How to Negotiate Your Guest List with Your Parents

Not seeing eye-to-eye on the invites? Here’s how to negotiate your guest list with your parents.

Your perfect wedding day vibe entails a cozy venue, a touch of DIY flare, and an intimate guest list filled with the people you love. There’s only one problem — your parents (or your in-laws) want to invite every single person they have ever met, and a few more that they haven’t. 

This can be a challenging topic to navigate, especially if your parents are footing some (or all) of the wedding day bills. How many people can they invite? Is it right to put a limit on their numbers? Here’s how to negotiate your guest list with your parents in a rational and respectful way. 

Who gets the final say on the guest list?

We say it over and over again: it’s YOUR wedding. You get to call the shots on everything from decor to bridesmaids dresses and — yes — the guest list. This is especially true if you’re covering all of the wedding day expenses yourself. 

If your parents or in-laws are contributing significantly to the budget, things get a little more complicated. Of course, the nice thing would be to allow them a few VIP invites from their own circles. But that doesn’t mean your wedding should turn into their party, and it doesn’t mean that they should have free reign to double (or triple) your guest count. 

So, remember — YOU get the final say on your guest list, even if your parents are paying for everything.

Image courtesy of Life Art Photographers

How many people should your parents invite?

There’s no hard-and-fast rule to determine the number of guests your parents get to invite. While situations will be different for every couple and every family, there are a few factors you’ll want to keep in mind. 

The two biggest of those factors is budget and venue capacity. Obviously the more people you invite, the more you’ll pay your venue. With a $30,000 budget and a venue capacity of 150, your parents’ 50-person invite list might seem a bit excessive. If you’re working with a $100,000 budget and a venue capacity of 300, that same 50-person guest list doesn’t seem so unreasonable.   

You’ll also want to consider your overall vision for the day. When your ideal wedding is a huge affair with lots of people in a grand ballroom, including a lot of parent invites may not be that big of an issue. However, if you want something super small with only those closest to you in attendance, allowing your parents to invite a lot of their own guests may not match the mood you want.

Again, there’s no strict guidelines for determining the exact number, but some experts suggest allotting around 10% of your overall guest list to parent invites.

How can you negotiate your guest list with your parents?

We get it — asking your parents to limit their invites can feel awkward and daunting. As with anything wedding (or life!) related, empathy, communication, and respectfulness go a long way.

Your parents love you, they’re happy for you, and they want to celebrate this new chapter in your life. They’re not inviting a hoard of people because they want to ruin your vibe, they’re inviting them because they want to share their joy with others. This is vital to remember during your conversation, so you can avoid any undue tension or misinterpreted emotions.

You’ll want to be as direct (but respectful) as possible. Communicate those three important factors we mentioned previously: budget, venue capacity, and your vision. Begin your conversation with an understanding of their excitement (and gratitude for their financial help, if applicable), then follow with a clear explanation of the situation. For example: “We understand how excited you are about the wedding, and we’re so incredibly grateful that you’re paying for so much, but our venue only holds 150 people. If we invite the 50 guests on your list, we won’t have room to invite the people who are important to us. Can you cut some guests from you list?”

Swap in budget or wedding vision concerns for capacity concerns, and you have a calm, clear, direct, and respectful way to start the guest list negotiations.  

Image courtesy of Tino Photography

What if your parents keep inviting people?

You’ve had a clear and respectful conversation, and yet your parents are STILL adding to their guest list. It’s definitely frustrating and you may be losing your patience, but remember to keep things calm and even-tempered. 

Talk your parents (yes, AGAIN) and restate everything you told them before: start with empathy, express gratitude, and explain the issue. Offer to go through their guest list with them, and ask them why they’d like to invite the people they’ve chosen. Some people on their list might be lifelong friends that should be there, and some may be work buddies they haven’t seen since they retired.

You can even call your wedding planner for backup, and have them join you for the continued negotiations — sometimes having an outside source can help solidify the importance of the issue.