How to Handle the Guest List

Ok, so you have 200 slots and about 500 people you wish you could invite. There are people who you are obligated to invite (oh family) and there are some of those obligatory invites who you’re sure won’t be able to come. Like you’re PRETTY sure that Uncle Billy won’t be able to make it because he hasn’t traveled beyond the grocery store in the past 5 years. But what if he CAN make it? What if he decides to make the trip? How on earth will that work with numbers on the guest list?!

Photo of Guest Seating Decor from The Wedding Lens

First: Breathe. Remember that your wedding day is about a celebrating your relationship with your friends and family.

Second: Start listing. List everyone. All 300 people. Everyone you might possibly want to invite or wish you could invite — even though there’s the possibility that you won’t be able to in the grand scheme of things.

Third: Of those people on the list, make a separate list of the absolutely 100% non-negotiable people who you WANT to be at your wedding to celebrate. This includes: Your best friend, your second best friend, and your college roommates. This does not include: Your parents’ friends who you feel obligated to invite. Got it?

Fouth: Check the numbers. Say now you have 150 of the 200 people you can invite. That leaves you 80 people left to invite. Huh? 80? But Natasha, you say, 200 – 150 = 50! Ah yes. BUT statistically a guest list of 200 people or LESS, there will be 15-20% of folks who do not come. With a guest list of 200 people or MORE, 20-25% won’t come.

Now, I have to forwarn. Not everyone is going to RSVP in a timely manner and some of those 15-20% or 20-25% won’t drop out til the last minute. But I assure you that you can safely invite 15% more than your highest number and you will be a-okay.

So this gives you a little more room to play with. You’ll have 80 people you can fill in with obligatory invites — be it your Uncle or your parents friends who have known you since you were born — and (gasp) anyone else you can/want to invite.

Fifth: If you are just stuck with those extra 80 people and how to handle them. I really recommend using a ranking system. That sounds awful, of course, to rank your friends and family. But it will make you feel better. ‘Cause if Uncle Billy really doesn’t come, then maybe you CAN invite your old buddy who you haven’t seen in five years. Maybe.

If you use a tier/ranking system, use an EARLY RSVP date so you have time to fill in the people who say no and you can (with tact) follow up with those you have not heard from so you can fill in their spots. And if you do the tiers, DO NOT print the RSVP deadline on the invitation. Do not. Otherwise either you have to print a whole new set for the new invitees OR you look like… someone who totally forgot to invite the guest until the last minute. Nice.

Here are some tips on how to cut down the guest list and how to handle the guest list when you’re not paying for the wedding (in other words — when other people are adding to YOUR guest list) and more guidance on wedding invitations (including how to tell people they can’t bring a date and/or their kids)

And here, my friends, is how to address these invitations!

Hope that helps! If you have any questions, just email me at and I’ll help ya out. 🙂

Good luck!

~ Natasha

How to Plan Your Wedding: When To Do What! (Part I)

So you’re engaged… now what? That’s the beginning of the wedding planning process! A friend of The Wedding Lens recently got engaged and was asking questions about time frames. So here we go!

Because engagements take place for different lengths of time, I’m not going to specify how long before the wedding date you should do each action. But this is generally the ORDER of things. Where possible, I’ve linked to other related blog posts on the topic! (And here’s just a list of things to do for wedding planning, if you just want that) Also, be sure to check out our Cheap Wedding Tips and our Green Wedding Tips, both of which have great ideas to help you out during different stages of the planning process!

First Steps

  1. Create a budget! This means taking a list of everything that you know you’ll have to spend money on and deciding how much you can dedicate to each portion. Check out our Guide to Creating a Wedding Budget — which specifies which costs are fixed and which depend on the number of guests.
  2. Pick the wedding party. This seems early in the process right? True! But the wedding party can help you with the tasks that you’ll have to do. Pick early, they’ll help early!
  3. Divide tasks! After reading the rest of this blog post, you’ll get a full picture of everything there is to do: from marriage license to centerpieces.  Once you have that list, divide up the tasks however you see fit.

