Allison and Dan get ready for their May wedding at the DoubleTree in downtown Madison, WI. PIctured are Allison's bridal details. Photo by Mindy Joy Photography.


Guest List Advice From Your Madison and Minneapolis Wedding Planners: Part Two

July 12, 2023

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Welcome back to our guest list blog series, part two!!

In part one we talked through the basics of how to go about planning your guest list. This post will help you navigate the more emotional, tricky guest list side of things. 

Buckle up, because we’re about to tackle managing expectations, navigating high emotions, and finding creative solutions that will make your guest list planning a little less daunting!

Larissa Marie Photography

Managing Expectations

First things first, remember to go back to the wedding you envision. Do you want an intimate gathering, a grand celebration, or something in between?

In part one, we talked about the importance of categorizing your potential guests. Now, let’s dive into the considerations that will help you make those tough decisions.

Finances – The Budget Conundrum

Ah, finances – the not-so-fun but oh-so-real aspect of wedding planning. Let’s face it, inviting additional guests can significantly impact your budget. Each extra person means additional costs for food, seating, decor, and more. So, take a moment to evaluate whether accommodating more guests aligns with your overall vision and financial capabilities.

Consider Parental Contributions

Now, we know that parental contributions can sometimes come with certain expectations. When parents are contributing significantly to the budget, their input may carry weight. 

It’s important to have open and respectful conversations with them about the guest list. Share your vision and priorities while listening to their side, too. 

Together, explore potential compromises that allow for a balance between their wishes and your own. 

But hey, if you’d rather have the wedding you want, without parental contributions, go for it! It’s your day, after all.

Communicate and Compromise with Your Partner – The Ultimate Marriage Test

Ah, the beauty of love – two hearts beating as one, and sometimes, two different views on the guest list. 

If you find yourselves on opposite sides of the aisle (pun intended) when it comes to the number of guests, fear not! 

This is a fantastic opportunity to practice communication skills that will serve you well in your marriage. 

Open up a conversation with your partner and find a middle ground that satisfies both of you. 

What are the reasons behind their desire for more guests? Share your concerns as well. Seek to understand each other’s perspectives and work together to reach a compromise that feels fair and manageable. Trust us, this will come in handy when making big decisions in the future!

Hart + Fig Photo

Honesty Is the Best Policy – Share Your Choices and Explain Why

When it comes to your loved ones, transparency is key. Be open and honest with them about your choices, explaining the reasons behind them. 

While some may be disappointed, those who genuinely care about you will understand and support your decision. 

Compromise is a natural part of wedding planning. Find creative solutions that meet everyone’s needs to the best of your abilities. And always keep those lines of communication open with your partner and parents. 

The goal is to create a memorable day that reflects your love and values while also considering the wishes of those closest to you.

When Emotions Are High – Let’s Keep the Drama in the Rom-Coms

Alright, let’s talk about those emotional roller coasters that come along with wedding planning. 

We’ve joked about being unpaid therapists as wedding planners, but there’s some truth to it. 

Here are our tips for healthy communication and navigating those potentially stressful conversations with grace.

Choose the Right Time and Place – Calm Waters Make Smooth Sailing

When it’s time to discuss the guest list, choose a calm and neutral environment for these conversations. Avoid discussing it in the midst of other wedding-related stress or during family gatherings where emotions may already be running high.

Schedule a dedicated time to sit down and talk, ensuring everyone is focused and receptive. And if you think emotions might run especially high, maybe opt for a public place to help keep them in check.

Active Listening – Give Them the Spotlight

Creating a space where each person can express their thoughts and concerns openly is crucial. Practice active listening by giving your full attention, maintaining eye contact, and acknowledging their feelings. Show them you’re fully present by repeating back what you hear to ensure you understand their perspective correctly. This approach shows respect and fosters understanding.

Communicate Your Own Wishes

While it’s essential to listen to others, don’t forget to clearly express your own desires and expectations for the guest list. Share your reasons behind specific choices and emphasize the importance of staying within your budget or maintaining an intimate atmosphere if that aligns with your vision.

Be honest and transparent about your limitations and concerns. Your voice matters just as much as anyone else’s. So make sure your desires are heard!

Seek Common Ground and Compromise

Identify areas where you can find agreement and build upon them. Look for solutions that address everyone’s concerns to the best of your abilities. Get creative! Explore alternative options, such as hosting separate events or finding a compromised number of additional guests.

Compromise doesn’t mean sacrificing your vision; it means finding a balance that respects everyone’s wishes while staying true to your own.

