Your wedding day is supposed to be a celebration of love, surrounded by your nearest and dearest. But anyone who has planned a wedding will know that curating the guest list isn’t always as easy as that.
There are the people you want to invite but can’t afford to feed, the people you’d rather never see again who you have to sit at the top table, and then of course there’s the diplomacy of the seating plan.
And even a royal wedding isn’t immune to invitation drama, after Prince Harry and Meghan Markle reportedly fought to keep the Duchess of York, Sarah Ferguson, in attendance at their May wedding.
Wedding planner Mary Haresign told HuffPost UK: “The problem with guest lists is that couples are under pressure, mainly from parents or grandparents, to invite your cousin three-times-removed and her brood who you have never met. Some couples find that their families invite people without even telling them.”
Not only is this frustrating because couples want their wedding to be about them and their friends, in most cases they’re also having to foot the bill.
“Weddings are prohibitive because food and alcohol is so expensive,” said relationship therapist Ar’nie Rozah Krogh who had two weddings with her Scandinavian husband - one in Denmark with 40 guests and another in Singapore with an estimated 1000 guests (just 300 of whom she invited and 700 invited by her mother). “In Asia, people bring money, so inviting ten more uncles is okay because you can cover your costs.”
Some couples find that their families invite people without even telling them...”
Jessica and William Graham, both 29, from Walthamstow got married in October last year in Kent. The couple came across issues with inviting plus ones. Especially with friends who had been dating someone for a short while.
“We settled on a ‘three meet’ rule whereby we had to have met them three times to be invited to the reception. We didn’t have an evening guest limit so anyone who wasn’t invited to the day could come to the evening party,” explained Jessica. “A lot of my family live in Ecuador and the USA. We knew with flights, visas and accommodation, inviting them to the wedding would be a huge ask.”
Anulika Oligboh, 27, and Kenechukwu Chinwuba, 30, from Kent, said that the location was the biggest factor in their guest list. The couple had four separate ceremonies in the UK and Nigeria between January and December 2017. “Obviously, because of the location, some people just couldn’t come. That was to be expected.”
Although the couple didn’t argue themselves about the guest list, Anulika said they “had a bit of negotiating to do” with their parents. “Our parents weren’t able to invite everyone they wanted to as we wanted a more intimate wedding.”
The couple ended up inviting 450 for their church wedding and reception. “We definitely had people that we didn’t want there, but had to be there,” she added. “We all agreed on the core 250 or so. We used access cards and bouncers on our wedding day to ensure that opportunists didn’t turn up. The remaining 200 cards were split 50 each between myself, my mum, my husband, and his parents to invite who we all want. So it was pretty smooth sailing to be honest.”
In their traditional marriage in Nigeria, they had 1800 guests.
Anulika said: “Make sure that you as a couple are aligned before considering the needs and wants of the wider family. My main advice to other couples would be to only do what you can afford. You need to live afterwards.”
We definitely had people that we didn’t want there, but had to be there...” Anulika Oligboh
Holly Downes and Charlie O’Byrne from Southend-On-Sea, in Essex, are getting married in August 2019 in Nice. They have had problems not wanting to upset family members or friends by “leaving someone out” says Holly.
They also have a limited budget - “As it’s a destination wedding we can’t have people for the evening so we have had to decide whether we want them for the whole day.”
The couple recommend: “Choose who you want at the the wedding rather than listening to lots of other peoples advice and preferences, except if they are the person paying.”
“Choose the people that are going to make wedding fun and memorable rather than filling the spaces so you don’t fill all the spaces with people you feel you have to have.”
Rozah Krogh said the guest list and your wedding are just the beginning. “This is about compromising and trying to find balance early on.
“This is all about communication, with each other and with your guests. Be honest about why you can’t invite them.”