A Guilt-Free Wedding Guest List

How do you decide who to invite and who you can cut? We asked the experts.

December 29, 2016

Gone are the days when both sets of parents got together to write the guest list for their soon-to-be-wed children — when inviting one great aunt meant inviting all the great aunts. As weddings get more expensive, they get smaller — and choosing whom to invite has become an art form. “The concept of inviting loved ones to the wedding has definitely remained the same,” says wedding planner Joelle Johnson of Hitched by Joelle, “but the finances of today change the amount of loved ones a lot.” 

So how do you choose? Johnson says the No. 1 rule about the guest list, and the wedding day in general, is that it is yours. The focus should be on the couple, including who they want (and don’t want) to invite. Still don’t know where to start? She suggests a step-by-step process: “Start with the people you couldn’t be without, then work progressively from parents, siblings, to grandparents, then to extended family like aunts, uncles and cousins, followed by friends and co-workers that don’t fit into either of the first few categories until you hit your cap.”

Of course, every couple’s order of importance might be different, but starting with the most essential people is the perfect place to begin. “The focus should always be on inviting those you want to look back on in 40 years in your wedding photo album with a smile ear-to-ear.” 

It’s not always that simple, though. What if a couple has a herd (or two) of first cousins, but can’t afford to fit them all in, is it OK to invite one and not the other? Should their kids be on the list? Johnson says that when couples need to get selective, “they must feel comfortable and prepared to have conversations with family members or friends who may not have been invited.” It’s pretty universal knowledge that it’s hard to finance a large wedding nowadays; most people should be understanding of that, especially if the couple goes out of their way to be upfront and genuine. Johnson says she has seen her fair share of couples who make things more awkward and uncomfortable by ignoring the elephant in the room or making cover stories — don’t do that! And when it comes to kids, Johnson says the simplest thing to do is declare your wedding to be kid-friendly or kid-free. Anything in-between gets complicated. 

Of course, every situation is unique, but the most important part of planning the best day of your life is to put yourselves first, even if it feels strange. “It’s OK to be a bit ruthless!” says Johnson. “As long as you remember to keep love in the forefront.”

Joelle’s Bits of Wisdom:


If there is a name on the guest list due to a guilty feeling, cut.


If you can’t remember the last time you chatted with someone, cut.


If they’ve played an important or influential role in your life, keep.


If you wine and dine with them, keep.


If they are your biggest supporters both now and in the future, keep.

This article appears in the January 2017 issue of Avenue Edmonton. Subscribe here.


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