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Culling Your Guest List

Who you “want” on your wedding guest list and who you “have” to invite, are two totally different lists!

I have met with more than a few couples over the last year where the bride is having nightmares about her guest list. It would be at the top of the stressful and sensitive elements when planning a wedding. Of course if you have no budget restraints both your groom and yourself would just write a list of everyone you want & should invite!

Like most couples though, this is not a reality and factors like budget, social obligations, family traditions and who is paying a percentage of the budget, all have a weighty influence on your decision. So how do you tell your Nan’s friend from Golf that she will not be invited to your wedding, or that the groom’s third cousin who he last saw at her 16th birthday, ten years ago!


If you have your heart set on a three course reception dinner that is going to cost you a fair chunk of your whole budget, then this would be an ideal reason to not invite those long lost relatives you hardly ever see. Using the excuse of the venue being limited to numbers will ease the news as gently as possible. If you want to try and incorporate as many of your A & B list then a cocktail reception would be a cheaper compromise.

Who’s paying a portion of the budget

I have had some very interesting meetings with brides and their Mother’s, where I would swear the mother was getting married rather than the daughter. Because the mother is paying for a large portion of the budget, they seem to think this is the green light to make her daughter’s life hell. Overriding decisions regarding styling & décor for the ceremony and the reception, inviting all her social circle, even though the bride has never met them! This is a very tricky situation and could cause a very awkward atmosphere, but if you intend to keep harmony then an upfront discussion will need to be had early on in the piece to set the guidelines down. Usually the guest list would be divided up in thirds, one third to the bride’s family, a third to the grooms and a third for the bride & grooms friends.

Family & Social Obligations

This can include anyone you feel you should invite, but really don’t want to invite! Far flung relatives, a godmother who relinquished contact and all god motherly duties years ago, and weddings you have been invited to so now feel as though you have to invite them! Make a separate list of these people and , only after you have accounted for all the people that you want to share your day with, only then resort to filling a few from this “B” list. As a last resort you could just lie and say that you have no address or contact details for these people who have not been in your life since you started at kindy.

Kids/ Unwanted guests

If you have heaps of friends and relatives with young children, these days it’s acceptable to specify “No children” on the day. This will keep your numbers down and not have those annoying moments during the speeches when a kid has a melt down and no one can hear anything. Don’t get me wrong, kids bring a lovely element to weddings, but maybe it should be kept to flower girl & siblings only for the budget conscious.

What do you say to your girlfriend when she calls you and says she has a new boyfriend and can he come to the wedding? You know her and it’s not going to last between them, or you have met him and think he is no good for your girlfriend so definitely will not entertain the idea of stretching your budget for him. Without running the risk of ruining your friendship forever, be firm and tell her that you have restricted numbers or that you have already confirmed guest numbers with the venue and additional guests at such last minute will be at a greater expense. Maybe he could join you for drinks after dinner, or say you have invited her ex and that could be a tad awkward?!


If all else fails and this is making you want to run to the hills, then do just that and elope, if you can live with the guilt!! There is a lot to be said for leaving behind all the stress of planning a wedding and trying to please everyone, instead of the day being about what you and your groom want.  Worst case scenario, they may all come with you, eeekk!! That’s what I decided to do and my entourage followed me to the Caribbean.

Have you had to take drastic measures to Cull your wedding guest list or are you in the same dilema now. Share your story with us, or tell us your strategy