Things That Shouldn’t Wait

  1. Marriage license.  Every state has different rules on the time frame needed to apply for a license and to get married. Make sure you know what you need to do before you get too close to your wedding date!
  2. Find a venue, date, and officiant. This is sort of circular because you need the venue and the officiant to be available on the same date. But keep in mind that you may have to pick two venues — one for the ceremony and one for the reception. Just be sure they’re both available on the same date! Here’s how to pick a wedding date. Also, make sure you look at how to find a venue AND the questions you need to ask each venue. With officiants, think about whether you will have a religious officiant or a friend. Find out any state requirements if you want a friend or family member to officiate.
  3. Create the guest list. Sometimes it’s hard to limit the guest list, so consider having A lists, B lists, and C lists. Here are our tips for the guest list. Also, be sure to decide whether you want kids to attend or not.
  4. Themes/Styles/Colors. The earlier you select any themes, styles, or colors, the earlier you can get started with some of the other aspects of planning. After all those three aspects will impact the dress selections, the flowers selections, etc. Here’s some help on how to pick your color scheme.
  5. Wedding dress. The wedding dress should be purchased earlier in the planning process because it might need to be fitted several times. Depending on how long your engagement lasts, this should be done ASAP. Plus the bride will want her dress before the bridesmaids get theirs! Here’s how to choose  the right wedding dress and some ideas for colorful wedding dresses.
  6. Save the Date.  The save-the-date (or STD) should tell guests when & where you’re getting married. When should you send the save-the-dates? It depends on when you’re getting married, but generally, send them as soon as possible. If you are ordering save-the-dates that you want to look similar to your invitations, there are companies that give you package deals. Here is a timeline of when to send save-the-dates and when to send invitations. Here are some creative save the date ideas and how to address the save-the-dates.
  7. Order your online photo album from The Wedding Lens. By ordering your online photo album from The Wedding Lens early, you can start telling your guests where to upload photos AND you can include your engagement photos in the album or any other older photos to share your memories with your guests.
  8. Wedding website. Obviously put as much information on here as you can, but here’s what to include on your wedding website.
  9. Find vendors. This means finding vendors for everything you might want. Here is how to find the right vendors for you (and each category that follows links to a blog post that will help you narrow down what will be best for you in that area). Photographer (engagement photos and day of), videographer, florist (selecting flowers), caterer, DJ/band/music, bakery, wedding planner or day-of coordinator. Any other kind of vendors you might want (eg if you want to have wedding entertainment such as a photo booth, cigar bar, or silhouette artist) can usually wait a bit longer in the planning process.

Stuff That Can Wait a Little Bit

  1. Invitations! What goes inside, when to send, how to tell your guests that no kids can come, RSVP cards. Remember, there are specific rules on how to address invitations, so make sure you check those out (yes, there will be a blog post coming!)
  2. Attire: Groom, bridesmaids, groomsmen. Here’s everything related to helping you select wedding attire!
  3. Hair & makeup for the bride and bridesmaids, if you would like.
  4. Rings! Dont forget you both need to exchange rings on the day of the wedding. Here are some green tips on picking the rings.
  5. Decorating: flower arrangement (or alternatives to flower bouquets), centerpieces, plates/napkins/glassware, guestbook, favors, place cards, menu cards, cake toppers, chair rentals/chair covers, other entertainment)
  6. Guest-related: Accomodations, transportation, and out of town bags!
  7. Get your online wedding photo album from The Wedding Lens. If you haven’t done it yet, now is the perfect time in the planning process to get your online wedding photo album from The Wedding Lens! When you share the information on accomodations & transporation with your guests, you can also share the link to the album and remind people to bring their digital cameras to your wedding. Plus people can start uploading old and new memories of you & your fiance(e)!
  8. Menu planning: buffet vs sit-down meal; alcohol – open bar, soft bar, signature drinks. Here are all things food & drink related to help guide you through this!

Final Steps

  1. RSVPs
  2. Ceremony planning: walking down the aisle, vows, readings — and whatever else you want to take place.
  3. Seating chart: who will sit where during the reception? Here’s how to create a seating chart!
  4. Music (song) selections for band or DJ, both during the ceremony and reception.
  5. Remind your guests to bring their cameras to your wedding day so they can capture memories for your online photo album.
  6. Planning the timeline: This means planning the timeline of who arrives where at what time, what order things occur, and who transports what where. It’s meant to be distributed so that everyone is on the same page about what’s going on.
  7. Programs: This lets your guests know what is going to happen & when! Here’s the information on writing your programs.

