To Invite or Not to Invite…Everything You Need to Know About Who to Invite to Your Wedding Events

we are often asked who should be invited to a wedding…since the guest list can grow exponentially when you ask for your parents’ guest list, you work in a business with a lot of people, or you were in a huge sorority or fraternity in college. Here are the guidelines we give to our clients in order to make an accurate list and not create unnecessary hurt feelings.

One of my favorite quotes from Emily Post is, “Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use.” Even though it’s YOUR big day, you should be sensitive to friends, family and others who wish to be a part of it.

The Wedding List

The first thing to do is to sit down and compile a list (we will tell you to use a spreadsheet that you can manipulate such as Excel). From the entire list 3 categories (columns) should be created: Who You Must Invite, Who You Should Invite, Who You Want to Invite. It’s important to make this list before contracting with a venue. You must expect everyone you invite to actually attend; we have seen it happen more often than not.

Who You Must Invite:

You must invite immediate family members. This includes parents, siblings, grandparents and aunts and uncles of both the bride and the groom. If one aunt is invited…all aunts should be invited. Your siblings’ spouses and your adult nieces and nephews, should also be included on this list. Also on this list will be your wedding party, even though many of them will probably be in the first group as well. We often get asked if you should invite immediate family you are having some issues with (we can help with this), and we will refer to Emily Post for that. She says that unless the relationship is permanently severed then you should invite them as to not cement things for the future. Additionally, treat step parents and step siblings as immediate family.

Who You Should Invite:

Extended Family:

This follows along the same lines as immediate family, so if you invite one first cousin, invite all your first cousins, and your partner should invite all of their first cousins as well. If you have family friends that you have grown up with and are as close to as “family” then they should also be invited.


Those you have known the longest and are still close with should be considered first. Those people who are the closest friends of you and your partner together should also be near the top of the list. Also, think about how well your friends know your future spouse. Those friends who are most familiar to you both as a couple should definitely be included. That doesn’t mean that if you have a life-long friend who lives across the country and has never met your fiancé shouldn’t be included, it is just something to take into consideration. If someone is a casual friend, and you really aren’t that close to them it is okay to leave them off the guest list. This can be a great place to begin cutting if you are trying to keep your guest list down.

Parents’ Friends:

This group of people may touch upon other areas, such as if they feel like your extended family as well, if they are the parents of people in your wedding party or close friends. Bottom line, if your parents are contributing to your wedding costs then they get to add names to the guest list!


Guess what? You do not have to invite people you work with to your wedding! If you are close friends with people outside of work, they most certainly should be invited, but Susan Smith over in cubicle one that you may have a bite with in the lunchroom on occasion does not have to be. If you are going to be uncomfortable having co-workers or bosses see you in a more personal setting you can elect to leave them off the guest list.


Your choice! If you are trying to keep your guest list down or simply do not want children at your wedding you may absolutely not include children in your guest count, although if you have children in your wedding party they should also be on the reception list. If you have children in your wedding party and you don’t want other kiddos there, just make sure you don’t make any exceptions outside of those when addressing invitations. What to do if children show up to your wedding and weren’t invited is a topic for another day but suffice it to say go with the Emily Post quote about sensitive awareness. A great option for out-of-town guests who may bring their children with them for the weekend…there are some wonderful babysitting companies that are specifically tailored for events.

Plus Ones:

This goes back to the same blanket rule as with family members…if you allow one person to bring a plus one you should allow everyone.

Who You’d Like to Invite:

More casual friends, childhood friends, church or recreational groups you belong to, those co-workers? Suffice it to say, the above guidelines are just suggestions, and you can invite anyone you wish to attend to your wedding. The factors to consider are venue size, your budget and the style of your wedding. Are you a “more-the-merrier” type of couple or do you like things more intimate?

What About an Intimate Ceremony but a Large Reception?

If you are having a small ceremony with just immediate family and wedding party, it is absolutely fine to send out invitations to guests who are invited to the reception and not to the ceremony specifying that. This applies to couples who choose to elope but plan on having a larger celebration afterwards. We can help you find invitations specifically for those occasions!

Bridal Showers:

You should definitely invite close friends and immediate family members and female spouses of immediate family members to your shower. From there the list can expand provided the budget and space of the person hosting your shower. Do take budget and space into consideration when providing a list of invitees to the person or persons hosting your shower. Two rules of thumb to go by: don’t invite people to your shower who aren’t invited to your wedding and don’t invite the same people to multiple showers. You should, however, invite people who are on your wedding guest list if they are family or close friends. Again, follow the rule that if you invite one sister-in-law invite all sisters-in-law. This will save a lot of hurt feelings. In this day of social media, imagine seeing a picture of someone’s shower that you weren’t invited to but should have been.

Bridal Luncheons:

This list is usually limited to the mothers, grandmothers and sisters and sisters-in-law of the bride and groom as well as any female in the wedding party (including flower girls and their mothers if the mothers aren’t in the wedding party).

Rehearsal Dinner:

This hasn’t changed much over the years…your wedding party (including parents of your flower girl and ring bearer if they aren’t in the wedding party), your officiant, readers and ushers should all be invited to your rehearsal dinner. Think of it as anyone at the rehearsal should be invited to this event. It is also a thoughtful gesture to invite out of town guests.