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How to Reduce Your Guest List and Disinvite Wedding Guests

This article shares ideas for reducing your guest list and telling recipients of a 'save the date' or invitation that they are not invited.

Although your invitees may have already received a "save the date," it is not too late to eliminate guests.

Although your invitees may have already received a "save the date," it is not too late to eliminate guests.

You are excited about your wedding. You sent out the "save the date" notifications months ago, and now you are suddenly faced with a catastrophe. Many of your guests probably will not come because of COVID-19. There may be government restrictions on how many people you can host, and you or your fiance may have experienced pay cuts because of the virus.

Suddenly, the number of guests you planned to invite to your wedding seems too high for the room, your budget, and everyone’s safety. Thus, you must deal with two problems: deciding which guests to disinvite and telling those guests you can no longer have them at your wedding celebration.

5 Ways to Cut Down on Wedding Guests

  1. Identify the must-haves that you believe will attend.
  2. Identify the must-haves that may not attend.
  3. Make a list of eliminations independent of your fiance and have them do the same.
  4. Compare your lists and eliminate everyone on both lists.
  5. Omit plus-one wedding invitees.
  6. Let your in-laws and parents make their own cuts.

1. Identify Your Must-Have Wedding Guests

There may be a limited number of guests in this category depending on the size of your family. It may consist of your immediate and extended family plus a few close friends that go back for years. However, if one or both of you come from a large family and siblings are married, the list may be significant.

2. Identify Must-Have Guests That May Not Attend Your Wedding Reception

You should plan on contacting this group to find out whether they plan to attend. Factors to consider when placing guests in this group are:

  • Age of guests
  • Travel distance to the wedding
  • Health
  • Whether they have children that are not invited to the wedding

Older guests or those with pre-existing health conditions are more susceptible to danger if they contract COVID-19 and are less likely to attend your wedding celebration. Similarly, guests who must travel and stay overnight may pass on attending. The high cost of a gift, an overnight stay, and traveling may put the wedding out of their price range and safety comfort zone.

If guests have to arrange for childcare, especially if they live out of town, they may not be able to come to your wedding. Finding out the intent of these guests may free up invitations for other guests. Given the pandemic, there is nothing wrong with asking if they are comfortable coming to your wedding.

Alternatively, if you are uncomfortable asking whether these guests will come, consider sending invites early with an early RSVP date. This will give you time to invite a second round of guests. It is safest to ask these guests what they plan to do and give them a chance to opt out.

Many may welcome the opportunity to pass on the wedding if given the option. If you don't offer them the option, they may feel obligated to attend.

3. Make Independent Wedding Guest Elimination Lists

You and your fiance should independently make lists of guests that you are willing to omit. Keep in mind that certain factors will make it easy to eliminate some guests.

  • Are they friends or work colleagues?
  • Do they know anyone else at the wedding?
  • Will they need to travel to attend?
  • Do you see them during the year?
  • Why did they make the guest list?
  • Are there any guests who might make the day uncomfortable?

Unless you socialize with the work colleagues you planned to invite, those making it on the initial guest list may be among the first to become uninvited wedding guests because they are likely to know very few people at your wedding. Potential guests that you rarely or never spend time with should also be easy to omit.

Other wedding guests to eliminate may be the reciprocal invitees and the family members that always cause a scene. Yes, Gary may have invited you to his wedding years ago, but you do not really see the happy couple often, so there is no reason to invite them.

Perhaps Uncle Morris and Aunt Doryne had a horrible divorce. Do they fight at every family gathering? Maybe it is best to disinvite them and blame it on the pandemic.

4. Compare Your Independent Lists

It will be easy to eliminate the guests that you both think should be off the guest list. Discuss why you put the remaining guests on your list. You may find the reasons make sense and help you eliminate a few more invitees.

5. Omit Plus-One Wedding Invitees

Given gathering restrictions, it does not make sense to have wedding guests that you barely know. No matter how close you are to your single friends, it is not necessary to host their latest romantic interest.

6. Let Mom, Dad, and the In-Laws Make Their Own Wedding Guest Eliminations

It is not unusual for parents or in-laws to have a table or more of their own close friends who may have watched their children grow up. Rather than make these eliminations yourself, give the job to your parents and in-laws. Eliminating these guests may affect their friendships in some instances, so save yourself arguments about who to eliminate by letting them handle their own friends.

Sometimes your parents or in-laws may just decide to eliminate all of their guests so that they do not have to treat some friends differently than others. This could give you more wiggle room to keep more of your own friends on the guest list.

Organize the list of guests you need to disinvite and start making calls promptly.

Organize the list of guests you need to disinvite and start making calls promptly.

How to Tell Your Guests They Are No Longer Invited

Once you have identified the guests you are no longer going to invite, you have to tell them. That is the hard, uncomfortable part of the process. Disinviting your guests is stressful, but you will probably feel more relaxed when the job is finished.

As much as you might prefer to send a text or an email, a personal touch will let your uninvited guests know how sorry you are that you can no longer invite them. Divvy up the job of making phone calls so that you each contact the guests that you know best.

Tell your guests that you are paring down the wedding because of the virus and the wedding venue’s restrictions. Indicate that you need to make sure all wedding guests are safe, so you unfortunately had to eliminate many invitees that are very special to you. Apologize and thank them for their understanding. Most guests—if not all—are likely to be understanding, and many will probably still send gifts.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Abby Slutsky


Abby Slutsky (author) from America on October 28, 2020:

Thank you for taking the time to read. We just had a friend call to cancel her invite, but in these times it is perfectly understandable.

Lakshmi from Chennai on October 27, 2020:

Hi Abby Slutsky, It's really awkward to handle but the ideas you've shared look good and helpful for those who are planning their wedding in this pandemic situation.

Abby Slutsky (author) from America on October 26, 2020:

Yes, many of my sons' friends are facing the challenge now. I feel sorry for them, but in the scheme of things it might be better to have the money for something else.

Sp Greaney from Ireland on October 26, 2020:

This is going to be a tough task for any couple. It's one of those things that unfortunately is going to be the new norm for many wedding plans for the foreseeable future. Here only 25 guests are allowed at a wedding during Covid 19. The number of guests that would normally be invited precovid 19 was 150 to 200.