Minding Your Wedding Invitation List
by Apryl Chapman Thomas

You want invite your childhood friends, your finance wants to invite his every-Thursday-night card buddies and your parents, along with your future in-laws, want to invite nearly everyone they know. Everyone can defend their choices of invitees (after all, you can't invite great aunt Gerta without inviting great aunt Sally) down to a tee, and it doesn't look as if anyone is going to cull their list any soon without the help a professional negotiator. With the possibility of so many people attending, you may start to think you need to hold two acts of the ceremony.

Taming your wedding invitation list just may be the first true test of your relationship. Deciding who to invite and who not to invite to your big day can be very stressful for everyone involved. You don't want to start off on the wrong foot with hurt feelings on either side, but at the current rate, the list is growing out of control. While you may think that eloping is the only answer, the good news is with some pre-planning, organization and open lines of communications with all parties, is it possible to come up with an invitation list that everyone can be happy about.

But before you even start on you invitation list, make a budget, advises Sue Winner, an Atlanta, Ga.,-based bridal consultant and author of "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Budgeting for Your Wedding.”

“Create a line item budget, in pencil, to figure out exactly how much you have to spend per person. This is one of the biggest problems couples have is not doing the budget first.”

Then comes the list.

“Wedding lists tend to be complicated because of the emotionally attached involved. Everyone has a reason why people are on their list,” says Winner. “For instance, the groom's mom may be thinking 'gee, which people have led to my son's success in life and should be invited.' These people are important to her. However, if it cost $250 per person, and there's a couple your future mother-in-law wants to invite that your finance has only seen once in his life, that's $500. But if you both agree this couple should be there, then invite them. Look at it as a dollars game as well as a list.”

What about everyone else? It depends. Winner stresses that you don't have a responsibility to invite your single friend plus one.

“If that guest has been dating someone for a while, that's a different story. You would include their name on the invitation as well and not list them as 'guests.'”

Determining who to invite from work can be a sticky situation as well.

“You don't have to send out a mass invitation to the whole office,” says Winner. “Yet, you should invite your boss or supervisor. When it comes to inviting your co-workers, ask yourself if you and your fiancée were going out and wanted to invite another couple, who do you call? If it's not anyone from your office, then don't invite them. However, do include your social friends if room and budget allows.”

After all, it's not the Super Bowl, says Winner. There is no need to invite everyone you know.

Sometimes the venue decides the number for you, Elise MacAdam, a Manhattan-based wedding etiquette expert and author of “Something New: Wedding Etiquette for Rule Breakers, Traditionalists, and Everyone in Between,” points out. Many have a cap on the number of people that can comfortably fit into the place.

Even then, she sees nothing wrong with creating a dream list and then cutting it down to a more manageable size.

“Have everyone write down who they want to invite, combine them to make a master list, and then start cutting. Remember the rules for cutting guests to all lists. For instance, if you decide not to invite any second cousins, make sure that applies to both sides. Don't make any exceptions.”

And all sides should try to avoid any pettiness.

“It's really important, especially if one side has a larger family than the other, not to keep tally. No one should say that 'she gets more invitations that I do.' The numbers for each side should have an some element of fairness.”

Winner adds if the bride and groom are paying for the wedding, they can assign numbers to their parents, keeping in mind that it is a celebration for the parents as well. Sometimes the sticky situation comes when the one side is paying for the wedding.

“If the bride's parents are footing the bill, they might think they should get a larger number for invitees. That's not right. Each side has one child in this wedding and therefore, each side should have equal number of invitations for family and friends.”

If the list is still large, consider having a post-wedding party later in the year. MacAdam says this allows more flexibility for families.

“It's a great idea if you can't invite extended family members, or family and friends of either the bride or groom live in a different state.”

In the end, remember that the your wedding is an intimate affair, says Winner.

“You aren't trying to create a five hour event, but a 75-year marriage.”


What Should Go on Invitations

You've finally narrowed down your list and you're ready to order your invitations. But what goes where and how much information do you need to include? Allison DeMeulder, president of InvitationConsultants.com offers some tips:

She advises that invitations should be sent out at least six to eight weeks for people in-town, eight weeks for people out of town, and nine to 10 weeks before the event if any of invitations are being mailed internationally.

What about save-the-date cards?

According to DeMeulder, in the past four years, save-the-date cards have become popular. If you decided to send them out, do so a year and a half to six months before your wedding, but no later than five months.