- Consider your budget and venue. Before you analyze your guest list, take a step back and talk to your fiancé about your highest priorities as a couple. Are you hoping for a specific venue? Worried about staying under budget? Those guidelines will help you decide how long your list can be and whether you need to cut back in other areas.
- Agree on a fair split point. Keep things equal by compromising on a guest list ratio. Is it important that your guests are split 50/50, bride's side and groom's? Or do you have tons of mutual friends, making it more of a joint effort? It's important to have an open dialogue about your expectations so that you can avoid any drama or resentment later on — both between each other and among your family members.
- Cut by category. Divide your guests into groups: immediate family, closest relatives, extended relatives, family friends, friends, acquaintances, kids, etc. Once you've both classified your lists, see if you can trim the list by removing entire categories. Maybe you can both nix the young kids, the acquaintances, and the co-workers. Keep going until exceptions start to pop up, then evaluate each possible guest individually.
- Stick to the present. If you haven't seen someone in a long, long time, they can probably be considered for your cut list. (Think childhood friends and old acquaintances.) A good rule of thumb: You should invite the people who know your fiancé — the people who have spent time with you as a couple, who play a part in your present lifestyle.
- Hold to your hard-and-fast rules. Tight on space? If you've decided that only your bridal party and engaged pals can bring plus-ones, you should try to stick to that rule. It's the best way to avoid offending your loved ones, and an easy way to limit extra add-ons.
These simple, straightforward tips are just a starting point — complications are bound to come up. Reach out to both sets of parents for advice, because even if you don't adhere to all their suggestions, it's a great way to double-check your list and come to a settling point. Plus, throughout the process, remember to be practical, considerate, and sensitive. Even more important? Step back and enjoy it: you're bringing together all the people you love to celebrate one of the most special days of your life.