Make a list of people you want to invite. Start with your close family and friends, then work your way outward to distant relatives, friends, co-workers and others you may think of. Don’t forget to include your parents and members of the wedding party and their guests. Traditionally the number of guests are evenly divided between the bride and the groom. Decide whether you want to invite children to the ceremony and/or the reception.
Expect this list to grow. Once you’ve decided how many guests you would like to invite (including their spouses, children or guests), start trimming down the list to fit your guest and dollar limits. Keep removed guests on a backup list so you can add them back in if you change your mind. Make it clear whether your guests are allowed to bring a guest.
If you are using a calligrapher or hand-addressing your invitations, Thank You notes and Save the Date cards, be sure to order extras for errors. Also order extra envelopes.
There’s no hard and fast rules for whom to invite, so make it a collaborative effort. Be willing to compromise. Be aware that some feelings may get hurt. Most importantly, remember that it’s your wedding.
“The Fifth Edition of Emily Post’s Wedding Etiquette” by Peggy Post (excerpt below from ivillage.com) says to follow these three simple guidelines to make guest selection easier:
Realize that you have choices to make. Do you want to plan your guest list and reception around a budget or make a guest list first and plan the reception around that?
Remember: It’s your wedding. Don’t automatically agree that cousins you’ve never met or Mom’s office colleagues take precedence over your own good friends. Think and talk it through – calmly. You might end up inviting the cousins, but you’ll be more understanding and less resentful if you agree it’s the way to go.
Don’t opt for the easy solution. Inviting a large number of guests to the ceremony but only a small number to the reception is no solution at all. Two exceptions: You may invite children, or your entire congregation, to the ceremony only. (For example, an open invitation to the ceremony issued to congregation members by the officiant, with your permission, carries no gift obligation for those who attend – nor any obligation to the bride and groom to invite them to the reception.) The reverse – inviting a small number of guests to an intimate or private ceremony and a larger number to the reception – is perfectly acceptable, too. The key: Carefully think through any variables in numbers of ceremony and reception guests.