The wedding guest list

Unless you have an unlimited budget, deciding on the guest list is going to be an exercise in tact and diplomacy. You won’t be able to invite everyone you know now or have been friends with in the past, and they can’t all bring their other half and their children. So how do you decide who gets the invitation? Traditionally the guest list is split 50/50 between the bride and her family and the groom and his family. But you need to take other factors into consideration so it is often not as straightforward as that. Venue size Your venue will dictate how many guests you can have. The standard banqueting suite or hotel ballroom can accommodate 100—150 seated for dinner. If you want anything bigger, your venue options become more limited to very large (and expensive) hotels.

Top tip of the month

“Don’t invite old boyfriends and girlfriends to your wedding — even if you’re still friendly. It’s a recipe for disaster somewhere along the line.”

Family size If either or both of you has a large extended family and you need to invite them all, three-quarters of your guest list could be filled before you even think about workmates and friends. This is where compromise may have to come into play. Your parents will want to invite family and, if they are paying the majority of the wedding bill, you are going to have to listen to their wishes.

Your budget Think of each guest as a sum of money; the more guests you invite, the more you have to pay — it’s as simple as that. You can definitely think about leaving out the partners of work colleagues and having an adults-only wedding. A pay bar also cuts costs.

Wedding style For many couples, being the focus of attention at a huge wedding sends shivers down the spine. For them, a small, close friends-and-family-only day with a blow-out lunch will appeal far more. It is your day and people will understand if you tell them that is what you would prefer. You can always have a party, without the formality, to celebrate your first month of married life.

The wedding question of children

Whether or not to invite children to your wedding is a difficult one and something you’ll have to think about if you are trimming your guest list or you fancy a grownup big day. Cute kids can make certainly make your wedding photographs but they can also be a pain when they get bored, and weddings are very boring when you’re five years old! If you do decide to invite children, plan some child-friendly aspects into the day. If a lot of under-tens will be joining you, it’s a good idea to have a creche where trained nannies keep the little ones occupied during the pre-dinner drinks and the speeches. Too pricey? You could put all the children on a separate table with their own menu and plenty to keep them amused such as drawing paper, coloring pens and puzzles. If their table has a paper covering, they could be asked to join in making a wonderful colored picture for the bride and groom to keep. If you don’t want children at your wedding then it’s best to make it an adults-only celebration. But you have to mean it. You will risk ruffling a lot of feathers if you allow one or two friends to bring their babies when you have told other friends that the wedding is a child-free day. You will also have to accept that some people won’t be able to come because they can’t find childcare for the day and evening.

The wedding question of children

Whatever you plan to do, spell it out on the invitation. If children are to be included, put their names on the invitation: if they aren’t, just put the parents’ names and, when they call to enquire whether their offspring are invited (and they will call), you can politely but firmly explain that your venue/budget dictates that numbers have to be kept to a minimum.

Setting your unique wedding style

With imagination you can create a wonderful wedding on just about any budget. You want to plan a day that reflects your personalities and for your guests to go away thinking that it was truly ‘your day’. Start by going back to your original list of wedding priorities and thinking about the overall style of the wedding you see in your dreams.

Traditional wedding

This is the most popular style of wedding, with a ceremony followed by a drinks reception, a seated meal in the late afternoon/early evening and then a party including dancing to live music or with a DJ. Pros: You get to spend the whole day with friends and family. It suits both religious and civil ceremonies. Cons: It tends to be expensive unless you are doing the catering yourselves.

Informal wedding

This usually involves a civil ceremony followed by a buffet-style reception or cocktail party in the afternoon, with guests departing late afternoon. Pros: A cost-effective option that will suit the couple who don’t want a lot of fuss. Cons: You may feel the occasion was all over very quickly (and you would have liked more fuss and attention!).

The wedding weekend preparation

This increasingly popular option involves a select number of guests arriving at a venue on Friday, the wedding taking place during the day on Saturday with a formal reception, then everyone meeting up again on Sunday for breakfast before going home. Pros: A wonderfully indulgent way of celebrating with friends. Cons: Very pricey and, because the type of venue offering this service tends to be smaller country houses, the number of guests you can invite to stay is limited.

The wedding abroad

A good option for couples marrying for the second time, for those with differing religions or for anyone who prefers the minimum of fuss with an endless choice of amazing locations. Choose from destinations as diverse as a Caribbean beach to a palace in Italy. Pros: A relaxed, informal setting that can be much cheaper than a traditional UK wedding. Cons: Some friends and family won’t be able to join you due to financial and time constraints.

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