How do you keep your guest list from climbing out of control? The number of guests at your wedding is the biggest driver of the total cost. Each guest you add makes your food and beverage higher, but it also comes with other more subtle expenses. There are the additional invitations and favors, wedding programs, centerpieces, possibly rental dishes or flatware, linens and/or chair covers and sashes, and sometimes the cost of a larger space for the ceremony and reception. More guests also mean more attendants, additional ushers, etc. That means more attendant gifts, more boutonnieres and bouquets, more people at the rehearsal dinner. Additional guests means more expense.
Generally the food and beverage alone are about 60 percent of your total wedding costs. So what can you do to keep those numbers from going crazy? First, realize that your guests fall into groups that make ever enlarging circles around you. The first and smallest circle which is the one closest to you, is your immediate family, moving out from there, you have your extended family, your very close friends, your not so close friends, your work associates, your acquaintances, etc. Sometimes it's easier to have a very small wedding than it is to have a medium sized wedding, because of the way that these groups get larger and larger. What makes it difficult is that if you invite just a couple guests from one of these groups, you sometimes need to invite the entire group in order to not hurt any feelings.
So what can you do to limit the size (and therefore cost) of your wedding? Here are some ideas:
1. Don't invite anyone you haven't talked to in the last 5 years. (If you haven't talked to your second cousin once removed in 5 years, they probably are not going to notice that they aren't invited, they probably don't even know you are getting married!)
2. Don't invite anyone you wouldn't invite to your home for dinner. (In a sense, that's what you are doing, you are just having it at a bigger place that can hold more people at one time, but you are inviting them for dinner. So if it isn't someone you would want to have come to your home for dinner, then why would you invite them to your reception?)
3. Don't feel obligated to invite people just because THEY think they should be invited. It seems like as soon as you get engaged, there are folks who all of a sudden think you are their best friend, and they start talking about attending your wedding like they have already received their invitation; and you had no intention of inviting them! Don't be guilted into inviting them. Make up a list shortly after you become engaged, and only add the guests you may have honestly forgotten. Work associates are notorious for this ploy. If you feel that an explanation is necessary, (which it isn't, because they are being very rude to assume this) just say something like "We would have loved to invite all of our friends, but we both have large families, and our venue just wasn't big enough to invite everyone we would have liked to invite."
4. Work associates can be a huge group, how do you limit them? Try this. Only invite the people that you have done things socially with. Many people work in large departments with lots of people. Obviously they want to invite the few people they are really close with, but not the whole department. This makes it much easier, and you can always tell those others in the department that this was your criteria to limit the numbers. They really shouldn't ask, but if they do, they should understand that you can't invite all of them. Obviously, if you only have 4 people in your office, you might want to invite all or none of them, just to keep peace. You have to use your best judgment.
5. Don't feel that you have to invite all of your single friends to bring a guest. If they are in a committed, long term relationship, you can send an invitation to the partner. But to invite a single, unattached friend to scare up a date for the evening really isn't necessary. It's really a pretty awkward "date" anyway.
6. Don't invite children. It's certainly your option to have your flower girl and ringbearer at the reception, but you don't have to invite all the children of all the guests you are inviting. Children add significantly to the cost. Even if they are having children's meals, they still are generally counted in the open bar charges. Obviously you may lose guests you would have liked to have attend over this one, but if it is someone you really want there, you can always offer to help them find a competent sitter (if they are from out of town and don't know anyone for example).
The biggest problem I see with this one is guests who decide that you must have forgotten to mention their darling children on the invitation and they decide to bring them anyway. It takes a lot of tact, diplomacy, and guts to call up a guest and tell them that their children weren't invited. Unfortunately people just don't realize any more that if their child's name isn't on the invitation, that they are not invited. So the decision you have to make is whether you are going to stick to your guns and not have children, or are you going to let them get away with their rudeness? Personally, I think you can call them and just say something like"We would love to have your dear little Susie and Johnny at our wedding, but we are limited on the number of guests we could invite, and unfortunately it didn't allow us room to invite everyone's children. It would be very awkward to explain to all the guests who are not bringing their children " If they say well then they just aren't going to be coming then you need to reply "I'm SO sorry to hear that, we would have really loved to have you and your wife/husband attend. Please let us know if anything changes. We'll miss you being there." Stick to your guns!
I hope that this has helped with this tough area. If anyone has any additional ideas of ways to do this, please, jump right in!