wedding guest list

How to Narrow Down the Wedding Guest List (Part 1)

This week, our QC Event School tutor, Heather Vickery, provides us with tips on narrowing down the guest list and saving money. Heather is the Owner and Event Director of Greatest Expectations Special Events and Weddings, one of Chicago’s most celebrated event planning and design firms.

Every client has a budget. Whether that budget is $10,000 or $500,000, it is still a budget, and in nearly all cases, there are times where you have to “cut back” to make that budget work. One of a planner’s most important jobs is helping clients think of creative ways to trim the fat and still have the wedding or event of their dreams.

In many cases, the most effective way to reduce costs and stay on track with the budget is to fine-tune the guest list. Some tips you can share with your clients include:

  • If the couple has never met them, they should not be invited. I know that sounds strange, but in cases where parents are footing the bill for an event, they may want to invite people that the couple has not actually met. I suggest drawing the line at that.
  • If you have not spoken to someone in over a year (not even on social media) then they should not be invited. Even if you were the best of friends once – – you clearly aren’t any longer and they have no reason to be invited to your special event.
  • Decide on extended family. Are you inviting everyone, even all 52 of your first cousins?

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  • Cut out “and guest.” If space or budget is tight, don’t invite people with an unknown guest. My rule is unless they are married, engaged, living together or in a very long term relationship – they do not need a plus one.
  • Leave the kids at home. In many cases, weddings and special events are adult functions. This is ok! You do not have to invite children if they do not fit into your vision for the event, if you don’t have the space for it, or it puts you over budget.

One thing I do not suggest to couples is creating an A and B guest list. This requires so much additional work! You are required to have extra invitations (but you never really know how many extra you will need) and two sets of response cards with different response dates. When people receive their invitations really close to the wedding date, they know they are on the B list and that can lead to a lot of hurt feelings. It’s best to avoid this option altogether.

To help your couples truly visualize their guest list, I suggest they use a free tool like the ones offered by WeddingWire. This is a great way to keep everything together, sort responses, and then start the tedious process of placing guests at specific tables. It even helps couples track gifts and thank you notes!

If your clients are not able to cut the guest list down but still need to find creative ways to stay within a budget, try suggesting these creative ceremony and reception ideas:

  • Have your ceremony and reception at an off time. For example, a morning ceremony and brunch reception or afternoon ceremony and a lunch reception. You can even do an evening ceremony and a cocktail-only reception or a late ceremony and a dessert reception.
  • Pick a venue (like a restaurant) that does not require a lot of décor and you may avoid a room rental fee.

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  • Plan a winter wedding or a wedding on a weeknight – you may even get vendor discounts (you should definitely ask!). Food and beverage minimums should also be lower. Avoid high-demand seasons such as Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Eve. Consider having an afternoon event. Alcoholic beverage consumption will be significantly less during an afternoon event versus an evening event.
  • Choose flowers that are in season when considering your wedding colors and floral designs. In-season flowers are much less expensive (and don’t have the environmental impact of those transported from around the world).

Stay tuned for Part 2 of Heather’s tips on narrowing down the guest list – and learn her other cost-saving tips!

Find out which areas to spend and where to save with your wedding budget!

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