How To Handle Tricky Guest List Issues

Most of our wedding-planning tasks have been exciting and fun; however, one area we've struggled with is our guest list. Both Rigo and I come from huge families and have a close group of friends. We both work at the same hospital, so we have many co-workers that we consider to be pals, too. (They've indicated that they're "expecting" an invitation to the wedding—some have mentioned this subtly, while others were quite forward.) Our large circle of loved ones became even bigger when we factored in all of their children.

These contributing factors raised the following questions: How many people should we invite total? Can we invite some-coworkers and not others? How do we ensure that the reception doesn't turn into a daycare center? Can we prevent invited guests from bringing "extra" guests with them? With some planning, research, and creativity, here's how we dealt with all of these challenges.

guest list issues
Photo Credit: Photography by Jen Philips

Do the Math to Come Up with a Reasonable Limit

Stress was mounting fast, so the first thing Rigo and I did was have a candid discussion about how many guests we could realistically accommodate. Our venue, Meyer’s Castle, has the capacity to seat 325 guests, but with our budget, we can only seat 275 at most. We decided to aim for 250 guests, which would give us plenty of space for seating and a financial cushion for unexpected extras. We asked other couples for advice, and the consensus was that 20-25% of invited guests didn't actually attend the wedding. Taking that into consideration, we're sending out a few extra invites.

meyers castlePhoto Credit: Meyers Castle

Work in order of most important to least when putting together your guest list. We started with family members, then our closest friends, leaving co-workers for last. Don't forget to factor in plus-ones—Rigo and I each had 40 spots for co-workers, but we realized we could only really invite 20, since they would all bring a guest with them to the wedding. I spent the next few weeks agonizing over which of my 90 co-workers to invite, secretly collecting addresses (it's important to be discreet, or risk hurting non-invited co-workers' feelings.)

Send Your Save-the-Dates Out Early

We would also suggest sending your save-the-dates early (at least 11 months prior, if you're having a destination wedding). This will eliminate any shock a co-worker or friend may experience when they don't receive an invitation four to six weeks before the wedding. I'm sure I'll have enough to deal with at that time—I don't want to add an unhappy friend to the list!

wedding save the date
Photo Credit: Stephen Martin Photography

Be Specific on Your RSVP Card

Once we knew how many guests we would invite, it was time to confront our biggest obstacle: Breaking the news to our families. Generally speaking, our Hispanic relatives enjoy a good get-together and live by the motto of "more is better." This is great for backyard barbecues. Wedding receptions? Not so much. We had to come up with a (tactful!) way to let our uncles and cousins know that they can't bring unlimited guests along with them.

On a whim, we visited Party City and were surprised to find that not only do they sell wedding invitations, but they're beautiful, affordable, and can be personalized. Their invitation specialist addressed our guest list concerns.

They gave us two suggestions: First, the invitation itself would indicate that we're having an "adult reception." Secondly, we added a line to the RSVP card that states, "We kindly reserve two seats in your honor," followed by a request for the number of guests that will be attending. If you can't print a separate line on the card, pre-fill in the amount of people invited before you mail out your invitations.

If you're dealing with similar guest list concerns, the most important thing to keep in mind is that you can always use your venue capacity as the reason why you can't invite everyone. Before our save-the-dates went out, I would casually bring this up and explain the situation. Ultimately, everyone was supportive, even if a few people were a little disappointed. I've found that it's best to just be honest and firm.

Happy planning, everyone! Tell us: What's been the biggest hurdle you've had to overcome in your wedding planning? What tips would you add to my list? 

—Claudia Hernandez

Meet the winners of our Pin to Win a Dream Wedding Design by David Tutera Contest, Rigo Garcia and Claudia Hernandez! Claudia is a registered nurse in the surgery department, which is where she met her fiancé Rigo Garcia, a nurse anesthetist. They became best friends and fell in love with very little effort, a trend that continues today. They will be married at Meyers Castle in Indiana on June 8, 2013. They are planning a fabulous wedding filled with traditions, entertainment, surprises, and many unique ideas inspired, in part, by David Tutera.