Broke-Ass Tag: wedding guests


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The biggest expense at any wedding are the guests. They are the consumers, so the more guests you have, the more expensive your reception will be (in theory, I’m sure someone can prove me wrong about that). We are opting to have a buffet dinner at our reception and we figured to keep costs down, we need less mouths to feed. Seems easy enough.


When we started creating the guest list, we listed our immediate families and all close friends. The people who we absolutely had to have at the wedding because without them, the day wouldn’t be complete. Then we listed out more distant relatives that we wanted to invite/felt we should invite. At some point, we were asked how many guests would be at our wedding (probably by a vendor) and we pulled a number from our imaginations and said, “100.” I looked at a lot of guest list calculators and estimators and figured that we could add more people since our original list was pretty meager. We started added friends and neighbors and coworkers. We combed through our contacts for people who we hadn’t been in touch with in a while, but it would be cool if they came. We realized that maybe we knew a lot more people than we originally thought.

Then our families started in with the whole, “You’re going to invite your cousin Roger’s fourth wife’s brother, right?” Uhhh, who? No, no we’re not inviting them. We don’t even know them! Timo also started adding people to our guest list, “because they invited me to their wedding.” Uhhh, nope. That’s not how this is going to work. Wedding invitations are not tit for tat. An invitation to my wedding means that I want you there to celebrate with me/us because you are important to me in some way. I felt like a real hard-ass about it, but I am well aware that keeping the guest list in check means keeping costs in check. Fortunately, Fiance understands that now too (after some gentle explaining) and he’s better about trimming the fat saying no.

When I realized we were spiraling into guest list madness, I set about creating some order to our guest list (is it any wonder I’m marrying a German?). I started breaking up our guest list into A, B, and C lists. A list guests were those people we added in the beginning. Anyone from Germany (because if you’re willing to pay for the plane ticket from Germany to the U.S. and your hotel while you’re here, I’m willing to feed you and give you open bar access for one night) and close family and friends. The B list contained friends and distant relatives we’d like to come if possible. The C list became a catch all for “we’d really like you to be there if Great Aunt Dorthy can’t make it” guests. That sounds horrible and kinda cutthroat, but when your theme is “we’re on a budget,” you make it work.

To track all these guests, I was using my handy dandy wedding planning spreadsheet. It was easy enough for us to come up with a list A names, but then we realized we needed contact information, actual addresses to mail things (invitations) to. Someone else probably knows your Great Aunt Dorthy’s address, and they probably have better hearing, so it is easier to just ask them instead of Great Aunt Dorthy.

Wedding Planning Lesson: Make your life as simple as possible because you have other fish to fry.

At this point, we turned to others for assistance. Papa G (my future father-in-law) offered to gather all the information for the German guests. I gave him access to the spreadsheet and he set about putting in addresses for our German invitees that he knew. This saved Timo from having to contact his entire family and ask for their contact information or us having Skype dates with various relatives in Germany to find out the information ourselves. Convenient for me, my sister got married first and I was able to get her guest list so I just copy/pasted our family’s addresses into our spreadsheet instead of hunting them down.

Of course, this system filled in most of the addresses we needed but not all. The rest we had to track down. Timo was able to use social media to contact most of his people who we needed addresses for. I was a bit more sneaky. I went about searching public records. For instance, I knew we wanted to invite some of our neighbors who we have gotten close with. I knew their street name and city and state, of course, but instead of walking down the street and writing down their house number (or ya know, just simply asking them), I went online looked at the county property records. I’ve embraced my creepiness but I am glad that sometimes it comes in handy.

Obviously, I could have just asked my neighbors, but for some relatives, I didn’t have any way to contact them because they aren’t on social media and I don’t have their phone number. In this situation, property records were super convenient. It saved me the runaround from asking someone who might not know, who would have to ask someone else. Let’s have a moment of real talk: Sometimes you don’t want to talk to people, nor is it quicker to speak to some people. There is no shame in stalking people to get their information if it is publicly available.

