Bride standing in front of a group of women.

You Are Cordially Not Invited

How to Dial in Your Destination Wedding Guest List

The old adage “less is more” is not just for makeup advice and golf scores; it’s also a sound approach to choosing your destination wedding guest list. Because every single guest, and expense, counts, from pre- and post-activities to food, drinks and transportation to and from the airport.

It pays—literally—to spend time fine-tuning your guest list. Which means cutting people you’d normally invite, like your wealthy uncle who would surely buy that Japanese knife set you put on your registry. Besides, since this is a destination wedding, you will be spending more time than usual with your guests before and after the ceremony. So keeping the numbers down creates a more intimate setting filled with only those people you cherish most.

If struggling with where to start on your guest list, follow these tips.

Invite Only Current Friends and Family

When it comes to far-flung weddings, only invite the people you’re closest to. Just because they are a work associate, someone you met a few times in college, or you have a Facebook friend in common doesn’t mean they need an invitation. Same goes for family. If you were in diapers the last time your great aunt saw you, it’s safe to say she doesn’t need an invite. 

Wedding invitations tied together with tied together with twine and with dried flowers on top.
Invitations: Only invite the people closest to you like your family and your besties.

Reign in Your Parents

When it comes to your special day, your super-proud parents want to invite every single person they’ve ever met – mailman included. As endearing as this is, your intimate affair of 30 can balloon to 300 if you give the parental units free invitational reign. Make it fair by giving the parents of the bride and the groom the same low number of invitations to personally disperse. Or select the friends and family members yourself to be in more control.

Create A & B Lists

The best Broadway actors have backups, and so should your guest list. The average lead time for destination wedding invitations is three-to-four months in advance. This works to your benefit, as you can determine an RSVP window that allows you to send additional invitations if the A-listers can’t make it. Work with your fiancée to create a secondary list of friends and family to invite when the “Regretfully Decline” responses start rolling in. Destination wedding guests must commit time and money to attend, so determine the two lists based on who will realistically be able to honor you with their presence.

Bride kisses her mother's hand prior to the start of her destination wedding.
Reign in Parents: Give parents of the groom and bride a low number of invitations to personally disperse.

Plus Ones or Plus Nones

Plus one’s become tricky when guests beg you to bring their Tinder date or work colleague. These seemingly small inclusions can add big costs to your wedding, not to mention anxiety if you’ve never met them. To make it more comfortable for guests coming stag, always seat them next to people they know. And skip the dreaded singles table, it actually makes them feel worse, not better, about going solo.

Make a Firm Decision on Kids

Sure little Billy cuts a mean Macarena, but his cost at your wedding can be the exact same as an adult in terms of food and board. Plus, kids create an entirely different vibe at weddings. If you want kids there, make sure the property is child friendly and has ample activities to keep them entertained so their parents can enjoy the scene too.

Flower girls smiling at each other.
Kids or No Kids: Your decision will determine the vibe at your destination wedding.

Put Yourself in Their TOMS
A sunset wedding on a private yacht off the coast of the Maldives sounds dreamy, but can your friends afford to be there? Even though it’s your day, a wedding is meant to be celebrated with the people you love most, so make sure you choose a destination that offers possibilities and perks for those on a budget – like all-inclusive resorts that include meals, drinks and free activities. Plus, include a wide range of price points on rooms, so even penny-pinching Aunt May can be there to watch you walk down the aisle.

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