One of the first things that should be taken care of as you plan your wedding is…that damned guest list.

Often times, a feeling of dread and worry comes forth when tackling this all-important task. How many people are coming? Who should be invited? Will my mother-in-law hate me (even more) if I balk at inviting her long-lost cousin from Estonia?

Yes, these are some of the many worries that appear when it comes to getting your guest list together. So, to alleviate some of the stress, here is my personal advice.

Good Things Come In Small Packages: There is no rule that says everyone needs to be invited to everything, even if it is your wedding day. Feel free to hold an intimate celebration involving only ten people if you wish. Sure, your families may be upset about the small invite list, but remind them that they can always see Cousin Bob at the family reunion. As for your friends, they will eventually quit their whining and find something productive to do with their Saturday evening.

Family Affairs: Naturally, immediate family (mom, dad, brothers and sisters…and, step-parents) get an automatic invitation…for the most part. If your parents had a nasty divorce and are unable to act civil, or if your step-mom is a colossal pain in the butt, think carefully and tread softly. Secondary family members such as uncles, aunts, and cousins get an invite depending on their personal importance to you . Although super-distant family members are often cut from the guest list, feel free to invite your mother’s uncle’s cousin twice-removed if he is a crucial part of your life instead of your father whom you haven’t spoken to for 15 years. Also, don’t let any family members bully you into inviting other family members whom you don’t know or simply don’t like.

Friends ‘Til the End?: Chances are, you have amassed a large network of friends over the years. So, who gets the invite: your bestie from elementary school  whom you haven’t seen for 2 years or your former (awesome) college room-mate who you had drinks with last week? A good rule of thumb is the following: if you haven’t spoken to them within the past six months…they get B-listed (more on that later). Don’t feel obligated to invite them since they were a part of your life at some point in your distant past. Rather, invite the people who are a part of your life now.

ABC: Another way to escape guest list woes is by prioritizing. This can be achieved my making an A-List (people who will definitely get an invite come hell or high water) a B-list (people you would love to have come, but it won’t be the end of the world if they don’t) and possibly a C-list (people you will invite solely on principle or in case of an emergency). As people on the A-list decline, choose a person from the B-list, and if people on the B-list decline, choose from the highly optional C-list. Or, just skip the C-list altogether-a smaller guest list could help save money on the budget. It may sound harsh, but it works.

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