The most awkward part of planning the guest list is people assuming they are invited or, even worse, asking if they are invited … especially when you know they didn’t even make the C list. I’m still figuring out how to handle these situations. Most of the time, I don’t even acknowledge it at all. Avoidance solves problems, right?

My final thought about the guest list is that it’s organic.

You might not still be friends with people on your original guest list by the time you send out invites. There is no shame in striking them from the guest list completely or moving them to a different list. Someone on your C list might need to be moved to your B list because you’re closer when invites go out than when you created the list. Be flexible. Also, if you get close to someone as the wedding gets closer and you know you have available space, they don’t need an invitation to be invited (but make sure they RSVP so you can keep an accurate headcount!).

While there are many manuals on “how to wedding” every single one of them is filled with suggestions and guidance. It’s YOUR wedding. You do you!

Need help with your guest list? Download our free worksheet!


  • 9/12

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    We are in the home stretch with just a few weeks to go before our big day. There are a lot of last minute details to worry about and loose ends to tie. We’re also trying to wrap up our RSVPs. I find it such a nerve-wracking process. Each time I see a response card in the mail, I’m both excited and filled with apprehension. I turn the card over with one eye open like I’m watching a scary movie and waiting for something to jump out at me.

    It’s neurotic, but I can’t help reading into the responses. Did they get the invite and scoff, or are they so disappointed they can’t come? And how come some people don’t reply at all and make you awkwardly chase them down for an answer? There have been a few surprises — people that I had counted on that replied “no.” In those cases, I find it odd that they didn’t reach out and give a heads up and give some sort of justification.

    It’s hard not to take it personally, but you know what? It is personal. This is one of the biggest days of your life that you are putting a lot of time, effort and money into. So when one of the select special people in your life that made the cut for an invite declines, it makes sense that it stings a little. And it’s sad that they won’t be there to celebrate. I almost want to reach out and tell them that. One person I (half-jokingly) told “I hope you’re doing something really fun that weekend” — in other words, whatever you’re doing better be good. And of course, it didn’t seem like a good enough reason to me.

    So how do you handle RSVPs? Do you reach out to the “no” responders to express your disappointment? Do you move to the B-list? Or do you just breathe a sigh of relief that you have one less meal for pay for and hope that they send a gift?

  • 5/10

    This weekend, Matt and I are attending the first wedding we’ll have gone to since we got married. We’re both really excited about it. The couple that’s getting married are both awesome people and together they somehow manage to be even cooler. On top of that, we didn’t have to worry about doing any of the planning or fretting over this wedding like we did…

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    So right around the time I was getting married, a photographer’s post about why couples should opt for unplugged weddings went viral. If you’re unfamiliar with the term “unplugged,” it refers to a couple requesting their guests refrain from the use of cellphones and other devices during the wedding. Sometimes they ask them not to use devices during the ceremony and other times they ask them to…

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    If you've been in the wedding planning trenches for a minute now, you've probably seen list after list urging you to set up your hotel block so guests know where to stay -- but what does this even mean? Well, darling, it means you're hollerin' at some hotels to set aside a chunk o' rooms so your homies have a place to rest their tipsy…

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    Warning! This post contains a whole lot of spreadsheet-based nerdery! For so many couples, the hardest part of wedding planning is choosing the guest list. Do you want your event to be small, intimate gathering, or do you want to share with all your friends and family? Is Mom going to make you invite that cousin you forgot you even had? Can you invite your…

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    Food and money. Man, oh, man. Isn't that the broke-ass life? You always try to have enough of both, but what about when you're trying to throw a big ol' party? That's where the stakes get raised, and some good, timeless advice from erstwhile BAB team member Liz, of Silver Charm Events, swoops in to soothe the nerves. Dear Liz, My fiance and I LOVE a…

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    Dear Liz, We live in Los Angeles, and I'm planning my wedding in Lake Arrowhead on Labor Day weekend, about three hours away. We're both from New York, so most of our guests are coming from the East Coast. I'm worried about how to keep everyone entertained and make sure they're having fun that weekend. Most of them are arriving on Friday, and the wedding…

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