Get a Handle on Your Guest List

Who's invited to the wedding? Who isn't? Here are common-sense ways to get your guest list under control.
Jennifer Lazarus

The Ex Factor

Although inviting an ex to a wedding is generally considered taboo, it might in some cases be acceptable, especially if one partner has an ex with whom he or she shares children. "A lot of people end relationships maturely and keep in touch over the years and actually become friends," says Naylor. If you or your fiancé is in a similar situation, discuss your feelings. "It may make the other member uncomfortable, so they need to get it out on the table," cautions Elaine M. Parker, director of Weddings with Elan, based in Nashville, Tennessee. The important thing, she adds, is that the couple make the decision together.

The Kid Question

You may think kids are great but not really want them to attend your wedding. If so, address your invitations to parents only—this should send the right message. Or maybe you want to invite only the children of your immediate family. You can avoid offending people by asking friends or family members to help spread the word about your decision.

Sometimes a compromise is in order. When Jill and Mike Notkin of Boston, Massachusetts, decided that their wedding would be a black-tie affair held at a high-end hotel, they created a "limited kids" rule. "We wanted only the children who were in our bridal party to attend," says Jill. "But we were prepared to hire babysitters for the children of our guests who were coming in from out of town. The kids and the sitters stayed at the hotel, and it worked out fine for everyone." If you decide to do this, consider supplying goody bags filled with toys and games, and arranging to have pizza delivered. Another compromise: Set aside a separate area at your reception for a children's party, and hire one or more babysitters to oversee the festivities.

Office Politics

If you work in an office with fewer than 10 people, you probably know them all, and they've most likely been privy to your wedding talk for some time. In this case, the proper thing to do is to invite everyone rather than single out just one or two coworkers. If you work for a larger company, you can choose to skip the office invites altogether, or invite only your closest pals. Remember that if coworkers are married or have a serious significant other, you must include their partners in the invitation.

Should you invite your boss? That depends on your rapport. Lori Quevillon decided it was the right thing for her to do. "I socialize outside of work with the partners in my law firm, so it seemed appropriate," she says. However, says Naylor, if you have a more formal relationship, it isn't necessary.

Tough Calls

On the fence about certain people? Lori and Louis regretted their decision not to invite a couple they had lost contact with. Soon after the wedding, they started spending time with this couple again, and Lori says she felt awkward every time the subject of their wedding came up. Her advice? "If you're unsure, err on the side of being inclusive," she says.

And, if you're no longer friendly with certain people from your past, don't feel obliged to invite them to your wedding just because they invited you to theirs. Also, don't bow to parental pressure to include people they know, but you don't. When trying to make tough decisions, ask yourself if the potential guest will be a part of your life in the future. "If someone still means something to you, you probably still mean something to him or her," says Jill Notkin. "Trust your instincts. That's how to make sure that you have the people you really want at your wedding."