6 Gracious Ways to Keep Your Wedding Guest List Down

By Maria Yeonhee Ji

A lot of people dream of having a small wedding. Their reasons as to why may vary: some want an intimate event to make meaningful memories with loved ones; some want the freedom to truly be themselves with no pressure of putting on a production; some want to pull out all the bells and whistles (which you just can’t do for a crowd of 150+); and others have a particular stylistic or values-based approach with which they want to celebrate their big day. The process of creating a small guest list, however, can be far from magical – especially for those with large families and/or social circles. Distant relatives, old friends with whom you’ve lost touch, boring acquaintances, that friend who invited you last year to their wedding... There really is an art to making sure these sorts of people aren’t left feeling excluded or personally slighted. Unfortunately, slimming down your wedding guest list isn’t a social grace that most get much practice at during their lifetime, so we came up with six methods to curb the madness and get you the wedding you want.

1/ LOVE IN THE PRESENT TENSE

guest list,  wedding, planning

Image by Meredith Lord Photography

Nostalgia has its time and place, but it’s definitely not when you’re planning your wedding guest list. Invite friends and acquaintances that you have at the current moment in time. If you haven’t seen or communicated with them in any form for over a year, then your wedding can survive not having them in attendance. No matter how fond you are of the memories of old university friends or late night office antics, losing touch is a two-person process. It’s unlikely these people will be as invested in your life as the aunt who religiously sends you birthday cards on your birthday every year, so being left out of the guest list probably won’t leave them in tears.

2/ BE STRATEGIC WITH SENDING INVITES

guest list,  wedding, planning

Image sourced from Sunny & Swoon Design Studio

Have a systematic and strategic approach to sending invitations. First, write a list of all the close family and friends without whom it wouldn’t even feel like your wedding is taking place. Then write a second list of friends and close acquaintances (in order of closest to least close). Send out invitations to your first list and wait until you get the RSVPs from those who send their regrets. Then you can send out a second wave of invitations to people on the second list for whom you have space (remembering to make sure your reply cards have a different date than your first lot). The key to pulling this off graciously is to send your first bunch of invitations early – a month or two earlier than when you’d typically send out wedding invites. That way, those you invite from the second list won’t get the last-minute invite blues and know they weren’t a priority in your life.

3/ START THE CONVERSATION EARLY

guest list,  wedding, planning

Image by Lynn Lewis Photography and Design

Your wedding day is a milestone in your parents’ lives too – they’ll want to celebrate with all their friends and family the fact their children are tying the knot. So it’s best to start the conversation early so that your parents are on the same page about the wedding size that you’re aiming for (the only thing trickier than inviting people to a small wedding is having to rescind an invitation!). Set boundaries by giving them a specific number of invitations they’re allowed to send out. The number itself will depend on whether your parent(s) are contributing financially to your wedding, so one way of artfully downsizing your guest list is to pay for the wedding bill yourselves.

4/ OMIT PLUS ONES

guest list,  wedding, planning

Image by Leviens & Lens

Plus ones rapidly make your wedding guest list double into a headache; an easy way to trim down your guest list is to omit them altogether. The exceptions are serious significant others (particularly those of the bridal party) and significant others with whom you socialise regularly. Have guests’ names printed on the invites so that there’s no room for misunderstanding as to who is (and isn’t) invited, and tell your friends early on that your wedding simply can’t accommodate plus ones.

5/ PICK A SMALLER VENUE

guest list,  wedding, planning

Image by Anna Kidman

A small wedding opens up a wide range of smaller venues for your wedding. Opting for one of these venues can have many perks, one of which is that those in your outer social circle are much more likely to understand not being invited to your wedding. Most people are unlikely to think they’re your nearest and dearest when they’re not, and it will be obvious from the photos if your venue could only fit your closest loved ones.

6/ MAKE IT A DESTINATION WEDDING

guest list,  wedding, planning

Image by The Kitcheners

A destination wedding is the conflict-freest way of keeping your guest list small. The time commitment, cost of airfares, and the logistical hassles of organising travel plans mean a wedding in a faraway place pretty much immediately filters out those who don’t truly care about you. Traveling to a dream destination also means that you and your guests will have exciting new experiences together, making your wedding one to remember. It’s not the most practical strategy, but if you’re in a quagmire of family/social politics, it’s a tempting option with many, many perks.



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