10 Common Guest-List Questions Answered (By An Actual Etiquette Expert)
December 13, 2012
A wedding is a party and there is no party without guests. The guest list is a universal issue and one of a couple’s first headaches. Even Kate and Wills had to make an active decision about who made the cut for Westminster Abbey and who was out in the street.
Luckily, Sarah Pease, a wedding planner and owner of New York City-based Brilliant Event Planning gave us some tips about how to make guest list decisions without alienating your friends and family.
1. Do I have to invite children to the ceremony or reception?
Pease says this is a completely personal decision. Even if children are not allowed at the reception — which is perfectly okay! — couples should be clear if children are invited to the satellite events, such as the rehearsal dinner or the Sunday brunch, which are generally less formal.
She added that etiquette does not dictate whether you have to provide childcare if you have an “Adults Only” reception. You only need to offer a referral to a trusted childcare provider, such as a babysitting agency. If feeling generous, you could staff a suite with a few babysitters so that parents can enjoy the reception for as long as they would like.
2. Who gets to bring a guest?
Venue and budget are going to dictate who can bring a guest. If either factor is not flexible, then you have to draw a line as to who brings a guest. An easy way to do this to invite people with guests if they are married, engaged or living together.
3. What if they are in the bridal party? Shouldn’t they get a guest?
Pease says that it’s a wedding urban legend that the bridal party should always bring a guest. If it’s an out of town wedding it’s a nice gesture to let them bring one. If, however, the budget or venue are being strained, look at your bridal party and determine if your single guests know a lot of other people who are coming. If the answer is yes, then invite them without a guest. There will be plenty of other people for them to pal around with and even share a hotel room. If they wouldn’t know too many other people, let them bring an arm charm.
4. What do you do about estranged or distant family members?
Pease suggests making a cut off at generations. Maybe you’ll only invite as far as first cousins. Factor in when you last saw a relative as well. If you haven’t spoken to or seen them in a long time, you don’t need to invite them to your wedding.
5. Should you invite your exes?
You may love the idea of having your college boyfriend at your wedding. He was such an important part of your life! Your fiance, however, may have other ideas. Pease says that if having the ex-boyfriend or ex-spouse at your wedding will make your new husband uncomfortable, cut them out.
6. What do I do about ‘Maybes’ and people who don’t RSVP?
You need to be proactive and call anyone that you haven’t heard from, especially as the big day draws closer. Sometimes people think they RSVP’d and just forgot, or there are outside factors affecting whether or not they can make it. If overtly calling people makes you feel awkward, hand the tasks off to someone, such as you Mother In Law, a Matron of Honor, etc. who doesn’t mind working the phones. E-mail can be ignored, so be sure to actually speak with someone.
7. My parents want to invite half the town! Do I put my foot down?
It’s your day, but sometimes parents have a guest-list agenda of their own. If you and your fiance are paying for the event, tell your parents they can’t invite anyone that you haven’t seen in the last six months. Keep your parent’s list as a back-up of people they could invite if others decline.
8. Do I have to invite my boss?
You should never feel obligated to invite anyone that you don’t want at your wedding, especially people that you work with. A lot of people prefer a true separation of work life and personal life. It’s common for couples not to invite anyone from the office as an easy way to control the guest list. This includes your boss.
9. How many of my invited guests will actually attend?
A good rule of thumb is that 20% of the invited guests will RSVP ‘No.’ This number will vary if it is a destination wedding or if there are a lot of out of town guests. You can scour the internet for assorted formulas and equations to figure this out, but in general, 20% of people will decline.
10. Do I have to invite the parents of the Maid of Honor or Best Man?
Not unless you are close to them. If your Matron of Honor is a childhood friend and her parents have known you since you were small, then go for it. If not, there is no need to invite them, nor do they expect to be.