When it comes to wedding planning, there's no bigger beast than the guest list. If you invite one cousin, do you have to invite all 37 of them? And what, exactly, should you do about those obligatory co-worker invites? From family dynamics to plus-ones, there is so much to consider when it comes to building your wedding guest list. Today, then, we're beyond excited to sit down with wedding-planner extraordinaire and guest list-guru Julie Blakey of Refined Romance Events to talk all the advice you need for navigating the ever-murky waters of wedding guest-lists...without losing your mind in the process. Read on for her sanity-saving tips:

  

Whether you just got engaged or have had the ring on your finger for a few months now, this is one topic that will keep coming up in the wedding planning process.....so much so that eventually you might even want to throw your hands up and let everyone else have their say (enter all those tricky in-law and family dynamics here). For nearly a decade, my team and I have been helping our couples navigate this tricky topic. We tell our clients that, even though we can take so much of the stress away during the planning process, there are just some areas where you have to stick it out as a couple to find a solid solution for all involved! Unfortunately, the guest list is one of those "stick it out" areas. There's no one-size-fits-all solution for building a guest list, but below are the most important things to consider when tackling your guest list:

 

Start with Budget

 

Forget about names for a second and focus, instead, on numbers. What's your overall budget? I know this might seem like a backwards place to start, but stick with me. Starting from the 40,000-foot view helps give you a bigger picture of what you're trying to achieve with your wedding and what you can afford. Every market is different, so always talk with a local wedding planner in your area for more guidance when it comes to nailing down a realistic budget for the design and guest-count you want, but overall, your budget will help build the foundation for your affair. Numbers, after all, have a funny way of bringing things into perspective...and quickly! Starting with budget will help you know if you need to scale back on those additional names you were on the fence about. Or, maybe you cut the guest-list in half and opt for a truly intimate, personal, and lavish affair for a much smaller crowd instead. You might also consider a much lower key, no-pressure reception of sorts thrown after you're married in order to include great Aunt Mable's cousin who's expecting an invite.

 

Ask Yourself This One Question

 

The best litmus test for deciding if you really want to send out that invite? Ask yourself if you would take that person/couple out to a very nice restaurant and pay for their meal. If you're on the fence about this, it's probably time to pull out the black marker and cross them off the list (Sorry, Mr. & Mrs. Jones!). You can always opt to send them a Christmas card with your wedding picture and a nice note when the time comes.

 

 

Send Invitations Out in Rounds

 

Go elementary-school on it! ABC's are for more than grade school. For couples who are having a hard time with their guest list, we often recommend assigning an A, B, or even C designation to each guest. Then, send your invitations out in rounds. The concept: mail invitations to all your A-List guests and, as they begin to regretfully decline, send out an invitation to someone on the B-List and so on. This is a little tricky because you need to start collecting RSVP's a bit sooner, so you have time to still invite guests from the B- and C-lists. Typically, starting around 8 weeks before the wedding with different RSVP dates for each list is a good beginning point (pro tip: print 2 or 3 different Reply Cards that have different RSVP dates and slip the corresponding Reply Card in when mailing out to your A, B or C lists!).

 

Use Tools to Your Advantage

 

Remember to use your handy Aisle Planner Guest List manager! You can organize by Bride's side/Groom's side/coworkers/college friends, etc. And, yes, even by A-, B- and C-list guests! The guest list manager also helps you track seating assignments, entree selections, and other relevant items once the time comes. There's no more sanity-saving tip when it comes to wedding guest-lists than to take advantage of technology and tools. In this day and age, there's no reason to track your RSVPs by hand or on a simple spreadsheet. Use smart, wedding-specific tools instead!

 

Overall, after all is said and done, remember to take a deep breath and grab a glass of wine—or, if you're like me, a big bowl of cookies 'n' cream ice cream—before diving into something as important and thoughtful as your guest list! While this day is about family and friends wanting to celebrate with you, it's also your wedding day. More than just a pretty event, it's the beginning of a wonderful journey with your spouse...and guest-listing (yup—we turned it into a verb) marks the first of many important decisions you'll make together as a married couple. If you can learn how to navigate the ever-tricky waters of planning a wedding, you can tackle anything life throws at you!

Photo courtesy Dallas wedding photographer Stephanie Brazzle

Dallas wedding planner Refined Romance