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Who Has a Say in the Wedding Guest List?

Your wedding guest list is important—and many people have opinions on who should (and shouldn't) be invited. Here's how to decide who has a say in the wedding guest list.

By Elizabeth Blasi

bride and groom celebrate with wedding guest list
Photo by Zola

Your guest list can really make or break your wedding. Whether you’re hosting an intimate affair or an all-out fete, who you choose to include at your celebration matters. Beyond the social impact that a guest list has, it also plays a large role in setting the final budget. It’s a big deal. So, it should come as no surprise that you and your partner aren’t always the only ones who have a say in who’s invited to your wedding.

Yes, the couple should be the sole final decision-makers on the guest list. However, that won’t stop friends and family from chiming in—and it shouldn’t. Here’s our guide to who has a say in the wedding guest list and how to navigate all of the commentaries.

INLINE LisaKayCreativePhotography 1080x720 Christi&Chris Photo Credit // Lisa Kay Creative Photography

Your Parents/Family Who Are Paying

Anyone who helps finance your wedding may feel they have an authoritative say in who does (or doesn’t) come to your wedding. This is actually considered true—to a certain extent. Helping cut some of the budget from you and your partner’s plate does give some license to tack on some wedding guest preferences of their own.

However, if you feel that license is being taken advantage of, it’s time to sit down and have a discussion. First, you want to articulate how gracious you feel for their help. Weddings, as we know too well, can be expensive. Then, explain that while yes you totally support some of their wedding guest list additions, it’s still your celebration. This is not their party—it’s still yours. Agreeing to help pay for the wedding should be agreeing to maintain an event suited for you and your partner.

Your Parents/Family Who Are Not Paying

If you and your partner are self financing for your wedding, it may be easier to have complete control over your guest list. That said, it’s still polite to ask your parents (if you’re close to them) if there are some people they would like to include on the wedding guest list. After you crunch some numbers and set a good budget, give your parents a set number of spots on the guest list to fill as it aligns with your financials.

Your Extended Family

Coming from a large family sure has its share of excitement, especially during celebratory moments like weddings. Large, close-knit families can also cause some tension around celebratory events like weddings.

Your partner may either have a larger family than you or a much, much smaller family than you. Sometimes things can feel off-balance when it comes time to make a wedding guest list. For example, if the groom is inviting grandparents, aunts and uncles, and first cousins, while the bride’s family is tacking on all of the above plus second and third cousins, it may be time for an extended family review.

You want both sides of a couple to feel represented on their wedding day. For some couples, that means setting a cap for extended families. This can make things feel a bit more even and help cut the fluff of family obligation. If your extended family feels some type of way about this, that’s normal. You can opt to host smaller celebrations before or after the wedding to include anyone who didn’t make the guest list cut.

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Your Friends

Typically friend input to a wedding guest list comes in the form of requesting plus-ones. Customarily, wedding invites should extend to a plus-one if the invitee is married or in a serious relationship. However, there is a gray line for casual dating (or single guests) when it comes to bringing someone to a wedding.

If a friend asks you for a plus-one, be clear with them. Explain that if you gave a plus-one to them, you would have to give every single guest one. If that’s not possible for your budget, then that’s that.

One exclusion to this: the wedding party. It’s pretty common to offer plus-ones to all the members of your wedding party.

At the end of the day, everyone’s family and financial situations are different. So, there’s no one size fits all solution when it comes to who has a say in the wedding guest list. You and your partner should have the final say in each person on the guest list, but be sure to hear others out, as well. As it would be ideal to celebrate your love with as many people as possible, logistically that can’t happen. So go with your heart, listen to your loved ones, and make the best decision for you both.

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