The writers behind online “listicle” factory Buzzfeed might make lists look easy—and often downright fun—but if you’ve ever talked to anyone who’s trying to write the guest list for their wedding, they’ll probably tell you it’s more awful than amusing. No matter how you tweak, trim, reevaluate and rearrange, you’ll always feel like you’re leaving someone out who will forever remember the omission. Add to that the pressure of a budget that can only include so many guests—especially guests who are open barflies—and you’re left with a decision-making process that feels like Sophie’s choice. (Though hopefully much, much less dire.)
To make sure your hair stays intact for that glamorous updo you’re planning—instead of ripped out in frustration and strewn on the floor—here are a few ideas to help the guest list process feel more Buzzfeed and less (spoiler alert!) Meryl-Streep-as-Holocaust-survivor.
1. Calculate your actual budget. And stick to it. It’s easy to cave when faced with your spouse-to-be’s convincing “but they got me through college” or “but he’s my fun uncle” pleas, but the more “just this one” guests you let slip by, the more you’ll balloon your bottom line. Figure out what you can really, truly afford to spend on this wedding—all the little details, favors and extras—and what that means for your guest list tally. Everyone will be need food, everyone will need a party favor, everyone will need a drink(s), everyone will need a thank-you note once the nuptials are complete and you’re festooned with the fruits of your registry. Add up all those extras and you’ll get a more realistic picture of how many people you can actually accommodate. And once you decide on a number, stick to it. Here’s how. . . .
2. Set ground rules. When my friend got married a few years ago, she was having particular trouble with her guest list in the face of one too many “just this one” scenarios, so she came up with an ingenious rule. Each family member who wanted a say with the guest list—her mom, her dad, her fiancé and herself—were allowed one single veto, to be used at his or her discretion on a single guest list decision. While it might seem strict, it ended up allowing each person to have his or her voice heard—once—and left the rest of the nitty-gritty details to far fewer cooks in the kitchen.
3. Understand that you won’t be able to please everyone. This particular guideline escaped me for the better part of six months as I was planning my Sacramento wedding from New York. (I don’t recommend this, by the way, unless you have a very high tolerance for stress and/or don’t mind weeping at odd hours of the day and night.) I was so intent on not hurting anyone’s feelings and making sure that everyone felt heard and considered that I quickly lost sight of the irrefutable fact: It was our wedding. No one else’s. Once I allowed myself to start making more decisions from that position, guest lists and other hair-raising hassles seemed to dissipate.
And if all else fails . . . maybe Buzzfeed makes house calls?