How to navigate the minefield that is the wedding guest-list!
Before you get carried away and invite everyone you know, decide what size of wedding you want; a small celebration where you can afford to spoil people, or a huge bash with as many guests as possible. Sit down together and do a head count of family and friends to check your numbers are roughly in line with the day you have in mind.
Divide and conquer
Etiquette dictates that you and your groom should have an equal allocation of guests. Only if you can't reach your set quota should it be weighted to the other's favour. So 150 guests means you get to choose 75 people each. If he only comes up with 60 names you get an extra 15. Bonus!
Ask the parents
Traditionally, the bride's parents paid for the wedding and had the upper hand when it came to compiling the guest list. However, these days it's more likely you'll be splitting the bill between yourselves and both sets of parents, which means they also have a say in who they invite. Ask them to give you a list and prepare for tense negotiations when you find that they've jotted down the names of everyone in their bridge club. It is within your rights to veto some people from their list, but be sensitive!
Decide on the A-list
Once you've found the venue, you'll know the exact numbers you're working with. If your list adds up to more than you can accommodate, now is the time to prioritise. The best way is to split this list in two – those you must invite (the A-list) and those who aren't essential (the B-list). Generally, all those on the A-list will be invited to both the ceremony and reception, while the B-list will only be invited to attend in the evening.
Set your criteria
When deciding who goes on which list, you should agree on certain rules. For example, anyone neither of you has seen nor spoke to in six months should definitely go on the B-list. You should also decide which of your unmarried friends get plus-ones – if you're tight on numbers, you don't have to invite any partners you haven't met or who have been with your friend for less than year.
Between 10% and 20% of guests will be unable to attend, which means you can risk extending invites to more peole than your venue can accommodate. Send out the A-list invites first, then if more people decline than you anticipate, you can invite those at the top of the B-list to join you for the entire day.
Be clear on kids
You're perfectly at liberty to veto having children at your wedding, but chances are you'll want to include a select few to join in the fun. To avoid anyone assuming their children get to come, it's best to explain in person that while you would love to invite their offspring, numbers are limited. The chance to let their hair down will mean they'll soon forget about any initial upset.
Work it out
If you're planning to invite some work colleagues and not others, you risk putting noses out of joint. An all-or-nothing approach is best unless there are some you regularly socialise with outside office hours. Whatever you decide, it's always considered good etiquette to invite the boss!