So that’s everything you have to do…. Next blog post will cover what comes up on the day of and any other last minute things and miscellaneous things you should be aware of! (Like gift registry, thank you cards, wedding insurance, things people forget, staying calm…. all coming up!) 

Good luck! Remember, if you have questions – email me!

~ Natasha

Getting Your Wedding Guests There: Transportation!

Wedding Car photo from The Wedding Lens!

Depending on the type of wedding you’re having, and where, you may require your guests to do a bit of traveling. In most cases there are 3 times that transportation is necessary for your wedding guests:

  • from hotel to wedding ceremony site
  • from wedding ceremony site to wedding reception site (if in different locations)
  • from wedding reception site to hotel

While some of your guests may be locals and/or may have cars or rent cars, not everyone will do that — or be able to do that. Remember, going to a wedding is expensive! Sometimes people try to save money in whatever ways that they can. There are basically 3 options to resolve the transportation quandry:

  • rent a shuttle bus service or multiple cars to take care of your guests
  • organize a carpool where people with cars and pick up those without cars
  • give out cab numbers

Obviously renting a shuttle is the most expensive option, but it also alleviates a lot of stresses that guests have about attending weddings. The shuttle can pick up guests at the hotel, bring them to the venues, and return them home at the end of the evening. Be sure to rent the vehicles for at least one hour longer than you think you’ll need them; because of their own obligations, it may not be possible to make this change at the last minute.

Organizing a carpool requires a bit of coordination. If you decide to do this, ask someone who isn’t the couple getting married to figure it out. You can ask people whether they have a car to transport people (and the number of people) on the RSVP card. Or you can send out emails to guests later, as the date gets closer and people solidify plans. Be sure that if you are asking people to carpool that the guests stick together from hotel to ceremony, ceremony to reception, and reception to home again.

In terms of giving out cab numbers, I think that even if you do the above, you should ALWAYS have cab numbers on hand. Put a stack of business cards by the door at the reception. Have the information on your wedding reception invitation and on your wedding website. Put cab numbers everywhere! Why? Because sometimes a guest has more to drink than they intended and they just can’t (and shouldn’t!) drive. The more available cabs are, the more likely you are to avoid someone getting in their car to try to “make it home.” So just avoid that and give out cab numbers everywhere.

What will you do? Happy transporting!

~ Natasha

Wedding Question: How Should I Respond to the Wedding Invitation?


Photo from The Wedding Lens


I have a question regarding “plus ones”. I received a RSVP card that allows space for only the invited (“M____ accepts/declines”). However, when I looked at their wedding website, it noted that we are free to bring a guest. I feel awkward asking her directly because I will only be able to attend if I am allowed to bring my boyfriend (we had already reserved that weekend months in advance to spend together since we rarely get to see each other).

Should I assume that plus ones are allowed based on the wedding site or should I rely on the RSVP card that did not include a space for “plus one”? If I do rely on the wedding site, how do I note that I’ll be bringing a guest on the RSVP card that doesn’t have a “plus one” space?

Interesting! So there are two parts to this: 1) Can you bring a date? and 2) How do you reply?

Can you bring a date?

First, the key to knowing whether or not a date is permitted is usually on the envelope. Usually the invitation is specifically addressed to the people invited: “Natasha and Guest” or “Natasha and Adam” or, simply “Natasha.” Based on those addresses, you can kind of tell who’s invited, right? Right.

That said, it sounds like this person may not have followed that “protocol” and elected to let guests know otherwise. If this is the case, just be sure that the website does say that all guests can bring a date. Remember, most couples are aware that people may respond “incorrectly” and they will nip that in the bud. For example, if you respond with “Me + Date” and Date isn’t invited, the couple will likely contact Me and let Me know that Date wasn’t part of the invite. Obviously that can be a bit awkward. So just double check the website again.

