It's not some miracle solution. There's no secret password for automatic vendor discounts, no dollar store for wedding decor, or no recipe to the perfect, hassle-free DIY bash.
It's maybe not something you want to hear. But, it's the only sure fire way to save big bucks on your wedding.
It's cutting the guest list. (Sorry!)
Photo by Joseba Sandoval
Some couples simply can't bare the thought of not having all 29 of their cousins (+1!) at their wedding, and they'll sacrifice their dream venue, perfect dress or favourite photographer to make it happen. That's totally fine (and here are some nifty ways to cut back that your guests won't notice.)
When it comes to planning a wedding, it's all about priorities.
But if for you, great food, a kick-ass band, or an intimate atmosphere for your guests is your #1 priority, then you'll have to find space in the budget elsewhere.
(*Ahem* the guestlist.)
There are some costs for your wedding that will be the same regardless of how many guests you invite, (the dress, photographer, entertainment) but when it comes to decor, corkage, catering, stationery and venue choice, every added guest (and their potential plus one) can add a couple of hundred dollars (or more) to the cost of your wedding.
It may be awful to picture your friends and family with floating dollar signs over their heads, but whether you have a big budget or a small one, there's only so far it will stretch, and once it has, you need to start crunching numbers.
12 Ways To Cut Back on Your Wedding Guestlist
Now we know making a cull on a guest list is probably the number one source of stress and sleepless nights for brides and grooms but we've come up with some handy tips and advice that should make trying to be ruthless, that little bit easier.
Once you've decided to cut your guest list, sit down with your partner, and decide if you should split the guests 50/50, or if one of you needs a bigger allocation. This is a tough conversation, but an important one to have to avoid rows and resentment down the line.
Next, categorise your guests into how you know them, cutting entire groups makes reducing your guest list easier, and saves hurt feelings among certain sections of friends.
It's not always possible, but if you can, keep your guestlist to people who you both know, and who know you as a couple. You don't want to be meeting people for the first time on your wedding day.
As a general rule, try to only invite people you want at your wedding, this may sound obvious but it's amazing how many couples opt for obligations over their own wishes on their wedding day.
1. No One Will Be Annoyed That You Didn't Ask Them (And If They Are, They Shouldn't Have Been Invited Anyway)
Keeping that thought at the forefront of your mind as you make your guestlist is vital to cutting it back with your sanity (and guilt-free feelings) intact.
Bar perhaps, your sibling, is there anyone in the world who you would be angry with, if they came to you and said, “I'm so sorry, our budget is really tight, so we won't be able to have you at the wedding”?
The answer is probably no. If anyone knows and loves you, they might be disappointed, but they won't be angry, not to be asked to your day.
Likewise, keep this in mind if you feel guilty for not asking someone to your wedding, after they invited you to their's. No one asks someone to a party on the condition that the invitation is reciprocated, they'll totally understand if the gesture can't be returned.
2. The A List
Making an A, B, and C list of the people in your life is awful, but it's kind of necessary when you're planning your guestlist.
The A List should be the people you absolutely cannot imagine not being there when you say ‘I Do'.
For some couples this is 10 people, for others it's 40. Either way, adding them to your list, and considering everyone else as a bonus, is a glass half full way of looking at your guestlist!
3. Cousin Cutbacks
They were the ones you spent camping trips, birthday parties and sleep overs with as a kid, but over the last few years, you're not so close. Oh and by the way, you have 20 of them, each, plus their partners.
Weddings are a great chance for families to get together, but that doesn't mean you should feel obligated to turn your big day into a family reunion.
If you're not particularly close to your cousins, cutting them all from the guestlist is an easy way to bring down the final tally.
4. Think of the Children
Another group that we often feel obliged to have at weddings, but can be easily swapped out, are the kids.
They might not drink the wine or eat the steak, but having lots of children at weddings can add up, with added menu options, entertainment, or even a sitter.
You'll likely want your precious nieces and nephews there for your big day, but as for the rest of your guests' wee ones, they'll absolutely understand if it's an adults-only affair. (And if they don't, please revert back to tip #1!)
