Posts in the 'guest list' Category

Real Bride Amy: Who Makes the Cut?

As I mentioned, I’m trying to keep my wedding small as one way to save money. I want my guest list to be more “want tos” than “have tos.”  There are inevitably a few in the “have to” category, mostly extended family. Another perk of having a wedding at a bit of a distance is that it weeds out those that care from those that just want a free meal. Even though my wedding is over a year away, I’m sending save the dates out soon. Since it is a destination, we want people to be able to plan for the trip.  I’m also hoping if things come up, people will let me know in advance so I’ll have a better idea of my numbers when it’s formal invitation time. So now, I have to decide who is really invited — who’s in and who gets cut.Real Bride Amy: Who Makes the Cut?

Spreadsheets for dayz!

Determining who’s in and who’s out is probably one of the hardest parts of planning. Over the past 6 months, the list — er, lists — has been constantly changing. There are definite A-listers, a B-list composed of the “have tos” and the”‘invited, but not sure they will comes,” then the “if we have room” C-list, and the final “I just can’t decide” group. Perhaps, what is even harder is that the people that I want to invite seem to be more understanding of my desire to keep the list to a minimum than those that aren’t on the list. Plus, I’m already arguing talking to my mom about all the people that she apparently planned to invite.

So where do you draw the line without going from 50 people to 200? And how do you break the news, if necessary, to those that don’t make the cut?

Real Bride Amy: Size Does Matter


Credit: Alicia Robichaud

The Guest List — how big it is, who’s on it — is probably one the most important and difficult parts of the planning process.  My primary saving strategy has been to keep my wedding small.  When there is a per person cost, it seemed like the best way to keep costs down.  Mostly, though, I prefer quality to quantity. I’d rather spend time with a more select group then have lots of guests that I don’t even keep in touch with (I’m looking at you, mom’s friends from work). When I say I’m having a small wedding, some people suggested it wasn’t worth it because with bigger groups you “make” more in gifts.  Well, I’m not in this to make a profit. Most people I’ve talked with say one of their major regrets was not having a smaller wedding and not having so many people they didn’t know well or care about. And if you can save money in the process, it’s a bonus, right?!

It turns out the small wedding hasn’t helped control costs as much as I had hoped.  We struggled to find a venue due to minimum head counts or costs that many venues imposed.  The only way we could have avoided those restrictions were to have our event on a weekday or in the off season.  Unfortunately, the off season in Upstate NY can mean a foot of snow.  We were so glad (relieved) when we found our venue! They have zero minimum; they accommodate 20 or 200. There are also several places on the property to hold the reception so that our small party won’t be overwhelmed by an empty space meant to hold 300. So important for a small group!

Although I’m not saving a ton of money on overall costs, we will still save some per-head costs by having a smaller group of people. Keeping it small also helps to keep other costs down.  I will have fewer tables, which means fewer centerpieces and table decor, fewer favors … but most important more of the most precious currency: time. More time to spend with the ones I love.

Ask Liz: Tough RSVP Convos are Tough

In light of all the guest list talk around BAB this week, Liz’s post about RSVP conversations that should and really, let’s face it, NEED, to happen is very appropriate. Yes, this one deals with kids, much like Mellzah’s post, but it’s kind of a good jumping off point for all those other tough conversations — whether it be a kid, a fairly new significant other or that “Dude, he could be the ONE” after one night person that really, honestly, you don’t know and aren’t ready to have at your wedding. Because you guys, you can and will and sometimes have to just say no. Consider this your fill-in-the-blank advice for those conversations. – Christen

Ask Liz Tough RSVP Convos are Tough

Dear Liz, 

Our RSVP cards have begun to arrive in the mail! I found myself in a state of disbelief when I opened an envelope containing a card filled in with “Mr. X, Mrs. X, and 18-month-old Baby X will be attending.” Why disbelief? Because the invitation was addressed to Mr. X and Mrs. X only. We are not having any children at our wedding per my parents– who are 100% footing the bill. My fiance and I were in agreement until this happend. Now my fiance is upset that he has to tell his friend he cannot bring 18-month-old Baby X to our child-free wedding. I am, naturally, caught in the middle. Can you advise me on how to handle all parties in this situation (parents, fiance, X family…)? Thank you! 