How should you reply?

Second, how to respond? Well, it sounds like a standard invitation, so dont worry! Most invitations only have room for one name, though you should be able to write both in. M___________ can probably fit a “Ms. Me Last Name & Mr. Guest Last Name if you write small enough. That’s what’s expected, so give it a shot.

Bear in mind, most couples also number their guest list and put that number on the invitation. Take a close look, you might find a number in the corner of the response card envelope or response card. Why do they do that? Because if you forget to write on it and accidentally send it back blank, they’ll still know who sent it! And, if you write illegibly, they’ll still know! Voila.

I think that should answer all the questions — hope it helps! Good luck!

Let me know if YOU have a wedding question:

~ Natasha

How to Tell Your Guests that You Don’t Want Kids to Attend

Long long ago, I wrote a blog post about whether or not to have children at a wedding. There are lots of pros and cons, but if you’ve already decided you dont want kids in attendance, how should you tell your guests?

Photo from The Wedding Lens

Photo from The Wedding Lens

There are a few steps to take along the way to make sure that you tell your guests gently (but firmly!) that you do not want kids at the wedding. You can try all of these, or some of these, depending on what you feel comfortable doing.

  1. Before you send the save the dates, spread the word through your family, wedding party, and friends.
  2. Address the STD and the invitation ONLY to those you want to attend.
  3. Include the words “Adult reception” in the invitation. Such as “Adult reception to follow” at the bottom of the invitation. (Do NOT write “no children” – that is considered anti-etiquette.)
  4. In the RSVP, include “X number of seats have been reserved for you” or put in the names of the guests who are RSVPing on that card.
  5. Provide babysitter information to out ot town guests so that they can come and not have to worry about who to call and how to take care of the kids.

Be prepared that some people may RSVP for the children and you might have to call them to let them know that it is a no children event!

Obviously this can be a touchy situation, so just handle it with grace and try to understand where parents are coming from. Good luck!

~ Natasha

Tips on the Gift Registry


While I have previously provided some advice for alternatives to the gift registry, I realize that registering for gifts has become a part of standard wedding planning.  After all, it makes it easier on guests to find things that the couple definitely wants. So, with that in mind, here are some tips on how to register for gifts AND things to keep in mind.

  1. Talk about what you and your spouse need before hitting the shops. It will make the registering process easier and less time consuming.
  2. Register for cool things, not just spoons and forks. Yes, you need spoons and forks, but people won’t be satisfied by giving you a place setting. Come up with other things you want and need AND that you would be happy giving as a gift.
  3. DO NOT register for things that you cannot afford to replace.  One night, that plate and maybe a glass is going to fall to the ground and break. I know, it’s sad. But you will have to replace it and if you cannot afford to replace it, you have no business asking someone else to buy it for you. Does that mean you should be able to afford the whole register list? Of course not! But be realistic, not greedy.
  4. Think of items that will work for different price ranges. Some people can afford more than others.
  5. Register for the people you are, not the people you hope to someday be. In other words, if you don’t drink, do not ask for wine glasses because someday you might have a big dinner party and want to serve wine. Seriously.
  6. In terms of kitchen items, remember: space is limited. Your kitchen is not infinite and you won’t use everything, especially if it’s in a storage closet.
  7. Don’t register for things you don’t need, just to fill the space on the registry. It seems obvious, but it’s easy to get carried away with that little barcode reader gun.
  8. Let your guests know where you registered – with invitations, on your wedding website, when asked, etc.
  9. SEND THANK YOU NOTES. Always. Please.

Do you have tips for how to register for wedding gifts?

~ Natasha

Don’t Be Offended If You’re Not Invited

One of your friends is getting married and you just assumed you would be invited. But you’re not. Please do not be offended! Weddings are difficult. They require both people to contend with family invitation requirements – which may include family, friends, cultural obligations. And they cost money! Here are a few tips:

Run on the assumption that you are not invited.  While you would *love* to be there, you have to remember that it’s not always possible to include everyone under the sun.

If someone tells you they’re getting married and they tell you when, that is still not a save-the-date or an invitation. Don’t be disappointed if you receive neither.

