• Images
  • Text
  • Find a Couple + Registry

guest list mishaps

A collection of nightmares that real brides survived

"We accidentally sent out an invitation addressed to my cousin Steve and his ex-wife Beth. Needless to say, his new wife, Kim, wasn't very happy with the mix-up."

"We decided to make an A-list and a B-list of the guests we wanted to invite. Unfortunately, my fiance decided to keep track by marking A or B on the back corner of each invitation. It didn't take long before our guests caught on and the angry calls started streaming in."

"I organized all my guests on a spreadsheet. It took months and months to get it perfect. I asked my fiance to print it out one night and somehow he managed to erase the entire thing from my computer! We spent the whole night trying to remember who we wanted to invite and finding all their addresses."

"Several of my father-in-law's business executive guests had just been charged in a very high-profile fraud trial. I had no issue with them being invited … at least until the reception, when I found out that the judge who'd married us was the same one who'd sentenced several of our guests. Even a huge southern ballroom wasn't big enough for everyone to hide."

"At my bridal shower, my future mother-in-law said she needed additional invitations for the wedding, but I explained that we had no extras and had asked for her full guest list last year. The next week, my fiance and I returned from out of town to a mailbox full of xeroxed RSVP cards from people who weren't on the guest list. My mother-in-law had made copies of the invitations and mailed them to the extras she wanted to invite. We confronted her and found out she'd actually sent out 87 -- yes, 87 -- additional invites."

invitation, stationery

Guest List: How to Make Your Wedding Guest List

Tips to help you with the hardest part of wedding planning -- who to invite.

Photo: Laura Black Photography

Get Organized Early and Online

Add-on guests can be annoying, but with the number of people contributing to the average wedding guest list, there are sure to be a few. As soon as you figure out your first partial list, add the names and addresses into an Excel spreadsheet or, even better, a guest list manager (like the one we've built for you at TheKnot.com/guestmanager). Having your entire list online means you always have access to it whether you happen to be at home, work, your parent's house, or the invitation store. The sooner you get your list organized and finalized, the better. You'll use those names and addresses a gazillion times, from meal selection and seat assignments to the many thank-you notes you'll write along the way.

Create A- and B-lists

While you're pretty safe assuming that 10–20 percent of your final list will not attend, it pays to be ready with a second string in case you dip far below your target number or if there's a group of guests you want to invite -- like second cousins -- but as of now don't have the room. If you're shooting for 200 guests, for example, identify 240 guests as your A-list. These are the folks who will get the first round of invites. The rest, in order of importance, become the B-list. Once you get more than 40 A-list regrets, you can start working down your B-list, sending out a few invites at a time until you get 200 acceptances. Don't wait too long getting your B-list out -- no one wants an invitation the week before an event. If you have a big B-list, print a second set of reply cards with a later RSVP date.

Include Names on the Response Card

It's happened to the most organized of brides: The invite is made out to one person and one person only, but the RSVP comes back with two names crammed onto one line. Avoid the dreaded "and guest" quandary and annoyance (your ex-roommate's boyfriend of three weeks should not be at your wedding) and ask your calligrapher to write the full names of the invited guests on the RSVP card. After their names, have her include a blank line where they can indicate whether they are attending or sending regrets. That way, there's almost no way for guests to force an unwanted invite on you.

Many couples complain that they can't read who has signed the RSVP or people forget to put their names. To avoid these snafus, number the backs of your reply cards in pencil and key them into your guest list.