How to Reduce a Wedding Guest List to the Number of People You Can Cater For

Lately, we’ve written a couple of articles that show how to plan low-key, classy weddings in Nigeria  as well as how to save money when preparing your wedding on a tight budget. One of the biggest challenges with organizing an elegant small wedding lies in reducing the names on the guest list. Use the simple etiquette guides in this article to cut down the number of guests on your invite list to a manageable number you can cater for – in a way that frees you from feeling guilty, while ensuring that everyone that really matters stays on the guest list.

father bride dancing in church
Photo credit: Dotun – Nigerian Wedding Photographer

When planning a wedding on a low budget, you are forced to make some tough decisions such as drawing a line on how many guests to invite, as well as deciding on who and who should or should not be invited to your wedding. After drafting your initial guest list, it’s normal to discover that the list is a lot more than your budget can realistically accommodate. So, the next logical thing to do is to cut down the number of guests to send the wedding invitation cards to. And that means, some people will not be invited. But who and who should be / not be on your invite list? I’m here to help you with that.

Simple Wedding Etiquette For Trimming Your Wedding Guest List

Now, get out a pen and be ready to cross out some names  until you have the number of wedding guests that match your budget. Here are simple wedding etiquette guidelines to help you establish the boundaries to trim down your wedding guest list:


If you have a large immediate family (like ‘all’ Nigerians do), make the cut at aunts, uncles and first cousins.

  • No distant cousin/ aunt/ uncle. -No ‘friend of relatives.
  • No second, third cousins etc
  • Remove names of distant relatives you don’t know, have never met, or have not spoken to in the past 6 months; or don’t see regularly
  • Any relative you know but haven’t seen/ spoken to or heard from in the past six months to one year, even if they invited you to their own wedding in the past;

The Exception: If a relative/ family member is funding the wedding, allow them to invite a bit more guests.


You don’t have to invite anyone just because you attended the same school or live(d) in the same neighborhood. Well, you actually can if your budget is big enough to feed them all. Look at your friends and your fiance’s friends inside your wedding preliminary guest list. Strike out names of:

Anyone you’re no longer in touch with; don’t call often; don’t visit; don’t see regularly or talk to, even if they invited you to their own wedding in the past;

  • Anyone you haven’t seen or spoken to in the past 6 months to a year;
  • Any name you delay and deliberate whether or not to delete;
  • Friends of your friends or co-workers of your friends – they are not your friends
  • Any friend you see only at parties or events organized by your mutual friends – meaning that they’re your friends’ friends and not ‘your friend’;
  • Anyone who you are likely to forget who they are in the next 5 to 10 years from now, and could be wondering who is this or that person in your wedding photo
  • The exes: Don’t invite your ex-boyfriend unless your fiancé agrees to it. Likewise, his ex-girlfriend(s) should only be invited if you (bride) agree to it.

The Exception: Your married and engaged guests will come to your wedding with their significant other, whether you send them an invitation card that specifies it admits only one person or not – and the unplanned guests may rob the “real” invited guests of the small available food. So, here’s what to do:

  • Add one extra guest to every married and engaged guest on your invite list. So their invitation cards should be addressed as: Mr and Mrs Lagbaja.
  • For engaged guests or those in a long term relationship, if you haven’t met the person’s significant other or heard much about them, then you are not obligated to extend an invitation card to them.
  • If you plan to have a strictly-by-invitation wedding, do not allow single guests to bring dates (be sure to specify that their invitation card only admits one person) – only give engaged and married guests should be allowed to bring an extra guest.
  • Add an extra guest to each bridesmaids and groomsmen – give them the honour of bringing a company, even if they’re not involved in a relationship. Be sure to specify that on their invitation cards (e.g. ‘this invitation card admits two persons’);
  • Invite the parents of your flower girls and ring bearer


If you have lots of office colleagues, it sure would be nice to invite them all. But when your catering budget cannot accommodate everyone, you need to cut down the guest list. The fact is that you’re not obligated to invite someone just because you work in the same office or have done business together.

  • Ask yourself: If the company where you both work closes down tomorrow, would you still be friends with them? Apart from the job, what other business do you have in common? If the answer is “nothing”, remove their name from the guest list.
  • Don’t invite anyone you meet only at work and never socialize with outside the office, don’t invite them – they’re not your close friends;
  • If 5 to 10 years from now, there’s a possibility that you will look at wedding pictures and wonder, “Who is this person?”, then remove their name from the guest list;
  • If financial constraints won’t allow you to invite all your colleagues, it’s okay to let them know that the wedding is going to be an intimate affair with only your immediate family, and that you don’t want to hurt their feelings. You’d be surprised that most people will understand. If you can afford it, show up at the office on Monday with a cake and drinks for your co-workers.
  • If you don’t want everyone in your office to show up at your wedding when you didn’t budget for them, don’t hang your invitation card on the office notice boards!

The Exception: If your office is small and you’re close to all your colleagues, it’s appropriate to invite everyone (not appropriate to invite some and leave out some).


Cutting down the wedding guest list is one of the most stressful and dreaded parts of wedding planning, but once you get it done, you can breathe a sigh of relief. Don’t feel too bad about the people whose names you removed from the guest list. Just remember that Weddings are intimate affair, meant for family and close friends. Your third cousin from your Mother’s village and that office colleague will eventually forgive you for not giving them invitation cards. So, focus on how best to make your wedding special.

When trimming down the number of wedding guests to invite, it’s best to apply the above rules across board without making any exceptions, which may offend others. Note, however, to use your best judgment to make exceptions to the rules. Once you’re done reducing the name on on the guest list, the next thing to do is to start addressing the invitation cards.

About Stella Anokam

Stella is the founder and Editor of this blog (NaijaGlamWedding). Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest. Submit your photos to be featured - it's FREE, because we love everything weddings, bridal showers, engagement shoots.

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