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Wedding Guest List Dilemmas – Strategies for Managing Potential Conflicts

wedding-1249096_1280There are a lot of important details that go into making your wedding day spectacular. The most important people on that day are, of course, the bride and groom; however, the guests you invite can also be key to making your day incredible. Who you invite and who you don’t invite can have a significant effect on your experience as well as you and your family’s relationships.

My husband Bernard and I had a large 200 person wedding. When we first started, we wanted to have between 130 to 150 guests, and as you can see, we went way over that. I started by asking my Mother-in-Law and my parents to form a list of the people they wanted to invite, and Bernard and I did as well. We then widdled the list down from there, and I will say the guest list/ seating chart was one of the most stressful details when planning our wedding.

Why was it stressful?

* Unless someone is a billionaire and footing the bill it just isn’t feasible to invite everyone you want to invite. Therefore, people must be cut. Deciding who would be getting cut sometimes felt like an episode of Survivor.

* Deciding who gets a plus one and who doesn’t. There is a rule that if a couple isn’t engaged or married, then you don’t have to give them a plus one. However, we have many friends who were not engaged or married, but seriously dating, so this became tricky.

* Everyone has an opinion; especially older people and they have no problem letting you know exactly what they think and feel. I found this to be especially true with the seating arrangements at the reception. My grandmother, and I had a heated exchange two weeks before the wedding over where I was sitting her side of the family at the reception. I also bumped into a friend of my mother’s the week of the wedding who requested I not sit her near her ex-boyfriend who would also be attending the wedding. Thankfully, I had already taken measures to ensure they were nowhere near one another.

How can you manage guest list/ seating chart conflicts?

* Charting your Guest List: I had our guests broken down into three categories, Must Invite, Should Invite, and Would be Nice to Invite. It is an excellent way to organize the guests and make easier judgment calls about who would be invited. When it came time to cut people it was pretty easy to wipe out the “would be nice” column and then discuss with our parents who from the other lists should be cut. 

*Plus One Decision: Bernard and I automatically gave plus ones to our bridal party and readers. Our other guests are where the plus ones became tricky. We arbitrarily picked who would be able to bring a plus one based on our relationship with that significant other. If the couple hadn’t been together long or we didn’t know the significant other, then we didn’t allow them a plus one.

* Seating Chart Board: There are several applications for organizing your seating chart online. However, I went old school and drew our seating layout onto a poster board and wrote our guest’s names on Post-It’s. Either option is nice because you can move people around as you see fit. The main thing to remember here is you cannot possibly please everyone; however, it is important that you take specific issues into account. I had several family members not speaking to one another, and I considered that when assigning guests to tables.  I also thought ahead about the couple I mentioned earlier who was no longer together, and I sat them on opposite sides of the room. Yes, people could suck it up for one evening, but I didn’t want to risk any problems escalating.

Guests and where you seat them could potentially be a high conflict issue but knowing how to manage those situations before they arise can make all the difference in the world!


Have a good week!

Abigail R.C. McManus



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