This Is How I Managed My Gigantic Guest List

wedding guests at reception with view of city skyline

Wedding rule number one for Warwick’s and my wedding:

If it comes to a choice between X wedding expense, and inviting more people, we invite more people.

It was decided in one of the first conversations we had about what our wedding should be. Rule number two is “If it doesn’t sound like fun we don’t do it,” which is also a good rule, but this post is about coming to terms with rule number one.

I thought the people first rule was great. I have a huge family, (eighteen first cousins, most of them married at this point, fifteen aunts and uncles, and none that I don’t see regularly and get along with), we have a ton of friends (high school, a super close-knit college family, and every theatre either of us has worked at in the last five years), and a sizable number of family friends. All of these people are special, fabulous, and fun.

About a month after getting engaged I decided to start some solid concrete planning. Step one was to find a venue, and in order to do that I needed a rough guesstimate of the number of guests. I entered in everyone I initially thought of on a spreadsheet (along with how we knew them, and where they were located, since I’m type A like that). I had Warwick add his list, then his mom, then my parents. Finally I went back through and added “and guest” to each person on the list whose significant other wasn’t already included. At the end, I looked at my list and had a panic attack.

374 people.

And this was after I had already talked my mom out of inviting all of her cousins, my great aunts and uncles, and several of her friends who I don’t know as well.

I shut down. This all happened in early Febuary. I announced to Warwick, my family, and my bridesmaids that I was giving up the wedding for Lent. I would not answer any questions about it, I would not be reading any wedding blogs and I would not be dealing with this list. Maybe a slight overreaction, but as it turns out a pretty good one. It gave me a chance and back up and get some perspective.

Forty days later, I reapproached everything with a clearer head. I’m smart, I’m good at making things, I don’t need all the bells and whistles, not all of those people would be able to come; this would be fine. I told everyone involved that none of us were allowed to make any more friends for the next year, and Warwick and I started on a mission to start hooking up friends so that they would be each other’s dates and we could cut some of those “and guest”s. Those last two are mostly meant jokingingly, though not entirely.

Late this summer, with everyone in the same place, I had everyone go through the list together, and we divided it into an A, B, and C list using these rules.

A = I can’t imagine my wedding day without them there.
B = They won’t make or break the day, but if they are not there, they will be missed.
C = I probably won’t miss them if they aren’t there, but they will add to the fun of the day if they are.

A list people were untouchable. No one else is allowed to argue with someone on the A list. B list people are likely going to get an invite, but those are the people who are up for debate if we need to cut. C list people do not get invites unless enough people on the A and B list RSVP no.

Suddenly our list was a much more manageable 312, and that included a sizable number of people who needed an invite but likely wouldn’t be able to come. Now I was looking for a venue that could hold around 250 instead of 350.

250 people is still a huge wedding (especially when I come here to APW and read about all of you who have weddings of 30 or 50) but I was sure that I could handle it. After all I was going to find some crazy awesome venue no one had ever thought to have a wedding at, it would be unique and quirky and cheap.


I turns out that there is a downside to practical, off-beat, unique personal weddings becoming more accepted and popular. I discovered that all of those quirky unique venues either knew how cool they were and were therefore WAY out of our price range, or they didn’t hold 250 people.

We went on a trip to St. Louis this July to visit venues and after the day was over we had found one place that we had a good feeling about. They were in our price range, the people were incredibly helpful and pleasant, the room was beautiful, there was a giant dance floor (super bonus), a big parking lot for our guests and easy access to all the hotels in downtown St. Louis. There was just one problem. It was a banquet hall. Just a banquet hall. Not a reclaimed warehouse, not a hip art gallery, not a cool museum or an abandoned theatre. How was I going to have the unique quirky wedding that I imagined in such a generic traditional WIC venue?

In late September we had our annual beermas party. Its a huge party we’ve been having every year since college and it gets bigger and bigger every year. I’d guess there were almost 100 people at my house that night and we partied from nine at night until four in the morning. The next day, I realized the people first rule is rule number one for a reason. I don’t need a quirky unique venue to have an awesome party. It doesn’t matter what room we put our friends in, they are going to be their quirky unique selves. We bring the awesome with us wherever we go.

So I booked the banquet hall, and I am feeling good about it.

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