Enlist the Help of a Mediator if Necessary

Sometimes, despite our best efforts, tensions can escalate and communication becomes difficult. In such cases, don’t be afraid to involve a neutral third party, like a wedding planner (although, disclaimer, we’re not responsible for your family drama), or a trusted family member or friend who can help you navigate the challenges. Their perspective and guidance can offer valuable insights and provide a calm presence during emotional discussions.

Larissa Marie Photography

Family Drama and Estranged Relationships

We know that weddings don’t always bring out the best in people, and family dynamics can be sensitive. If you have an estranged relationship with a family member, please know that your wedding day should be a day of joy and celebration. It is okay to make the difficult decision to not invite someone who would rob you of that joy. Surround yourself with those who bring positive energy and love into your life.

Set Boundaries and Stand Firm

Repeat after us: “It’s my wedding day!” Your love, your vision, your decisions. While it’s important to consider the input of others, including parents, remember to set clear boundaries and stand firm on what matters most to you as a couple. Respectfully assert your vision and explain the reasons behind your choices. Your guests are there to celebrate you and your love, so let them experience the day you’ve dreamed of!

Focus on the Love and Unity

Throughout the process, remind yourselves and others that your wedding day is about love, unity, and celebrating the people who have loved and supported you along the way. Emphasize that the guest list decisions are not meant to exclude or offend, but rather to create an intimate and meaningful celebration. Keep the focus on gathering together to celebrate your commitment to each other.

Maintaining open and respectful communication is key. It may take time for emotions to cool down, so be patient with one another.

By approaching the guest list conversations with empathy, active listening, and a willingness to find common ground, you can navigate these potentially heated discussions while strengthening your relationships.

Now, Repeat After Me

Here’s what to say when…

When someone invited a plus one without permission or asks if plus ones can come:

“Dear [Name],Thank you so much for your excitement and for wanting to share our special day with us. We have carefully planned our guest list and unfortunately, we are unable to accommodate additional plus ones at this time. We hope you understand and we look forward to celebrating with you.”

When someone assumes they’re invited and starts asking about plans:

“Hi [Name],

Thank you for your enthusiasm and interest in our wedding. We appreciate your excitement, but due to space constraints and our intimate guest list, we have had to make some difficult decisions. Unfortunately, we are unable to extend an invitation to you for the wedding. We hope you understand and know that your support means a lot to us.”

When talking to your parents

“Dear Mom and Dad,

We appreciate your input and understand that you want us to include everyone. However, in order to create an intimate and meaningful celebration, we have made some tough decisions regarding our guest list. While we understand your concern, we kindly ask for your understanding in respecting our choices. We look forward to celebrating this special day with you and creating lasting memories.”


“We appreciate your input and understand that you have certain individuals in mind for our wedding. However, we kindly ask for your understanding as we carefully consider our guest list. While it’s important to honor family connections, we also want to ensure that we can spend quality time with each of our guests. We value your support and trust that you’ll respect our decisions.”

Other general things you can say:

“Creating our guest list has been quite a process, and we’ve come to realize that it’s difficult to include everyone we know. In order to maintain an intimate and meaningful celebration, we have had to make some tough decisions. We hope you understand that our venue size and budget constraints necessitate a more limited guest count.”

“Given recent life transitions and new connections, it’s understandable to have concerns about excluding anyone. However, we have decided to prioritize close relationships and those who have played a significant role in our lives. Our aim is to create an intimate celebration where we can genuinely connect with each guest. We hope you understand and know that we cherish our relationship with you.”

And you don’t even always need to have an explanation!

The key is to express your gratitude for their understanding while emphasizing the need for a smaller guest count.

Mindy Joy Photography

Closing Thoughts

Navigating tricky guest list conversations can be challenging, but it’s an important part of the wedding planning process. By communicating clearly with your clients and their guests, setting clear expectations, and handling difficult conversations with empathy and diplomacy, you can create a guest list that reflects your wishes and helps to make their wedding day truly unforgettable – with the people you can’t imagine doing it without.

Regardless, invite or not, people SHOULD be happy for you! It’s not fair for anyone to guilt you into an invite just because they don’t understand your decision. At the end of the day, the most important thing is to focus on what really matters: celebrating your love and commitment, surrounded by the people who mean the most to you.

As a people-pleaser who has it bad, save yourself the hassle and heartache and just do something for you, for once, mmkay?*

*Unless mom and dad are paying for everything, then maybe they can have 20 invites 😉