Wedding guest list etiquette: Who to invite?

Determining your wedding guest list can be stressful. Follow these simple guidelines to find out who you should (or maybe shouldn’t) include.

The most exciting time of your life has arrived—you’ve found your life partner and are ready to celebrate your love with a ceremony. But who gets to share in your big day?

It’s one of the hardest aspects of a wedding that many couples face. To help with the decision-making, consider the guidelines below.

First, determine your budget and the capacity of the venue where you’ll be reciting your vows/holding your reception. If they are two separate locations, be sure to base your number on the smaller of the two, just to be safe. Once you have that number determined, you’re ready to begin. The parents of the bride and groom should split the number of available invitations down the middle unless the groom’s family lives a great distance away. In that case, the number of invites the groom’s family has available should be reduced to allow for more local guests of the bride to be accommodated.

Wedding guest list etiquette Who to invite 300x300 Wedding guest list etiquette: Who to invite?

Wedding guest list etiquette: Who to invite


Without question, the guest list should start with relatives. Unless there are special circumstances all parents, stepparents, brothers (and spouses), sisters (and spouses) and grandparents should be included. Even though it is usually implied that these members will be in attendance (if not part of the ceremony), it is still appropriate to send a formal invitation. After the immediate family, consider invites for close aunts, uncles, stepbrothers, stepsisters, cousins, nieces and nephews. Make your choices based on who you are closest to, not to how closely they’re related. For instance, if you grew up with a second cousin that is like a sister to you, put her before a stepbrother that lives in a different state.


Next, add everyone who is participating in the wedding party whether they are groomsmen, bridesmaids, candle lighters, ushers, wedding planners or musicians. And don’t forget the officiator—they should always receive a mailed invitation regardless of how close they are to the couple getting married.


This may be the most challenging of all to choose from—friends. It’s usually best to start with the people who are close to you in life at the time of the wedding. People you and/or your partner see socially on a regular basis should be considered first, and then dear old friends you’ve known all of your life (even if they live far away). Out of town guests will still appreciate receiving an invitation if they cannot make it, just to know you’ve thought of them. If you still have room on your list after that, consider people who have invited you to their weddings in the past five years. Even if you’ve lost touch, it’s nice to reciprocate their sentiment. Also, don’t feel bad about excluding friends you haven’t shared a personal conversation with in the past two years. If there isn’t time enough for at least a phone call in that span of time, it probably won’t hurt them to be left off the list. This goes the same for ex-girlfriends and ex-boyfriends of the bride and groom. If they remain friendly, and harbor no ill will toward the union, it’s fine to include them—otherwise, don’t.


Chances are if you work in an office or other community environment, everyone will know you’re getting married. Don’t feel obligated to invite your entire department or division just to avoid hurt feelings. Most adults realize how expensive weddings are and that they should only be shared with the people who mean the most to the couple getting married. Narrow your list to the top five friends at each of your workplaces, and don’t forget to include their spouse on the invite.


Basically, the parents of the bride and groom should only invite business associates and friends to your wedding if you want them there or have known them for several years. Be firm with the amount of invites you allow your parents to send on their behalf—after all, it’s your wedding.


If you’ve grown up or become friendly with the parents of your adult friends, it is a nice gesture to include them in the wedding, especially for the friends serving as attendants in your ceremony.


It certainly isn’t expected of you to invite folks from these aspects of your life unless you are socially friendly with them outside the professional arena. If you do decide to include them, don’t forget to also invite their spouse/family.


Whether or not to include kids on the invitation is completely at the discretion of the couple. Some choose to invite children to the reception, but not the ceremony, which is also appropriate especially for more formal weddings. Everything should be stated clearly on your invitation and you shouldn’t make exceptions if you decide to exclude kids. If you’re only inviting a couple, never reference ‘family’ on the envelope, however if you want children there be sure to list their names out separately on the inside envelope of the invitation. Kids 18 and over living at home should receive a separate invitation. Don’t feel bad if you decide to exclude the little ones—they can unintentionally disrupt a ceremony and add considerable expense to your overall costs.

In closing, if you’re concerned about friends and family who are uninvited getting their feelings hurt, keep a ‘B’ list of invitations handy, then when you receive regrets in the mail, send them out to replace that number of guests (and do it quickly so they will never know they weren’t first on the list). Just remember it’s your day and it’s up to you and your partner to decide whom to share it with.

Posted by on Jun 18 2012. Filed under Women & Lifestyle. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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