No Extra Guests Please

Dear No,

It’s a tough conversation, but if accommodating his friend’s child isn’t possible, then you or your fiance are going to have to tell him that – that your contract with the venue does not allow children to attend, which is why you’re having a child-free wedding. You don’t have to go into why they put their child’s name on the RSVP in the first place  or that your parents are paying for it and it’s a budget issue.
You don’t have to apologize.  Just, it can’t happen, and you hope that he and his wife will be able to find childcare arrangements and attend on their own. That last part is important. Keep it casual, and keep it quick.
Seriously, though. You’re either going to have the tough conversation with your friends, or a tough conversation with your parents. Pick one.

 if you would like to find out more about me and my part of Wedding World, visit

See you at the end of the aisle,


BAB Throwback: Real Bride Mellzah – The Kids Aren’t All Right

While we’re on the topic of tricky guest-listing, it seems like a great time to revisit that all-too-stressy issue of kids vs. no kids at your wedding. Guys, it’s cool. Whatever decision you make is TOTALLY up to you. Some people are all about the kidlets, providing coloring books and play areas. Others are all “NOPE.” Both are great decisions, as long as it’s something you’re comfortable with. Mellzah and her hubz were in the kid-free camp, and she wrote this during her tenure as woman of awesome here.

Go away, little girls…and boys.

With our Save the Dates at the printer, we are fast approaching the date at which we need to have our guest list finalized, and it’s turning out to be the most stressful and contentious issue thus far. Mr. Dildarian comes from an enormous family, and they treat weddings like an opportunity for a family reunion–with his family alone, our guest list stands at 43 people. Add my entire family, and that list swells to 50 people–we’re a small group that becomes even smaller when you take into consideration feuds and cut ties and elder relatives too infirm to travel. However, I’m a bit of a social butterfly and I could easily invite 100 friends and still end up with people with hurt feelings. So where is our issue? The inclusion of children. Namely, I don’t want any present, and while Mr. Dildarian is fine with that, his family absolutely would not be.

There are a number of children on Mr. Dildarian’s side, spanning the age range from newborns to teenagers. One of them we’ve taken to calling The Grifter, whose favorite trick at Christmas was to go from adult to adult asking for money to “show [them] a trick” and when they complied, it was revealed that the trick was “It’s mine now!”. While he certainly made money at a rate at which I could only dream, it’s not exactly a charming experience I’d care to have repeated at my wedding.


Literally no solution I’ve suggested has been deemed acceptable. I first said we should just be adults and tell them that we’ve decided to have the wedding and reception be adult-only; we’re not having any flower girls or ring bearers or junior bridesmaids, so it’s not a case of inviting some children and not others. This was countered with “My whole family will be uncomfortable if not everyone is invited.” I then suggested we should lie and tell them our venue doesn’t allow children. “They’ll call the venue to check.” WHAT?! Fine. I’ll hire a babysitter to watch the kids at a nearby hotel room (As all relatives have to fly here for the wedding, leaving their children at home and hiring their own babysitter is out of the question). “My aunt won’t want to be separated from her children.” Is there no possible scenario where I get to have my way? I don’t allow adults to bully their way into a party invitation–why do I have to allow people to steamroll me with their children? And if I can’t tell his family no children, how can I tell everyone else with a child that said child is not invited? It’s ballooning out of control.

Our venue has a hard guest limit of 120 people, and it galls me every single time I have to cross off someone who has played a major role in my life to include someone’s baby. It will gall me even more if said baby starts screaming in the middle of our ceremony. I have a crystal clear mental picture of me whipping toward the audience in an uncontrollable scream-induced rage, which is hardly the image of radiant and serene beauty I was hoping to project. Just thinking about it now is deepening my frown line.

I’m trying to see the issue from both sides–I’m sure people with kids can’t fathom why someone would want to choose to exclude them from an event that is, at its core, about family; after all, kids can add exuberance and life to a party. On the other hand, I can’t see what’s wrong with wanting to have an adults-only gathering for one night–the kids won’t be excluded from anything else when the whole family circus comes to town, and the adults can have a good time and relax instead of worrying about whether tiny fingers are going into the cake or frantically sticking their hands over their kids’ ears when a toast goes off-color.

Another lovely capture for our wedding album.

Is there a happy medium? A place where I don’t have to worry about kids at the wedding without the lifelong consequence of being “That Awful Medusa Woman Who Stole Our Son Away By Poisoning Him Against Us” or “That Rotten Kid Hating Whore”? Or do I have to suck it up, find a way to come to terms with this, and just be thankful that they live across the country so I never have to buy a Thanksgiving table that seats 60?

{Ask Liz} Well, We ARE Family

Got a question for Liz? Go to contact page and let us know what’s up!

So, how was YOUR family gathering on Thanksgiving?

All I’m saying is, you know, I’m just sayin’…

Dear Liz,

I’m getting married in June and need advice about a guest list dilemma.
My father has two sisters and a brother we’ll call Bill. Dad doesn’t speak to any of them unless it’s unavoidable and would prefer if none of them were invited to my wedding. I have better relations with them than he does and am definitely inviting his two sisters and their families; the problem lies with Bill’s family. My dad and Bill had a falling out about five years ago, and long before that things were tense – despite living not that far away, we stopped visiting Bill’s family 12-15 years ago. I’m 28, and I think I was in late elementary school or junior high when we last spent any amount of time together.

