The size and composition of your guest list has a lot to do with getting the wedding you want. It affects the time and cost involved in everything related to your guests, from the choice of venue to the cost of catering to the length of the reception, among many others. In a less tangible but equally important way, your guest list affects the energy or, if you prefer, the feel, of your ceremony and, to an even greater extent, your reception.

Creating a guest list for your wedding can be a source of stress, frustration, and confusion. It doesn’t have to be that way. Let’s take a look at how to create your perfect guest list while doing away with as much of that angst as possible.

My favorite and, I think, the most useful piece of advice comes from Judith Martin, also known as Miss Manners, who says: “Invite the people you love and who love you.” Really, who else do you want at your wedding? You want to look at every face, every single person, and think, “I’m glad you’re here!” What a wonderful criterion for choosing guests for your wedding!

Let’s look at some common guest categories:

Relatives – Those “weddings and funerals” relatives with whom you really don’t have a relationship? The cousins and aunts and uncles that you rarely see that you really don’t know? Let them go. They don’t want to come to your wedding. They don’t want to get dressed up, they don’t want to travel, and they don’t want you at their wedding, either! Great! Break the cycle of pain and let them off the hook.

Your parents’ friends and colleagues – Your parents may want to show you off to their friends and colleagues. That’s a wonderful thing, to be sure. Some parents never get to entertain, and they might see your wedding as a great opportunity to do that. If you happen to know and love their friends and colleagues, then go for it. If not, consider suggesting that your parents throw a separate, dedicated party a few months after your wedding. At that party you can give your best attention to these good people, all of whom are important in your parents’ lives (but not yours).

Children – You may have the kind of extended family for whom having the children around all the time is part and parcel of the family culture. If that’s your desire as well, then by all means, invite the whole clan! On the other hand, many couples are best served by limiting the guest list to adults (with the exception of their own children or their chosen flower children or ringbearers).

Plus-ones – All of the etiquette writers agree that inviting plus-ones is never the right thing to do. Why give someone else the ability to invite people to your wedding? Their plus-one knows nobody, so at your wedding your guest becomes their date instead of your guest, and you lose them both. Better to send them $100 and tell them to go out on a date!

It’s your decision – Here’s the bottom line: You have complete control of your guest list! It’s your wedding, and your decision. Who do you want to be present at the start of your marital journey? Think of the people in your life who care for you and support you, and with whom you share your joys and sorrows. Those are the people you want to invite to your wedding!

Your guests are coming to participate in – not just watch – the union of two people, and to celebrate that union with you. Choose your guests because you want them to be involved in your marriage, to bring you strength, growth, and happiness.

The experience of your wedding and the memories built there will affirm your decisions. The people whom you love and who love you and who are guests at your wedding will see and appreciate that you’ve created that wedding that’s perfect for you.

Next time: Wedding Planning Essentials.

David L. Egan is the proprietor and steward of Chase Court, a wedding and event venue in downtown Baltimore. Visit, and follow ChaseCourtWeddingVenue on Instagram and Facebook.

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David Egan
David Egan
David L. Egan is the proprietor and steward of Chase Court, a wedding and event venue in downtown Baltimore. Visit, and follow ChaseCourtWeddingVenue on Instagram and Facebook.