Something Borrowed, Something Roo: The Guest List

Photography Credit: Bluebird Vintage

After enduring the heartache of finding (and losing) our wedding venue, I’m sure you can appreciate that we felt as though we’d fallen off the horse a bit in terms of planning our wedding; trying to accept something so stressful wasn’t easy, and I’m sure that I don’t speak for myself when I say that it made me a little anxious to think about other wedding-related things for fear of tripping up again. However, as with all horses that one might fall off of, it is often said that’s important to get back on again – and we could only do that if we put faith in our planning again.

I must say that I wasn’t really sure where to start in the grand marital scheme, especially without 100% confirmation on a venue – we couldn’t exactly book anything for a specific date in case the date had to change, and equally I couldn’t get started on our invitations (which I intend on designing myself) in case some or all of the details had to change. Realistically, the only thing we could do (correct me if I’m wrong!) was to think about our guest list. This in itself was a little daunting because I’d always heard that compiling a guest list and/or seating chart (which we’re going to leave until much later) is one of the hardest parts of wedding planning, particularly if/when it comes down to avoiding feuds, rifts, exes, and so on – for example, “if we invite Dave we can’t invite Sandra but if we don’t invite Dave then Martin won’t come”, and so on.

Still, this wasn’t an aspect of our wedding that was going to just sort itself out, so we uncorked a bottle of wine, opened up a Word document and set our minds to task. Before we started to think about our guest list in any great detail, we had to consider what the constraints of our venue might be. The CUC had originally quoted us a 60-person capacity for the ceremony, with a 150-person capacity for the reception, so until we had confirmation back about the constraints of The Florrie we thought it was best to work with these initial figures.

Considering the ceremony first, we started by jotting down the crux of the wedding party: our parents, bridesmaids (my two sisters, Lamb’s sister, and my best friend), and best man (Lamb’s brother). We then added “obvious” immediate family, like my ninna (grandmother) and our close aunts and uncles, (we also contacted our parents to ask which members of their respective families they would like to have at the ceremony). The rest of the list consisted of our closest of close friends, whom we wanted to share our vows with.

Guest list genealogy chart – available from Mélangerie Inc.

It wasn’t until we’d polished off our list that Lamb noticed something we’d previously overlooked; we hadn’t thought about whether the 60-person capacity included us. That might sound a little silly, but it’s worth paying attention to particularly if you’re at a latter stage in your “guest-listing” and want to avoid any nasty surprises! After contacting The Florrie for further confirmation, we were surprised to hear that their capacity for the reception was actually 200 for the ceremony and 250 for the reception (providing we dropped a few of our dining tables after the meal). This was a really welcome piece of news purely for the fact that it meant we could create a more balanced ceremony list – in our original list it was decidedly “Lamb-heavy” due to the fact that a few of his friends have long-term partners, and inviting them as couples soon swallowed up the numbers. Lamb had suggested only inviting their partners to the reception, but I insisted that they come to the wedding together in order to celebrate their own relationship as well as ours.

Our newly-extended capacity meant that we didn’t have to think about this too deeply for too long, and I was particularly happy that I could “bump” a few of my friends up from the reception list to the ceremony. We did consider, of course, the fact that extra people meant extra mouths to feed, but we had only stretched the original list by 3 or 4 people. Working with an estimate of £25-£29 per head for our sit down meal, I contacted my dad and explained that if our parents had any qualms about inviting a few more people then we would assume the responsibility of paying for them. Luckily, he couldn’t have been more accommodating, and so far it looks as though our ceremony will total to around 63 people (including ourselves).

With the most important bit over with, we decided that we could be a little more frivolous with our reception list. We’ve been able to extend invitations to friends of our parents, and even friends of friends at an absolute push. Our ceremony is the more intimate of the two affairs, while our reception is due to be a good old-fashioned knees up!

