I recommend making the guest list before you start venue shopping because it will dictate the size venue you need (not to mention dictating price).
This was easily the most difficult task. At least on my side as I have the larger family. People are notorious for getting their feelings hurt if you don’t invite them to your wedding. I also find this hilarious since most people say they dislike having to go to weddings. I’ve had people invite themselves and UN-invite themselves – both are quite amusing since none of these individuals are actually on the list.
No one can tell you who to invite and who not to invite; that is a row you will have to hoe yourself. However I can offer up some advice: don’t invite everyone you’ve ever known and don’t let your family invite friends who are not your friends. This is YOUR wedding. It should be an occasion of your nearest and dearest supporting you on this journey. It’s not a high school dance and it’s not a performance.
I’ve seen what can happen when you invite people to far on the fringe of your circle. They don’t RSVP by the date; they RSVP with more people than the invitation was addressed; they don’t RSVP at all. If you keep it to the people with whom you are the closest, the likelihood of reception issues will be lessoned considerably. And don’t have the pastor do a “y’all come” style invite at the end of the ceremony. People who did not RSVP will come and you won’t have enough seats for them. Trust me. I’ve seen it happen.
Remember there are rules to be observed. I recommend reading through them. It is best to know the rules so that if you choose to break any, they were well considered and done so with purpose. Some of these rules are quite necessary; especially with regards to addressing invitations properly. Some rules are ridiculous. My personal ridiculous favorite? The rule that you should invite those who invited you to their wedding. We’re not following that one. I don’t see any reason to invite someone on this basis alone. They may not be a significant part of your life. They might have gone for the concert sized performance wedding and invited everyone they’ve ever known with 23 bridesmaids and 500 attendees. If you only chat through Facebook, chances are they don’t need to be there. Repaying an invite with an invite is archaic.
Last bit of advice, follow the rules when it comes to addressing invites. There is a social code built in and people expect it. Don’t go changing these rules. They are there to avoid confusion. There is no way for people to know who is invited and who isn’t if you don’t have their name on the invite. All adults should receive their own invite either as part of a couple or as an individual. If individuals are allowed a guest, it should say “and Guest” so they know they are welcome to bring a date. Invited children should be named on the invite. If they are not then they are not invited*. See how important this is? It really is important. Don’t try to save money by skimping on the number of invites. I know invitations are expensive. We just sent ours off to be printed and embossed so I am well informed at this point (eep!). If you have more people than your chosen invite budget can accommodate, then you need to choose a less expensive option. You’ll only create confusion and you might not have some people at your wedding simply because they didn’t know you wanted them to share in your day. Besides, there are plenty of online companies with lovely ready made templates. I’m marrying a graphic designer who also happens to be a typography snob so I knew we would be spending more simply because this is important to him. Figure out what’s important to you and then figure out where you can skimp.
*I feel I must offer a warning here, some families will bring their children regardless of whether the invite includes them or not. Some people just can’t imagine that you wouldn’t want their children at your wedding. The best thing to do is to consult etiquette on how to address this. There is plenty of good info online to address these difficult and delicate situations.