Who Do You Invite to A Small Wedding?

Many couples want a smaller wedding, but find it hard to keep the guest list small. Here are some thoughts and guidelines about whom to invite to a small wedding.

By Lisa Wong Macabasco

Who Do You Invite to A Small Wedding?
Photo by Elle Golden Photography

The First Look ✨

  • In general, a small wedding event has 75 guests or fewer.
  • Start with your immediate family and closest friends for the wedding guest list.
  • Agree with your partner about which extended family members you can include for the special day.
  • Keep it to your very closest friends whom you can’t imagine not celebrating your big day with.
  • Whether it’s a friend or a family member, you don’t have to invite anyone you just don’t feel close to currently.
  • Curb the wedding guest list by not inviting children or allowing plus ones.

Many couples opted for a smaller wedding since the pandemic started, and the trend looks bound to continue into the foreseeable future, for budget or environmental reasons, among others. But many find it hard to keep the wedding invitation list small for the wedding venue. Here are some thoughts and guidelines about whom to invite to a small wedding.

What Is Considered a Small Wedding?

First of all, a small wedding will look different for everyone, depending on the size of your family and your circle of friends, your religion, and your culture. In general, weddings under 75 guests are considered small and can be thought of in three categories: intimate weddings of 50 to 75; small weddings of 50 or fewer; and tiny weddings, or mini-/micro-weddings, of fewer than 15 guests.

Start With Your Must-Haves

The immediate family members of you and your partner should be at the top of the wedding invitation list, along with the close relatives you really want to be there for your big day. Next, think about which friends you just couldn’t dream of leaving out of your intimate wedding.

Set the Boundaries With Family Members

If you have a large extended family, you’ll have to make some tough decisions to keep your celebration small. Discuss with your partner about how small you want to make your intimate wedding: Maybe you want to draw the line with first cousins, uncles, and aunts, or maybe you want to just stick to your parents, siblings, and grandparents. Don’t feel like you have to invite distant cousins or relatives that you haven’t met before—or even any family you just aren’t close to.

Keep It to Your Closest Friends

You may not be able to include friends of friends, acquaintances, or co-workers who you see occasionally on your final wedding invite list. Ask yourself whether not inviting them may negatively impact your friendship—and whether that matters to you. If so, put them on a “maybe list” that you can revisit during wedding planning, when the guest list takes a firmer shape. If not, they don’t need a place on your list.

Assess What Your Current Relationship Is

Don’t feel obligated to invite people just because they invited you to their wedding ceremony. Maybe you lost touch or had a falling out. Whether it’s a friend or a family member, you don’t have to invite anyone you just don’t feel close to currently. As a rule of thumb, think about whom you’d really like to take to dinner—after all, that is effectively what you’re doing with your wedding. If you don’t relish the thought of spending a nice evening with someone, you might not want to put them on your wedding invite list.

If Your Parents Are Contributing Financially to the Wedding

If your parents or your partner’s parents are footing all or part of the wedding celebration, they’re entitled to invite some guests—but it’s not out of the question that you set a limit on how many people they get to ask.

Limit Kids and Plus Ones

Two easy ways to curb the guest list are to make a rule to not invite children or allow plus ones. Kid-free weddings can shrink your guest count considerably in larger families. With plus ones, stick to extending invites only to those loved ones in long-term relationships.

It’s Hard to Cut Your Guest List—but It Can Be Necessary

There’s bound to be hurt feelings in any wedding celebration of any size. But there are plenty of ways you can make people feel involved in your celebration without inviting them to your wedding, whether it’s a separate, larger picnic or a Zoom party. But also remember that you’re not obligated to invite anyone. If you aren’t thrilled by the idea of someone attending your wedding, you absolutely don’t have to invite them. And chances are, if you’re not close, they won’t be bothered by it at all. It can be awkward or uncomfortable, but most people will understand that guest lists have to be restricted.

With a smaller wedding comes a surprising upside—more opportunities for genuine connection with your guests and staying true to who you really are as a couple. You’ll be able to spend more time with each guest and may be able to reallocate your budget to areas such as wedding vendors or save the dates that will make the day more special for those you care about most. Maybe you don’t get the big wedding you always dreamed of—but it’s a real chance to revisit what matters most. It’s true what they say: Less is more!

 Shop Save the Dates, Invites, and More in One Place

Find even more wedding ideas, inspo, tips, and tricks

We’ve got wedding planning advice on everything from save the dates to wedding cakes.