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Preparing Your Guest List

by Kathryn Lemmon, Wedding Zone Staff Writer

In decades past, when a couple got married, the whole community came out to celebrate in the town square, bearing gifts for the happy sixteen year olds. But then of course, the town square didn't charge thirty dollars a head and the gifts consisted of live chickens and pigs. Weddings have become a bit more complicated since those days.

Narrowing down the guest list will be one of your most challenging and important wedding tasks, since the size will greatly affect your overall wedding expenses and the site options. It's a rare bride and groom who don't have to edit their original list, whether dealing with 30 or 300 people.

Most likely, you, your fiancé, and both families will be contributing names to the list, and each party will have their own ideas about who is necessary and who is not. To help, try this list-cutting strategy:

Start by setting a goal for your list size. Base this on your budget, on space limitations or both. Have everyone involved submit a list of the people they'd like to attend. From the top, they should rank the names in order of importance. Then, cross off any duplications.

Add up the names and compare that number with your goal. If your count is over the limit, determine how many need to be eliminated. Then, cut a number of names from each list starting at the bottom, until you reach the desired amount.

Here's another option. Since most reception halls and caterers don't need a final head count until the week before the wedding, you have the option of creating an A and B list. Make two groups on your list: A, the people you really want to attend and B, the people you would like to see there, but aren't quite as significant as A list guests.

Send out your entire A list invitations first, and wait for your responses to come back. For every "no" response you get, immediately send out an invitation to someone on your B list. It's important not to make it obvious that someone on your B list was "2nd choice". In other words, don't send out a B list invitation a week before your wedding!

Experts with years of experience in wedding planning say approximately one quarter of those invited won't attend, so you can safely invite more people than you actually expect.

Be forewarned, if more than one person controls the guest list, things can get stressful. Preparing the list and keeping all family members happy, requires diplomacy and tact. Here's another possible idea: any person who wishes to invite more than his or her allotted amount should be willing to pay for those additional guests. However, you still must keep in mind the seating capacity of the ceremony and reception venue.

What about inviting children? Most people agree, kids change the dynamic of a wedding, sometimes for the worse. If unsupervised, groups of children will take over the dance floor at the reception and their antics can be disruptive. On the other hand, children are part of the family and having three or four generations at a wedding can make the event especially memorable.

If you're inviting a number of couples with children, it might be best not to include any kids at all, with the exception of the ring bearer and flower girl. Simply address their invitation to Mr. and Mrs. Sam Miller. Sending an invitation to Mr. Sam Miller and Family, indicates you wish to include everyone in the event.

Some couples hire a baby-sitter, a clown or magician to keep the smaller children happy and occupied during the reception. This could be an option for both the church and the reception hall.

Another rule of thumb, if you haven't seen or spoken with a person in two to three years, take them off your guest list. Save the spots for the most important people in your life now, rather than your best friend from summer camp twenty years ago.


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