5. Work Colleague Wedding Guests
Work colleagues can be tricky, because you spend so much time in the lead up to your wedding discussing the finer details of your big day. They popped the Champagne on your engagement, and they dried your tears when your dream caterer said he was double booked.
But unless you have a small tight group of work pals, negotiating office politics AND a wedding guest list can be a lot to handle. An all or nothing approach is so much easier, and when it comes to cutting your numbers, work colleagues are often the first to go.
If you're getting married nearby, you can always ask them along to party after dinner.
6. Your Parents' Pals
This one is another management minefield, and may require you to be a little firm with your folks.
If your parents are paying for your wedding, of course they're entitled to choose their own guests.
But, if you and your other half are footing the bill, sit down with them and discuss the guestlist. Simply put, you've had to cut some of your own closest friends from the list, so they're going to have to too.
7. All Your Old Friends
Weddings are a real time of tradition and nostalgia, so it can be hard to stay in the moment, with so much talk of old times.
You might have some old friends who you see once in a while, but instantly spark up your connection every time you talk and you can't imagine not asking them to your wedding.
But generally speaking, if you haven't seen or spoken a childhood/school/college/old work friend in several years (especially if it's longer that the time you've been with your partner) then you don't need to feel obligated to invite them to your big day.
P.S. Liking their status on Facebook doesn't count as communication!
8. All Your New Friends
It's weird making new friends in the lead up to your wedding, you almost feel afraid to commit to the friendship for the fear of upping your numbers. A friend of mine said she found herself reluctant to strike up new friendships or get closer to acquaintances during her engagement.
That's really sad!
Someone who hasn't known you long won't mind not being invited to your wedding, and if you do end up getting close before the big day, you can always add them in a little later.
9. Remember The Plus Ones
This is another of those guest list grey areas that's hard to navigate. As a general rule, long-term couples, and engaged and married friends get to bring a plus one.
If you've a bunch of single friends, it might be nicer for them to come together without the pressure of finding dates, likewise, it's fine to bring your work gang without their other halves.
But if someone is coming alone, who won't know many others at the wedding, it's only fair to let them bring an accomplice for the dancefloor.
10. Consider a Destination
People often assume that if you have a destination wedding, you didn't want certain people to come, or you were being tight with your guestlist – which isn't necessarily fair.
Couples choose a destination wedding for lots of reasons.
That said, there's no denying it's much easier to manage your numbers when you're asking your guests to fly to another country.
We wouldn't recommend planning a destination bash for that reason alone, but if you're finding it really hard to cut back, and etiquette, obligations and family pressure isn't helping, this is one, chic/gorgeous/sun-soaked, way to ensure your wedding is as intimate as you want it to be.
11. You Can Always Elope
Okay, this is a bit of an extreme way to tackle your guest list, but there is no denying that every couple considers it at least once, if only for a second, during the wedding planning process.
If you have a really big family, a massive group of friends, or certain politics you simply can't escape, then why not plan a party for two?
It's wildly romantic, it's utterly exciting, and it's perfectly intimate.
You can always have a party when you return, which brings us nicely on to…
12. Just Have A Party
If you were having a big birthday bash, you'd invite everyone you know, right? But when it comes to a wedding, and you're providing a formal meal, wedding favours, and chair coverings, it all becomes a matter of managing the figures.
If you simply can't cut anyone from your wedding, why not cut the wedding instead? Rather than a formal occasion, why not have an intimate ceremony and dinner with your A List (see above!) then invite everyone else, (cousins, work colleagues, old friends, new friends) along for a big knees up in the evening.
All you'll need to supply is some party platters, cracking tunes and fun accessories for the photobooth.
It might not be the elegant affair you always envisioned, but at least you'll get to share your Best Day Ever with everyone from A-Z.
So, there you have it, not all of these will suit everyone – but hopefully some will help you along the way!
If you've got any more tips for cutting back on your guest list, please do share them in the comments below. And don't forget to check out our post on ways to cut back on your wedding, that won't effect your guests.
Head to our Step-by-Step Planning Guide for more in-depth tips and advice.