So, now that we had our comprehensive list pretty much down, we set about trying to organise it. It seemed to me that the easiest way would be to create a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet, so I took to Google for inspiration. Sure enough, there are templates abound if you conduct a search for “wedding guest list spreadsheet template” or something similar – my only gripe was that it was easy for me to get overwhelmed by all the template options I found because some of them are massive (like the one I’ve linked to above). In the end I decided to just create my own, but the link I’ve provided is by far the best template I’ve found online and I’m definitely going to be referring back to it in the coming months when we actually have other things to organise!

While at first I was certain that I’d use a template, it soon became apparent that I’d need to create my own spreadsheet merely using a template as inspiration. This was purely because some spreadsheet templates contain columns for pieces of information that aren’t relevant to our wedding. I therefore decided to create our own guest list spreadsheet using the following column titles:

Name of guest
Street address
Postal code
Relationship (to either myself or Lamb)
Number of guests in their party
+1? (either yes or no, and how many)
Invited to – ceremony (C) or reception (R)
Invitation sent? (yes or no)
RSVP (accepted or declined?)
Food choice (meat or vegetarian)
Accommodation needed? (yes or no – for potential out of town guests)

If you’re curious you can enlarge this screenshot of the spreadsheet I made and see those columns “in action” (how exciting!)

Making a spreadsheet in this way means that we can keep ‘formal’ records of guests’ full names and other important details – such as whether they’ll require a hotel to stay in if they’re not from the area. This means that when it comes to sending out their invitation, we’ll remember to include information on local hotels, et cetera.  If you’re spreadsheet savvy, you’ll know that Microsoft Excel allows you to insert formulas that calculate the values of specified cells. You’ll notice that I have used numeric values in the “# in Party” column – at the bottom of the spreadsheet I made a mini table that includes columns for “invited to ceremony”, “invited to reception”, and “total invited overall” – For each of these columns I entered separate formulas that add up the numerical information from the “# in Party” column, so that we have a more accurate idea of who might be coming, to what, and with whom. I don’t want to bog you down too much with these kinds of details, but if you’re not familiar with how Excel works you’ll definitely find this tutorial helpful, as it leads you through basic formulas, how they work, et cetera.

I have to say that I found something oddly soothing about this flourish of geekery. Lamb and I are quite lucky in that there aren’t really any rifts in our families or within our friendship groups, so we were able to be liberal in inviting whomever we wanted without worrying about upsetting anybody else. I do realise that this is an issue for some couples, though, and if it’s an issue for you then I would be really interested in hearing your thoughts on the issue. How do you get around it? Have you made any sacrifices that have upset you? Do you have any of your own tips on drafting up a guest list, and/or keeping it organised? Have you been rather strict on who can come or who can have a +1, or is your wedding a public party? I have so many burning questions on the issue, since we seemed to make really light work of something that we were expecting to be difficult, so I’m really curious as to how everyone else is faring!

13 comments

  1. Hi Roo!
    wow, everything is coming together!
    i got married a year and a half ago, and everyone had warned me about how tough the guest list making would be. We are both Greek and got married in Greece, so we struggled (!yes!) to keep our guest list to about 160(crazy e?). (all venues had minimum numbers of 200+). I think being flexible is the only advise i can offer you. I was not willing to compromise on close friends, close family and family friends. We each gave our parents a maximum number that can invite which was 50 (we have big families!!), and then we only invited close good friends. Another tip is, when choosing who to sit at the tables, we asked our parents to make groups of ten of their guests (each table was for 10) so all we had to do was allocate a table for their guests and all our friends know each other so it was easy to sit them. In Greece they dont have lunch guests and evening guests they all come to the whole shabang!
    The reception planner at our venue warned us that guest list making and also allocating everyone at tables would be a killer, but it was actually easy. We did it in like an hour and then wondered what the whole fuss was about.
    The most important thing for our day was that when i walk down the isle or when i arrive at the reception, i want to see the faces of people i love. And if that means inviting 10 more people and spending a bit more money then planned – so be it.I cut corners on other things to make this work!
    sorry for blabering on!
    enjoy this whole process, you’ll miss it after the wedding! 🙂

  2. Emma

    This is without a doubt the hardest part for me of organising my wedding. Without having anything else booked or even having set a date the thought of having to compile a guest list instantly sends me into a panic.