Just because someone was a close friend or tells you the intimate details of the wedding planning, you may not be invited. I know! It’s just the reality. (Tip to the bride/groom: Don’t share the intimate details of the wedding planning with a formerly close friend – or anyone – who is not invited. It’s not very considerate of you.)

Obviously, there may be awkward situations where tact & understanding may not be the easiest route. Or you may not be as close to the couple as you thought.

If you do truly care about the couple, you’ll understand. And if you don’t get it or are angry about it – and you think it must be resolved to continue your friendship – then talk about it. Just bear in mind that you don’t want to bully your way into a wedding!

Good luck!

~ Natasha

Invitations & Bringing a Date to a Wedding

Whether you’ve invited people to your wedding or received a wedding invitation yourself, you have probably wondered what to do about the “and guest” or “plus 1” for singles.  Here’s the scoop for those of you trying to figure it out.

If you are the host:

If you want your single friend to bring someone (and you don’t want to specify who), then address the invitation to your friend “plus guest” or “and guest.” 

If you want to specify who someone brings as a date, write that person’s name on the invitation also. For example, if your guest has two girlfriends and you want him to bring one or the other of them, it is acceptable to specify which person (by name) you want him to bring.

If you don’t want your guests to bring a date, don’t include a date’s name and omit the “and guest” from the envelope! It should be known what you mean, even if your RSVP reply card has a line that says “Number of Guests.”  And after reading this blog, your guest will definitely know they’re not allowed to bring someone if it’s not on the envelope! That said, if you have singles at your wedding and you don’t want to be uncomfortable, be sensitive to where you seat them.

If you are the guest:

If you receive an invitation that says “and guest” then you are free to bring any guest.  I received an invitation to a wedding last year and my boyfriend couldn’t come. I didn’t want to assume that I could bring a friend, so I asked the bride.  She said that she specified “and guest” because she wanted me to bring someone (she knew I wouldn’t know anyone else at the wedding) and she didn’t care who it was.

That said, if the invitation specifies your significant other’s name, then you should not assume that you can bring anyone; only your boyfriend/girlfriend is invited.

Likewise, if you receive an invitation and it does NOT say “plus guest” or “and guest” and it does not include someone else’s name specifically (such as your significant other’s name), then you CANNOT bring a date. Please do not put “2” in the RSVP reply card as the number of attendees (even if the reply card says “Number of Guests” on it!). Your hosts did not intend for you to bring a guest and it will only put both of you in an awkward position. One friend had to call the guest to explain that the invitation was addressed only to the guest and that the couple couldn’t afford to host an additional person.

A tip for the single guest who isn’t allowed to bring a date: Be Understanding! Weddings are expensive & there are often lots of family guest list expectations to contend with. Don’t take it personally that you will go it alone and don’t make the couple feel bad! If it’s SO upsetting to be going to a wedding alone, then maybe you shouldn’t go. I hope that helps put it in perspective!

~ Natasha

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Between the Ceremony and the Reception

A sunset on the beach, a morning mass, an afternoon in a temple… followed by the reception.  But what time does the ceremony start? And what time does the reception start? Where do guests go between?

Planning a wedding ceremony and reception requires some time coordination.  As Mrs. Radish of the WeddingBee reported sometimes the time that you can book the ceremony site and reception site may not align, leaving your guests wondering what to do in between. 

If you end up with a large gap in time between the ceremony and reception, here are a few suggestions:

  • Give your guests a list of local things to see and a map.  If you’re in a big city, perhaps a tourist attraction they can drive or walk to easily.  If you’re in a smaller town, maybe direct them to a nearby park.
  • Suggest a nearby coffee shop, bar, or restaurant where guests can hang out for awhile.  Make sure that it is either close to either the ceremony site or the reception site, though!  You don’t want your guests to have to go too far out of their way.
  • If the ceremony and reception are at the same place, see if you can find a space for guests to casually hang out and get a glass of water.

Make sure you should provide these suggestions with the invitation, so that guests are prepared for the time gap.  You don’t want guests arriving at the reception site only to be surprised that they have several hours to kill before the festivities begin!  The more your guests can plan in advance, the better.