How Can I Get My Partner to Cut Their Half of the Guest List?

It's so expensive!

Q: Dear APW,

My fiancx is really struggling to keep his guest list count down, and it’s making me anxious. Our wedding is in a relatively “trendy” and expensive location, and having good food and alcohol is important to us (and very $$), so we decided to only invite 150 guests. Like most couples, we approached making our guest list with a 50/50 attitude—half of the guests for him, half for me. For me, coming up with 75 people to invite was relatively easy, and I’m only one or two people over that limit without excluding people who likely will not attend due to travel/ill health/etc. He however, had an initial count of 220 people! Since that wouldn’t work, early on, we agreed to have a “post-wedding celebration” in our city at a bigger, inexpensive venue so that we can include his broader group of friends. While I’m not crazy about planning another party, we’ve negotiated a good deal with the owner of the venue and my fiancx’s broader group of friends (most of whom I don’t know or have only met in passing) are a fun group of people.

Back to the actual wedding—his latest guest count was 120 people, with the proviso that 30 of his farther afield relatives (many of which he has not seen since living abroad in high school) most likely won’t attend. That would put us at 90 guests for him, still over our budget. I have mentioned to him that he has to find some people to cut, and suggested people that he hasn’t spoken to in years (there were several on the list). He got very upset at this—he said that he thinks all of the people on the list (even those he hasn’t spoken to in years) will be very upset about him not inviting them to his wedding, and he feels he will need to personally call each person that he cuts and explain the situation. Not wanting to fight about the issue, I dropped the subject, we keep saying our guest count is 150, and we’ve moved on with planning.

Now we are about two months away from sending our save the dates and really need to hammer out the guest list. In addition to still being about fifteen guests over our limit, the farther afield family members are starting to ask detailed questions about the wedding, indicating they will attend, making it possible that we are actually 45 guests over. To make matters worse, my fiancx can be very stubborn and thinks that wedding etiquette (and most of the wedding industry) is BS—he thinks that he is being very considerate of his friends and families’ feelings, which is the definition of etiquette, so it is hard to tell him things like “etiquette says do x” or “for her wedding So-and-So did y.” I’ve asked him several times to stop making things harder than they need to be (most recently while crying in a pile of back-up engagement party dresses after a Rent the Runway fiasco), and he does understand how he is acting—and is trying to be more agreeable.

So how do I prepare for the final battle over The Guest List? I understand that we will have probably about 15% decline rate, so we can probably invite 170 people and still be safe, but I’m not sure I’m armed with the right things to say to him in order to not offend him and still get him to cut the list without drastic repercussions. (Remember, there is also another party post-wedding!). One would think “We don’t have enough in our budget, you need to cut the list,” would be enough, but I’ve tried and gotten nowhere. Help!

—Future Mrs. Social Butterfly

A: Dear FMSB,

Guest lists aren’t easy. If they were, then a simple 50/50 split, boom, would solve it. But in most cases (for more than just weddings!) an even split doesn’t make a lot of real-life, practical sense. Maybe he has a bigger friend group, a larger family, a family culture that includes more inviting than you’re used to. It feels really unfair that he can’t stick to his end of the deal. But I’m saying maybe the deal wasn’t all that fair to begin with.

Budgets are real life limitations you have to contend with, but it doesn’t necessarily mean the guest list is where you should cut. You mentioned that you both prioritized a great location and good food. You’re having a second event. This is great! Instead of hammering on him about shaving off a few more friends, let him come up with ideas of where to cut. Here’s our budget; here’s what this costs and this costs and this costs. What do we chop? If he’s got nothing, then Great Uncle Larry gets the boot.

We all get caught up in the pressures of wedding planning. Despite being suspicious of the wedding industry (I mean, aren’t we all?), it’s possible he’s just getting caught up in the pressure too, in his own way. But even if that’s the case, even if he’s inviting people that perhaps don’t necessarily need an invitation, whose relationships wouldn’t be harmed by being excluded. That doesn’t mean that his priorities don’t matter, that his feelings about his guests can just be dictated to him. Take a step back and consider what would really be fair, without some arbitrary middle divide. Maybe your wedding outfit costs more than his, maybe his part of the guest list is a bit longer. You’ll need to decide where to tighten the belt together.

He’s not wrong! Etiquette really is about being considerate of the people around you. But that includes one another!

—Liz Moorhead


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