Grappling with the Guest List

Keeping Peace with Parents, In-Laws, Brothers, Sisters, Cats, and Dogs

No matter what the budget, questions will arise over whom to invite to the wedding. A tighter spending plan means someone may have to be left out. On the other hand, generous parents may offer to subsidize an army of friends or business associates they want in attendance.

While it may be easy to cross off old college buddies from the list (sending someone a holiday card every year doesn’t qualify you as best friends), battling with parents is a different matter. Parents and future in-laws may see the wedding as an opportunity to establish business, social, or political connections.

Couples may end up with longer guests lists than they had planned, but as members of a family - as well as a larger community - they are doing what they must to keep the peace with relatives.

Reverend Miriam Lindbeck, a popular Santa Barbara wedding minister, suggests arranging the ceremony and the reception so that people most important to the bride and groom are seated closest to them. She also recommends appointing a trusted friend, cousin, or sibling to act as a “destroyer escort,” someone to watch out for the alcoholic uncle or Dad’s emotionally toxic second wife. No troublemaker gets near the happy couple.

Another way to deal with B-list friends or co-workers is to hold a separate, less-costly party. Go out for drinks, or bowling. “Be up front with people,” said wedding planner Percy Sales. “They’re adults, they’ll get over it.”

Tips for making the guest list:

- Call a family meeting, if necessary, to have a frank discussion about budget

- Remember it’s acceptable to exclude co-workers (unless they are extremely good friends) or business acquaintances

- If you are excluding children, be sure to say no to all children, not just the ones you don’t like

- Avoid inviting ex-lovers or ex-spouses, unless you’re sure there will be no negativity

- Be honest with your single friends if you can’t afford for them to bring a guest

- Invite the wedding officiant and his/her spouse to the reception

- It’s not polite to invite someone to the ceremony, but not the reception.

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