The Limited List: When the wedding location restricts your guest list

by epi on September 29, 2011

Q: My daughter is getting married in the coming months.  Since I am out of state, the in-laws are handling most of the wedding plans.  The wedding and reception will both take place in back yards, which limits attendance.  Only 90 invites were printed (requiring RSVP) of which our family only received 30.  If the location were different, our family could have easily used 100 invites.  How do I properly determine who gets the invitations to the wedding & reception and how do we formally notify everyone else on our list of the exciting upcoming event? What is proper etiquette and how do we handling the announcement without hurting feelings?

A: This is always the hardest part of wedding planning, for it requires such difficult choices. You can help yourself by sticking with categories – only aunts and uncles, not cousins, for example. Family friends who know your daughter well and not those who barely know her. .  . when you begin looking at your list this way you can begin eliminating names more easily. For the others, you order announcements that may be mailed as early as the day after the wedding. Announcements are a great way to share happy news, and they don’t obligate the recipient to send a gift in return.

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Alicia September 29, 2011 at 9:08 am

Also as it is the daughters wedding she and your son in law should get the primary say as to whom the invites should go to.


Country Girl September 29, 2011 at 12:23 pm

I agree completely Alicia. The couple is responsible for choosing the guest list. On another note, since you feel there are others who make like to be involved in the festivities, why not throw the couple a casual little “Welcome to the family” celebration after the wedding in your own hometown? Since you mention you live out of state, there may other family and friends nearer you that wouldn’t be able to make the trip to the wedding anyway. This would be a great opportunity to involve them. I would just steer clear of treating this like a second reception which would likely ruffle some feathers (No second cake, no gifts). A simple “Please join us for lunch party/a backyard BBQ as we welcome William to our family!” would do.


Missk September 30, 2011 at 6:00 pm

I have one caveat–If the bride’s parents are footing much of the cost of the wedding, then they should get more of a say in the wedding list. However, 30 printed invitations means about 60 people, yes? That’s a plenty large wedding and I can see how the couple would want to limit it. A ‘welcome to the family’ event is a perfectly reasonable follow up.


MAria October 2, 2011 at 6:56 pm

I have a question? The bride is wondering if she should invite to her wedding this girl that she knew in highschool and college. After college they only communicate during Christmas. They send each other Christmas cards. This have been going on for at least 6 years. They were never close friends. Should the bride invite this girl?


Just Laura October 2, 2011 at 7:12 pm

The bride may invite whichever of her friends she’d like to have at her wedding.


Alicia October 3, 2011 at 7:29 am

Does the bride want to have this woman at her wedding? If yes she should invite her if no she should not.


MAria October 2, 2011 at 6:58 pm

Does any one has an anwer to this question?


Alex November 22, 2011 at 11:09 am

I have a question regarding guest lists (which I think can be asked here), my fiancé and I agreed on a 200, 225 max, guest list. My parents respected our decision and gave me a list (including my friends) of 95. My fiancé’s mother gave me a list of 150, NOT including his 20 friends and their dates (40 people). Obviously this is WAY too many people, but my fiancé has suddenly switched teams and is agreeing with his mother that we should just include everyone. I have never, ever, wanted a huge wedding of strangers and i’m not sure what to do now that he refuses to cut the list down. Our ceremony location also doesn’t have the room for this many people.

Do I suggest meeting with his parents and explain that my parents cut their list down, and that they should have to do the same? How would I go about it? Their each paying for their own guests, but my family is paying for all the other costs. The point is that this isn’t what we initially wanted…


Just Laura November 22, 2011 at 11:24 am

The point is that the ceremony site can’t accommodate that many people, and that’s what you need to get your fiance to understand and explain to his parents. That way they can’t say, “Oh, but we’ll pay for more!”


Ashleigh November 22, 2011 at 11:29 am

If your fiances parents went over the count by 5 or 10 people, I’d say don’t sweat it. However, as they almost doubled their amount of guests, something must be said. You should not have to alter the ceremony, reception, etc because they are too inconsiderate to stick to 100 guests.

I suggest sitting down with your fiance and his parents and working it out. Since you mentioned that you could go up to 225 and that your parents have 95, they realistically must stop at 130. It is just as much your day as it is your fiances, so you should not be made to feel uncomfortable surrounded by hundreds of guests you don’t know – and that they probably haven’t talked to in years!


Winifred Rosenburg November 22, 2011 at 12:22 pm

Did your family have a particular cutoff? I agree that you should start the conversation by saying there isn’t room. But if they’re having difficulty deciding whom to cut from the list, you can say “my family invited cousins once removed but not twice removed. Maybe you can do the same and if someone gets offended tell them we had to stick to that cutoff to be fair.”


Alex November 22, 2011 at 11:44 am

I agree, I think that’s what we need to do, is just sit down and work this out. I feel like they’re all upset with me now, but the amount of people of their list is out of control. They have pulled the “we’ll pay for more” excuse, but that’s not the point (i’m actually thinking now that that’s why they offered to ‘pay for their side’). I think that they think a bunch of people won’t come so they’re fine, but with our luck everyone will want to come and then were way over!

It’s a shame, because up until this point where other family members got involved, my fiancé and I’s wedding plans have been going SO well!


Alicia November 22, 2011 at 11:47 am

I think you and your fiance should write out who you want to invite. Using soem of the data from the lists you have recieved. But first the two of you need to decide on a guest list with 8 empty spots. Then present the final guest list to your parents telling them each that they get 2 additions per parent to add onto the final guest list. Only invite the guest list you decide and the 8 extras.
But the first decision should be you and Fi coming to an agreement.


Ashleigh November 22, 2011 at 3:32 pm

Even under the assumption that typically about 15% will decline the invite, you’d still be over!! I really like Alicia’s suggestion!! In the interest of fairness, go over both lists and see who you absolutely MUST have. Then go back and see who you would like to have as well. If you set a limit for the “randoms” for both sets of parents, you are being fair and objective and there is no rational reason they could object to that.

If your fiance’s mother is that insistent on inviting everyone she’s ever met in her life, she can throw a “welcome to the family” party at a later date.

PS – I have the very distinct feeling that in a couple of years, I’m going to be stuck with the same issue. I’m really hoping it works out on your end so I can have some hope for the future :)


Sally September 15, 2012 at 4:29 pm

We received an invitation to a friends wedding. There was no RSVP card in the
invitation, nor what type of dress Tux or no tux? What is the proper way to
handle this?


Just Laura September 15, 2012 at 5:49 pm

RSVP cards are unneccessary. Call/email/visit/write your friend and let him or her know.

As for dress, the time of day of the wedding is what dictates dress in most cases.


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