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How to Cut Down Your Guest List—Without Tears 

  • By Samantha Leal
  • May 12, 22

As you plan your wedding—or re-plan, as the case may be—, you may have encountered a certain dilemma: How can you cut your guest list? 

As weddings get smaller, budgets get smaller and/or you find yourself reevaluating your guest list, it’s time to really think about who will be there for your special day. 

“Now more than ever, it is perfectly acceptable and understandable to minimize guest counts,” says Rachel Sneed, co-owner of Lucky Little Chapel. So figuring out the amount of guests you’re comfortable with (and who they are) is your first item of action.  

Here are tips on how to cut down your guest list without regret, and how to make sure everyone stays happy.

Realize that it’s a whole new world

Uninviting a guest is not as uncommon as you think, assures Maria Romano, Vegas-based marriage officiant and owner of True Love Knots. In today’s landscape, it is almost inevitable that guests themselves might change their mind about attending as the wedding date approaches. Sneed agrees—people understand that there has to be more flexibility. But a lot of the same logic goes for the initial list: You do not have to invite everyone in your life. “When in doubt, don’t,” Sneed says. 

Determine the must-be-theres and no-gos—and adjust accordingly 

There are certain people who just need to include immediate family, people who introduced the couple, etc. And, if parents are helping to pay, it’s good etiquette to give them a finite number of guests. But other than that, it’s all up to you. “I would always suggest starting with the closest family first,” says Sneed. 

Figure out how you’ll deliver the message 

If you’ve already invited guests but are resetting the date or making other changes it’s important to let the guests know as soon as possible. This also applies to guests you plan to uninvite or not invite, such as those outside the parameters you set following tip No. 2. Uninviting somebody is a delicate matter, so it’s best to call, video chat, or talk face-to-face. Texting is absolutely a no-go, says Romano. “I’d even say email is probably not best, either. It’s better to be having a conversation,” she says. 

Sadly, some folks who would have gotten an invite in the “before times” will now be excluded, and it’s important to consider their feelings. It might be good to send a personalized note about your decision (along with any future plans of bigger celebrations). A note is not required, but it might help smooth over any stickiness in the future. 

Choose other ways to include your extended circle 

Hello, Zoom and Facebook Live. “Another way to include guests is through internet broadcast,” says Sneed. “It’s less personal, and yet quite welcome right now.” The best part of including people this way? It’s also quite affordable, if not free. (You’ll just need to figure out logistics, which most venues are quite adept at these days.) Another option: Keep the ceremony small, and arrange for a bigger celebration or reception a year out. It gives you more time to plan and gets your marriage going without having to wait for the future to pan out. 

Remember this is your day—not your guests’

If the invite list is really giving you anxiety—perhaps exacerbated by parents who are helping you pay or just too many people in your life that you find so special—you may want to look into a more intimate ceremony (couple only or couple and immediate family only) followed by a bigger celebration later on, says Sneed. “Most people again are very understanding in this current environment,” says Sneed. “[And] at the end of the day, the couple will be starting their journey of marriage and I firmly believe all preparations should always reflect that.” 

Wedding Planning

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