    My family dynamic not being the easiest in the world (divorced parents, a dad I don’t speak to but an uncle, auntie and 3 cousins on the same side that I DO want to invite) combined with the fact that my fiancée is one of those people with a million friends that he insists are all his bestest buds and that we simply HAVE to invite to both ceremony and reception. Times these issues by the fact that we are broke and you have the recipe for an incredibly difficult and stressful situation.

    Cut to me, avoiding the issue of weddings full stop for weeks on end and getting irritable every time he mentions a new friend I’ve never even heard of.

    Eventually we have decided to dump the whole lot and get married abroad; on a beach somewhere with just parents and siblings. This way, no-one can moan that they’re not invited and we can just have a big but informal party when we get back.

    This decision has reduced my stress levels enormously but I can’t help feeling a bit sad that I won’t get to do all of those other ‘wedding-y’ things that I’ve dreamed of since I was old enough to put a net curtain on my head and pretend I was getting married to my teddy bear.

  3. I started the dreaded list this week with the HTB (husband to be), with both our families being divorced and having both having a large circle of friends, cutting it down to below 80 is an actual nightmare! We am really not looking forward to seating plans, what with step parents, parents, my dads wheelchair, my 4 brothers and single grandparents.
    It is hard to remember that I can have what I want and I don’t have to have this auntie/uncle or family friend unless I want to. It is my day and I’m paying for it.
    I’m going the foot stampy princess way!

  4. Sarah

    With our invitations fast approaching us from Oregon(royal steamline ftw!), we have the imminent panic upon us about our guest list. Due to p’s best friend having two of the most badly behaved children going(I don’t want to have to be using my teacher face in the middle of the vows) we have taken the scary step of asking for no children at our wedding apart from my 5 year old brother and P’s niece, who are both taking part in the ceremony! How this is going to go down, I don’t know…especially with a cousin with a brand new baby and many friends with little ones. I’m hoping that they will see this as an opportunity for a night out without their kids but people get funny ideas in their heads about weddings.
    We both have completely bonkers families as well, as we have step parents and step grandparents galore as well as plenty of people who are not talking to each other for one reason or another. This has resulted in many sleepless nights and tears on my part and P using a moderately louder voice than normal!
    However*draws a deep breath*, all I’m hoping for is that p and I can get married as we do love each other dearly and that everyone else can keep their bickering and thoughts to themselves… Maybe even be inspired by the sheer adoration we have for each other…

  5. Lou

    Reading this I’m wondering if anyone has dealt with my situation…
    My boyfriend’s friend has a rather ‘feisty’ girlfriend who gets rather excitable once she’s had a few gins, during a summer party she started a fight with me, I’ve never been in a fight before and although it luckily didn’t turn physical it came close and left me pretty shaken, not to mention not exactly making her my number one person..! After this event I found that she’s been rude to my boyfriend’s sister and started fight with random girls in bars…as far as I was concerned she was struck off my guest list, but since then my boyfriend has been putting pressure on me to forgive and forget and invite her. She has called to apologise (6 months later and only When we were due to meet) but in a way where she still did not admit she was in the wrong.
    As my reception is at my boyfriends family home, I am more than a little concerned about what might occur, I especially don’t want to put either of our family and friends in the path of someone who may be volatile and that i dont truly want there…but at the same time I don’t want to create a rift between my boyfriend and his friends. I have no idea what to do and am annoyed that I have to spend time thinking of this when I should be thinking of pretty stuff!!

  6. There’s a great template from wedding planning on the Mac version of Excel, Numbers. I’m using it and it’s great!

  7. Sierra

    My partners Godfather (who is also his uncle) is not allowed to be invited because he had a rift with the family.