My sister and I have made some efforts at reconnecting with Bill’s two daughters over the past couple of years but literally haven’t seen his two sons for over a decade. This past summer one of Bill’s daughters got married; my sister and I were invited to her bridal shower (though neither of us was able to go) and my whole immediate family was invited to her wedding (which my parents and sister attended; I live across the country and couldn’t go, but sent a card, which my cousin thanked me for.) Up to this point, all of the first cousins have always been invited to each other’s weddings. I would hate to be the person that further deteriorated relations in our family by not inviting Bill’s family. On the other hand, numbers are tight (Bill’s family, all-included, makes 12), I don’t know any of them very well compared with our other guests, and none of them has thus far acknowledged my engagement – plus, my father can be difficult in a lot of social situations and I can’t imagine that having Bill’s family around would lead to him being very agreeable at the wedding. In a recent conversation with my mother it became clear that she also thinks it would make more sense not to invite them. Most of Bill’s family lives near where we’re getting married, so there’s a good chance they’d be able to come. Oh, and my mother also doesn’t think it’s OK to invite only Bill’s daughters and not his sons (and, reluctantly, I tend to agree). 


Family Fracas-ed Out

Dear Fracas,

Your Dad and Bill do not get along, but his family has obviously tried to reach out and establish a relationship with you, as part of their family. You want to invite them, but the big sticker is Bill and Dad’s feud, which is why you hope that they won’t come.  I get that you’re afraid of the tension, but here’s the thing:  If your Dad went to his niece’s wedding, then they’ve already had to deal with each other, and quite recently. They are grown, and they will get through it. And, if you invite them all, some of them will come.

That being said, if you really don’t want to deal with the possible stress on your wedding day, then don’t invite any of Bill’s family. Making his daughters choose between you and their Dad isn’t fair…sort of like how your parents making you choose between them and Bill’s daughters isn’t fair. There is room for all, or there is room for none. I’m just saying.

What do you think? Should her Dad suck it up, or should she just give it up? Let me know in the comments below!

And HEY, are you in Los Angeles? I have a great Black Friday/Small Business Saturday/Cyber Monday Wedding deal for you – $500 off Day-Of Coordination. You get me, my lovely assistant, and all the joy and peace we’re going to bring to your wedding day. But, only if you book online by Monday.  There’s some other lovely discounts to get you down the aisle too, so GO.

See you at the end of the aisle,


{Real Bride: Carrie} Location, Location: Debates on What State

I’ve got this dream wedding location in my head, and I’m hoping it’s not imaginary.

You see, we have a really small budget.  But we still really like to party.  We’re not opposed to DIY.  And we want to spend as much time with our friends and family as possible.

So, our A+, #1, ideal wedding venue would be some kind of camp, B&B, or conference center that we could take over for a whole weekend and have everyone stay in the same place!  Someplace that included a beautiful outdoor ceremony site, a kitchen we could use to self-cater, someplace for people to eat, drink, and dance, and cabins or a lodge that everyone could stumble off to after partying all night.

Courtesy of Whitney Martin Photography

I know, we dream big.  But I can’t help hoping that if the amazing Sara and Matt of 2000 Dollar Budget Wedding (a HUGE inpsiration to me!) can do it, than so can we!  So that’s the goal right now.

With that in mind, the first thing we had to do was decide which state to get married in!

Option #1: Ohio. :-( See, Zach and I are both from Ohio and so our families naturally assumed we’d be getting married there.  However, while we both agree that Ohio was a great place to grow up, we’ve since broken away and don’t intend to live there long-term again in the future.  Honestly, it’s just kind of (REALLY) boring.  However, most of Zach’s friends and extended family still live in Ohio.  AND wedding stuff is significantly cheaper there.


Option #2: California!  Although we’ve been working summer jobs in Ohio this year, the weeks are quickly ticking by and our planned move to San Diego, California is getting closer!  We both love San Diego, the sun, the waves, the perfect temperature, the proximity to Mexico!  This is where we can finally see ourselves “settling down” (which, for us, may only mean staying somewhere longer than a year, who knows) and where we’d like to get married.  It will be so much easier to plan a wedding close to where we are living.  Plus, I have a lot of friends and family scattered around the country.  When I sketched out my side of the guest list for our wedding, I realized that more than half of my people will have to get on a plane, whether the wedding is in Ohio or not!  Do I really want to make those poor people pay for a plane ticket and take time off to go to Ohio?  Heck no!  The downside to this, however, is that a lot of Zach’s extended family may not be able to afford to come to California.  The brutal-but-true upside to that downside: it would definitely help keep our numbers in check since his family is HUGE.

