HomeDEBRETT’S LIFESTYLE BLOGDiary of a Bride-to-Be Week 6: The Guests

Diary of a Bride-to-Be Week 6: The Guests

Of all the stumbling-blocks a wedding can present, the guest list seems to be the most troublesome. Even friends who have glided effortlessly through the rest of the planning process have been brought up short by the diplomatic complexities of plus-ones, children and reciprocal invitations.

Full disclosure, then: we didn’t leave it until now to start talking about it. Several other elements of the day have hinged on this one – budget, date and venue to name three – so we’d already come up with a finger-in-the-air number to be working from.

However it is now time to send out the save the dates, after which there’s no going back.

‘Don’t send out save the dates’ is one piece of advice I receive, belatedly. ‘After that, there’s no going back.’

We start by populating a shared spreadsheet with our absolutely-no-question names. My immediate family alone totals 11 members; his, 14. Then there are bridesmaids and ushers (plus partners), close friends, aunts, uncles and godparents. Before we know it, we’ve hit 90, with a maximum of 100 and many more ‘ideal-world’ guests we’d still like to include.

Somehow we’ve muddled through, compromised, agonised and just about kept the final number to double figures. It seems, however, that unless you’re prepared not to impose an upper limit on numbers, the guest list will always involve a degree of hand-wringing. Here’s what the Debrett’s Wedding Handbook says, alongisde our own experience:


Debrett’s says: ‘The presence of children can be contentious. Whatever you decide, make a clear decision and stick to it. Telling guests that their children are not invited can be awkward, so be diplomatic and explain your reasons, such as limited space.’

Our experience: Most of the wedddings we’ve attended have not included children other than immediate family, and we’ve decided to follow suit. Whether or not we’ll stick to this decision (one of our first Save the Date respondents asks ‘can I have a plus-two?’) remains to be seen…


Debrett’s says: ‘if the guest is married or in an established, long-term relationship, his or her spouse or partner should be invited. Otherwise, and especially if you have not met the partner of the guest in question, it is usually acceptable not to invite them.’

Our experience: our friends are mostly married, but there is one who has a boyfriend we’ve yet to meet. It seems churlish not to invite him, and yet odd to do so when we’re having to make cuts elsewhere. I explain to her as tactfully as possible about our limits on space, and that we will try to extend an invitation to him nearer the time if we can.

The ‘Reserve List’

Debrett’s says: ‘if you receive refusals you can send invitations to those on the reserve list. It’s fine to send out a second wave of invitations, as long as it is done promptly.’

Our experience: Refusals? We were warned not to count on them by friends who got married in Italy: despite the location, just four of their 100-strong list declined. Apparently a wedding is not like an ordinary party – people don’t just flake out in favour of a night in with Love Island. Neither long distance nor existing commitments seem to be putting off our nearest and dearest, which makes us feel very lucky – and just a little daunted.

Days remaining: 115
Spend: £1,572
(of £10,000)

What has been your biggest challenge in compiling a guest list? Share your experience and advice in the comments section below:

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