    His family have said a blanket NO. We really want him there, because his son is also my partners Godson….

    It’s not fair they can be so dismissive about our feelings and just say no like that.

    I think we will try to at least invite him to the ceremony – we’d like him to see…. but what bothers me the most is we can’t invite him, but we HAVE to invite cousins of his parents…. who we don’t even see!

    🙁 It’s a fight I don’t know is worth fighting to be honest….

  8. Love the excel side of planning. Word of warning, back up at least 2 copies each time you edit. Oh the horror when the original version corrupts as well as the back up. From experience this could be a lifeline. Xx

  9. We drew up a list of essential folk then a nice to have list and luckily found a venue that can accommodate both. Wedding is in Canada with just four witnesses then party is back home with an informal barbecue so no seating plan.

    Having said that, I have had to include one plus 1 that I’m not crazy about and we just got a ‘not coming’ response from a family member on my fiance’s side which is upsetting the apple cart. Also Royal Mail has ‘mislaid’ all my handmade invites so no process is ever going to be stress-free. Best you can do is make decisions as a couple and stand by them.

    Oh, and to Lou, personally I would stand my ground on a guest with the potential to turn violent.

    Claire

  10. Jen

    We are keeping our wedding quite intimate, so a guest list of about 70. This makes planning much easier, and the google doc I created is small enough with those numbers that it’s not unwieldy.

    I dislike the idea of having ceremony guests and evening guests. I’m of the opinion that if someone is important enough to me to be there, I want them there for the whole thing – especially the ceremony which is the most important part! I want everyone at my reception to have shared and witnessed the exchange of vows of me and my partner.

  11. Rebecca

    Now with a venue actually booked my H2B and I recently took a re-look at our guest list and realised that where we thought we had a max of 75 we wanted to come during the day we actually had over 80.
    We both have fairly big families and at every family wedding all cousins (and their children) are always invited, so we couldn’t really not invite them, but we have refused to not invite some of my friends just because of our large families, so it looks like we’ll be having over 80 people (plus the rest for the evening!)
    In our eyes a few more mouths to feed is a small price to pay to make sure we have the people we love most around us on our big day.
    I also love a good spreadsheet and have already started my excel wedding file, yup multiple pages for all different aspects of the day, it was probably the most fun I’ve had from our planning so far! (well that and the huge mood board I have going!)

  12. lolly

    This is to Lou… I really feel for you!!! I must say though, that I would absolutely not invite her!! How can you be expected to have someone who treated you (and others) like that there on YOUR day?
    Not only is she likely to get drunk again, but you will spend the whole day apprehensive about it! I would totally put my foot down!! I understand how you dont want to cause a rift but surely they could begin to understand?!?!
    How awful for you, I do hope you get it sorted soon! 🙂 x

  13. Katherine

    Oh my life, my fiancé and I sat down a couple of weeks ago to do this… both being from fairly large families with lots of family friends, getting married quite soon after uni (so having both old friends and uni friends), and both being very involved with our church and all the people there, we were struggling to keep the evening guestlist under 300!! We had already said that the most important thing to us (aside from getting married at our church) was having everyone we wanted there to celebrate with us, at the expense of other things – in the end, it’s the people who make the party, not the food or the flowers etc.
    Luckily we decided on a tent in a field for the reception venue, so size is limited only by budget, and our church is pretty massive. Agree with Jen that the ceremony is the most important thing, so we’re leaving that open for anyone who wants to come, as well as making the effort to extend invitations to certain people for that – people who we would really love to come to the whole thing but in the end can’t stretch to.
    The only rift is between my father and my best friend’s mother (almost like my second mother), so it will be sad not to invite her but needs musts.

    And Lou that does sound a horrible situation! I agree with others here – stand your ground! If she can’t be trusted after a few drinks, you don’t want to be worrying about that on the day…

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