California, here we come!

Option #3: The Arizona back-up plan.  Before we left on our long Latin American odyssey trip, Zach and I were living in northern Arizona.  See, his parents bought a house out there that they are planning to move to when they retire.  But, they haven’t retired yet!  So we got to live there for a year and house-sit for them!  During that year, we really grew to love the area.  The house is within an hour of the Grand Canyon, Sedona’s red rocks, mountain climbing, swimming holes, and tons of other awesome stuff!  Plus, the house is pretty big and we could definitely clear a section of the yard for the ceremony.  The problem here would be that we’d still be long-distance planning, we’d have to rent all the tables and chairs, and people would have to stay in hotels that are at least 15 minutes away from the house.  But it’s a good backup plan because we know it won’t book up and it’s still an awesome vacation spot.

Arizona: a retiree's paradise

What do you think, people?  We’re clearly leaning towards having the wedding in California, and hoping to find a great venue there.  If you were in our situation, what state would you choose?

Ask Liz About Guest List Management

Hi Liz,

My wedding is in September, and I’ve been struggling with my guest list for at least 6 months now – I didn’t send out  Save the Dates simply because I couldn’t get it together in time. The main issue is that my venue has a 50 person cap if I want a sit down meal.  I’m happy with having a small wedding, but it means there are old college roommates and friends from my 20s that I simply can’t invite.  We thought of having a separate event the day after the wedding, but that basically means planning two weddings at once. Do you have any solutions for how I can include and celebrate with folks who are emotionally important to me but won’t be invited to the wedding? And once they get here, how do we acknowledge/handle out of town friends? We don’t own a house, or else I’d go the BBQ route!

Gobstopped at the Guest List

Dear Gobstopped,

I can’t decide whether to start tackling this from the “good news” standpoint, or the “wedding planner with a stopwatch and a bucket of water” standpoint. Coin toss…bucket of water wins: If you don’t have enough room to invite your college roommates and friends from your 20s, then you can’t invite them.  Sucks, but you can’t do it. The rule, such as it is, is that you don’t have to invite anyone you haven’t seen or talked to in over a year. Start slashing, over a glass of wine if you have to. And try and get those invites out next month, my stopwatch is ticking. Oh, and practice saying this so you’ll have it ready if anyone asks, “It’s small wedding – the venue that we love only accommodates 50 people. And there was his list, too, so that limited mine even more.” Not just short and simple, but true. And they’ll get it – they weren’t invited, but then again, a lot of people weren’t.

Now for the good news, such as it is: Typically, you get about a 15% attrition rate – in other words, 15% of the guests you invite are not going to be able to make it, for whatever reason. That even goes up a little if you have more out-of-towners. So, you can send invitations to say, 60 – 65 people and you should still end up at your limit.

You can also stagger your invites – send half or so out to those whoabsolutelypositively MUST be invited, like family and your best friends and wedding party.  Then depending on how many actually accept within a couple of weeks, send out more. Everyone gets the same RSVP date, but you just need to give yourself a deadline to send out the second set.

As for those who didn’t make the cut, take a cue from my friends who’ve eloped – Send out wedding announcements afterward, either formal or by email. If you want to do formal ones, order them at the same time as your invites, and then send them out at the same time you mail your thank you cards. That’s like, 3 birds with one stone. Love it.

Out of town friends? If they’re not going to the rehearsal dinner or there isn’t going to be a rehearsal dinner, then find a bar you love with a great happy hour and invite them to hang out for a couple of drinks. If you can, buy the first round.

That being said…

Wow, these can get you coming and going, right?

Hi Liz!
I’m wondering what on Earth happens when more people show up than you are allowed to accommodate. I’m not overly worried about it – we only invited about 10 more people than the 150 we’re allotted, and of course some won’t be able to come. But I have this nagging feeling like: wait, what if they
do all come? Most of our guests are local, so we’ll probably have a lower “No” rate than usual. It’s most likely I’m fretting over nothing at all! But have you heard tales of venues that are very strict about capacity, and weddings that are over that capacity?


Space Worrier

Dear Space,

Most venues have capacity rules, but odds are that you’ll be fine – it’s that whole 15% attrition thing I was talking about above. But give your venue a call and ask if they would be able to accommodate 10 extra guests,  if it comes down to it. Find out what that would look like logistically and cost-wise. Forewarned is forearmed, and it will make you feel better. I have coordinated weddings where more guests showed up than expected (RSVPs looks like an approximation to some people), and from my experience, venues and caterers generally make more food than is ordered and you can usually squeeze another table in there somewhere. But definitely, definitely ask.

So, are any of you going through these dilemmas, or does anyone have any more advice to give? Let me know in the comments!

See you at the end of the aisle,