Trimming the guest list is something that needs to happen very early in the wedding planning process before any wedding related communications (such as, the save the date) go out to guests. The best way to know how much you need to trim the guest list by is to get an extremely comprehensive picture of your expenses to make sure that no expense is overlooked (this is why we provide the DIY Budget Spreadsheet in the DIY Wedding e-Course). By starting the planning process accounting for every possible expense (and we mean down to the last marshmallow at the s'mores buffet), there are no surprise expenses later on that leave you wishing you could trim the guest list when it's too late.
If you've already sent out your save the dates to everyone, then it's likely too late to cut the guest list. If you need to find ways to save, then it's best to go another route and leave the guest list alone as messing with the guest list later in the planning process can open up various cans of very ugly worms.
Draw a Clear Line and Stick to It
The best thing to do is draw a line that applies to everyone and stick to it so no one feels like the decision is personal, especially when it comes to plus ones. For instance, if you do invite one friend's boyfriend or girlfriend and then don't invite another's, it can make it a bit awkward when you all bump into each other on the dance floor.
If you have a clear line, you can always say before the wedding, "Our guest list was really tight so we could only invite plus ones for people living together. We wish we could have your significant other at the wedding, but we hope you understand." And then it's not a personal thing, and the vast majority of people will get it and accept the decision as a non-personal one.
Plus ones should generally be invited for people who are living together, engaged or married since they are considered a package deal, but beyond that, here are some examples of where the line can be drawn:
- Plus ones for only immediate family members
- Plus ones for only immediate and extended family members
- Plus ones for only guests over 18
- Only inviting coworkers who you socialize with outside of work
- Only inviting the children of immediate family members
- Only inviting college friends who you've seen since college
- Only inviting friends of parents who you or your partner know personally
There are dozens of lines that can be drawn that will keep most people from being offended (and we say "most people" since there are always those people who are dead set on being offended no matter what and even the most thoughtful couple in the world couldn't please them). Since each wedding has its own set of circumstances to consider, the trick is to come up with a line that works for your wedding and then stick to it.
In general, you'll want to the consider the unique circumstances of your group and then make decisions from there when trimming the guest list. But no matter the circumstances, the most polite way to cut your guest list is by 1) doing it early and 2) cutting groups of people and not individuals. This way you're much less likely to offend anyone and keep those ugly worms right in their cans.
In a sticky guest-list situation yourself? Feel free to share or ask a question below.