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When I was in Grade 2, I invited every single kid in my class to my birthday party. It was a strategic approach. After all, I had to spend every day for the rest of the year with those kids.

But if an 8th birthday party guest list is fraught, a wedding guest list is infinitely more so.

There are complex family politics to consider, fragile friendships to manage, and of course, budgetary constraints that wildly exceed the lolly bags, sausage rolls, and Women’s Weekly train cake associated with the somewhat less extravagant childhood birthday party.

If a couple is showing signs of cracking under the strain of wedding planning, it’s usually not the dress or the other uber-pretty accoutrements to blame. It’s more likely that Aunt Ethyl is demanding that cousin Ben (thrice removed) be invited. Or that your mum is insisting that the family accountant should be substituted for your high school best friend (perhaps under the mistaken impression that their meal might be tax-deductible).

I’ve heard stories of weddings where an already large guest list of 500 blew out to over 800. Where guests arrived with far more than their allocated plus one. Of weddings where whole tables of guests had never met the bride. Of people being chastised for not reciprocating an invite.

So how do people deal with the guest list? Some couples are firm about keeping things intimate. “Our theory was simple, we wanted to share the day with people who would care that we were getting married,” says one bride. “We didn’t want family who we hadn’t seen in years attending just because they were family.”

On a similar note, some couples opt for the “six month” rule, where those they haven’t seen in six months (or other arbitrary amount of time) are excised from the list.

Others work to a budget: “we set the per head budget up front and then allocated a quota to each side of the family for their guest list,” says one recently married bride. Of course, the influence of a given party may depend on who’s paying, a sort variation on the “my house, my rules” theme.

Others narrow down their guest lists by holding destination weddings or by holding a wedding during the week. But this can backfire: “do they want me to go, or is it just a gesture and they don’t actually expect me to attend…but would still like a gift?” asks a confused friend.

Whether it be a strict series of criteria that all guests must meet, or a probabilistic analysis based on rigorous mathematical theory, everyone finds themselves working out ways to create a manageable guest list.

We’d love to hear how you managed yours, and any horror stories or battles of wits (and budgets) you’ve encountered along the way. Drop us a line at editorial@littlewedhen.com!

Invitation image by FlickR user Kofoed

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