The Sweet Christian Bride

The ABC’s of Making a Guest List

by admin on October 11, 2012 in Guest List, Logistics with 9 Comments

Making the guest list is a logistical challenge because you are working within a fixed budget and timeline, yet the pieces of the puzzle are entirely variable.  How do you know who will be able to come?  Until you ask them, you don’t, which makes the whole process quite an adventure.

Chris and I were told that 60% of whom we invite will attend.  If that were true, then we could have simplified the process and sent out invitations to 167% of our max capacity.  When 60% RSVPed yes, we would have hit our limit and still have invited everyone we wanted to come.

The problem with average statistics is that they are not tailored to specific circumstances.  Chris and I had fewer local invitees than the average couple because I went to school on the East Coast and he grew up largely in Europe and has family on the East Coast.  We had to assume that 50% or fewer of our guests would come.

Rather than a banking on a fixed percentage, we needed a method of organization that was more flexible.  We used a very traditional way to manage the variables of the guest list, which was to divide all the guests into an A List, a B List, and a C List.  It sounds cruel like you are “ranking” your guests, but the lists are not based on whom you like best.  They are merely a method of strategy.

The A List is comprised of people whom you are absolutely sure you will invite to the wedding.  There is no chance of the relationship changing throughout the engagement period, such that they would no longer be close to you. Mostly this list ends up being immediate family and best friends.  It also ends up being a much smaller number than the actual number of spaces available for the wedding.

I came to this list by asking myself, if I were to elope whom would I absolutely want there with me?  Would I feel devastated if they weren’t there?  Whoever came to mind when I asked these questions (and whoever came to Chris’ mind and to our parents’ minds) went on the A List.   As soon as we knew the A List, we sent out Save the Dates.  Once those people received a Save the Date, there was no retracting an invitation.

The B List is comprised of good friends or distant family whom you would really enjoy celebrating with.  A lot can change in friendships from when the Save the Dates go out to when the wedding takes place; such is the nature of relationships, especially if you live in a transient city or a short-lived community like graduate school.   For this reason, some of your very close friends might be on the B List rather than the A List.  Life gets busy and you realize you haven’t seen this friend for months before the actual wedding.

The B List makes up the bulk of the guest list.  You probably won’t send Save the Dates to everyone on the B List because that would make it indistinguishable from the A List.  Giving yourself a buffer of time between sending Save the Dates to the A List and sending invitations to the B List will allow you to feel out how many of your A List will potentially come and will also provide time to make sure the people you were close to when you started wedding planning are still close to you towards the end of it.

Your A and B Lists together will likely total a number greater than your maximum guest limit.  This is okay because some people will inevitably RSVP ‘no.”  It does mean, however, that you don’t want to go overboard on the B List.  Bridal magazines and websites offer different statistics as to how many people to invite.  Some say that 20% of your guest list will not come, others say up to 40%.   Like Chris and I did, figure out what factors are unique to your wedding that would increase or decrease the percentage.  Destination weddings will increase the percentage of people who cannot come, home church weddings will decrease it, etc.

Lastly, the C List are people whom, if there were no limit to your guest list, you would enjoy having there.  They might be good friends from school whom you haven’t seen in years, and realistically, probably won’t see again except for at reunions.  They might also be people from work or from ministry—wonderful people whom you enjoy but don’t have a personal relationship with.  The C List typically gets invited after you have heard back from the bulk of your A and B Lists.

Again, having an A, B, and C List is not a matter of ranking people’s worth; it’s a matter of strategy.  You have to figure out a way to stay under budget and under capacity. Period.

Undoubtedly guests will not be able to make it to the wedding, but very often you won’t know who those people are in the beginning.  Conflicts inevitably arise, both before and after RSVP’s have been submitted, and sadly, many guests end up procrastinating in their response.  Having an A, B, and C List will allow you some flexibility in putting together all the pieces of the puzzle.

It can be nerve-wracking to get close to the drop-dead RSVP date (usually a date after the said RSVP date when you have to tell your venue an inflexible number so they can prepare the food) when some A’s or B’s still haven’t RSVPed but you are still wanting to ask some C’s.  Of course you don’t want to be pushy to your A’s or B’s, but you also don’t want to ask the C’s the night before the wedding because they will likely be offended.

It’s all a matter of sensitive strategy.  Once you juggle the guest-list firsthand, you will become the best wedding RSVPer ever.  Chris and I never RSVP late to weddings anymore, and if the invitation is a token invite from a distant relationship, we will often RSVP “no” in order to allow the bride and groom to invite someone closer to them.   Be prayerful, execute good strategy, and your guest list will all work out.

Article originally posted on December 17, 2010

Photo © Rachael Siebenaler, RS Pix

By Lindsay

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