on your budget. Why? First, they’ll be at the rehearsal dinner and they’ll expect to eat for free. Second, the bride and groom traditionally give each of the attendants a gift as a way of showing their appreciation, so the more attendants, the more gifts you buy. And something that’s not always considered, a large number of attendants may increase your transportation costs.
With the basics in place, it’s time to add friends, co-workers, extended family members, your parents’ friends and business associates, your realtor, the butcher, and on and on. Put everyone you can think of on the list and see where you’re at. Then, if necessary, take the red pen and start cutting until you’re down to a figure that manageable and that fits into your budget.