You're engaged! Now what?Drafting your guestlist

Sunday's blog post was all about the importance of starting out your wedding planning with a well-defined budget. Today, we'll talk about putting together your guestlist. You don't have to know exactly who you're going to invite to your wedding at this point, but it is important to decide how many guests you plan to have. You'll need to know how many people you're expecting before you can start looking at venues, and until you have your venue booked, you can't start booking other vendors. So you can see how important this first guestlist draft is.

That brand-new budget you just created is a great place to start when deciding how many guests you're going to invite to your celebration. Here in DC, I like to see couples budget at least $150 for each guest invited. So, for example, on a $20,000 budget, you could start with 130 or so guests as your working number.

Of course, that's only a starting point. You'll also need to consider the style of wedding and reception you want to have. If you've always dreamed of a party worthy of Platinum Weddings, then you're going to need to either substantially increase your budget or substantially decrease your guest count. $20,000 won't cover a 130-guest wedding if you're going to have the most luxurious of everything. Conversely, if doing things as simply as possible is more your style, then you can probably afford to invite more than 130 guests on that $20,000 budget.

Not sure how many guests your budget will realistically accommodate given your idea of a dream wedding? A professional wedding coordinator can be invaluable in helping you sort this out. As I mentioned in Sunday's post about budgeting, many planners offer their services on an a la carte or hourly basis, so even if you're not planning to engage a coordinator to help you from start to finish, you can still take advantage of a planner's expertise on your own terms.

Aside from the practical consideration of how many guests your budget will support, what do you need to take into account when deciding who to invite? First and foremost, remember that this is your wedding and you can invite -- or not invite -- whomever you please. Obviously you'll probably want to invite your close family (parents, grandparents, siblings). You'll also probably want to invite your closest friends. Beyond that, where you draw the line is up to you.

I frequently hear couples and their families worrying out loud about what so-and-so will think of them if they're not invited to the wedding, and I always tell them the same thing: Remember that the wedding day is primarily about the beginning of a marriage. While the reception typically takes up the bulk of the budget and planning time, the wedding day is really all about the ceremony. If it's genuinely important to you that a potential guest witness and participate in the moment the two of you become partners for life, then add them to the list. If not, then consider cutting them if you're running out of room.

The other important decision you're going to have to make at this point is how you're dividing up your guest list. Do you and your future spouse get a third, with both sets of parents getting a third of their own? Or are you going to divide your numbers up some other way? How you negotiate this is up to you, but be sure all parties agree to a plan and stick to it.

There are so many other points I could discuss relating to drafting your guestlist, but I think we've covered the really important stuff here, so the rest can wait for a future post. I know guestlists can be a difficult sticking point for many couples, though, so if you have questions about how to approach yours, then please feel free to post them in the comments section. I'll do my best to answer any questions you have.

In the next post: Setting the date!

POSTS IN THIS SERIES You're engaged! Now what? Budgeting Drafting your guestlist Setting the date