Nothing brings out family drama like trying to create a guest list for your wedding. While his parents want to invite everyone they’ve ever met, your parents don't like that they’re picking up the tab but will have fewer seats filled at the ceremony. And, surely the groom-to-be doesn't really need to invite his entire college fraternity. For the sake for your sanity -- and your budget -- discuss the guest list rationally with your families and pare it down with tried-and-true decision-making tactics.
Splitting Up The List
Traditionally, the couple gets to determine 50 percent of the guest list, while each set of parents gets 25 percent of the guest list. However, if one set of parents is contributing more financially to the wedding, they might have an argument for receiving more names. Get the families together to discuss who needs to be invited to avoid any surprises. Make sure everyone agrees as to what's in the budget and how that number affects the guest list, as well as what the max capacity is for the venue. If your future in-laws truly want to add to their guest list, consider asking them to contribute more financially -- but only if there's room at the table.
Adding and Subtracting
Once everyone has added names to the guest list, make rules as to how to decide who's actually getting an invitation. Some potential rules include cutting the name of anyone that neither you nor your fiance have met, such as your parents' work friends, and people whom you haven't spoken to in years and aren't related to you. You can also decide that you're not extending courtesy invitations, for example, only inviting a friend because you were invited to her wedding.
Dealing With Groups
In some cases, inviting one person opens up a door to inviting a whole bunch of other people. This includes inviting a friend from work and feeling the need to invite the whole office, or sending an invitation to just one sorority sister and then determining that the whole gang needs to come. You can set rules here, too: Decide that the only people from the office who get an invitation are those that you've socialized with outside of work. As for groups of friends from the past, institute the three-year rule here, which means that if you haven't seen them in three years, cut their name. In either case, you might decide that it's easier just to explain to the whole group that you need to keep the wedding small, so you're not inviting any coworkers or sorority sisters.
Plus Ones and Kids
Contrary to popular belief, a single guest does not always get a "Plus One" for the wedding. The rule of thumb is to invite the significant other of a guest if they're married, engaged, living together or have been dating for a significant amount of time. That length of time is a judgment call, so discuss with your fiance as to what time frame you think is appropriate. As to whether you should invite kids, it's entirely a personal preference -- as long as the venue has no restrictions -- but you'll probably catch flack about it either way. If the wedding is late in the evening or is very formal, don't feel guilty about keeping it kid-free.