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Guest List Planning

Chopping Down the Guest List

You've tallied up all the potential invitees, and you're way over the limit. Here's how to make the kindest cuts.

You and your fiancÚ picture a small family wedding-125 guests, tops. Two months later your guest-list tally has reached the 300 mark (and with your mother adding her manicurist and accountant, it's still growing). Before you ditch it all and run down to city hall, check out our tips for managing that list (before it gets the better of you).

Divvy evenhandedly. If your parents want to invite 30 friends, don't limit his parents to just 20. Even though it seems you and your fiancÚ should have the lion's share of the guest list for family and friends who mean the most to you, you might want to consider giving up a few slots for their favorite people-especially if they're footing the bill!

Ditch the "and guest." Unattached guests who don't have a fiancÚ or long-term love don't automatically rate a date.

Skip your co-workers. Sure, your lunch buddies would have a blast (and they'd get to see the centerpieces you've been raving about), but unless you hang out with these people on the weekends, cut them. The exception? Your boss or assistant, whom you can invite without automatically setting off an office-invite chain reaction. But if you really have to cut, keeping the guest list to only personal friends and family is an easy way to keep the list in check.

Drop the children. Yes, they're fun at weddings-but they're also an easy cut to make. Chop out everyone under 18 or lose all but your first cousins, nephews and nieces. Be consistent. If possible, give parents a heads up that they'll need to get a babysitter before invitations go out. If, when you get the response card back, kids have been added back in, get on the horn and let the parents know that your invite list is limited, and you just won't be able to accommodate any extra guests.

Watch out for all those contingency invitations. You know the ones: "If I invite Sharon, I have to invite the rest of my sorority sisters." If putting her on the list means you have to add 12 more guests (or risk bad karma), just drop them all.

Pick your fights carefully. You may win the battle over not inviting your three great-aunts, but if it means you and Mom aren't speaking, you've lost the war. Make your case, but if the argument gets heated it's probably better to give in on a few guests so you can lower your stress level.

Don't sweat it if you max out the room's capacity. Your reception has a maximum occupancy of 160-and your guest list is holding at 187. Not to worry. Figure that 25-30 percent of your guests will not be able to attend. And if many guests are coming from far away or your nuptials fall on a holiday weekend, that percentage may be even higher.

Stagger your invitations. If neither mother is willing to budge on her list, suggest this fix: You choose an A-list of people everyone simply can't live without-the very closest family members and friends. The B-list will be made up of all those "it'd-be-nice-to-have-them" folks-your parents' neighbors, your pal Kristen from yoga class. Send A-list invites a little early-maybe eight to ten weeks before the wedding. For every regret that comes in, send a B-list invitation. Send the last B-list invites at least a month before the wedding, so your guests who fall in the B category don't feel as if they've been given a last-minute invitation (trust us-people notice).

Make your RSVP date two weeks before your big day. That buys you time to find out if your delinquent guests are planning to come before you have to give the caterer the final count.

Wiggle out of a big gala. If you and your parents simply can't cut the list to a reasonable size, rethink your party. Have an intimate ceremony and reception with all the fixings, and invite immediate family and best friends only. After the honeymoon, host a casual celebration to which everyone

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