Ask the Expert: The Overflowing Guest List

Wedding planner Kendall Brown helps you put the kibosh on a growing guest list

Question: My parents just gave us their guest list for our wedding, and it’s filled with people from their work and social lives whom my fiancé and I don’t know. We’d really rather not have all those unfamiliar faces at our wedding, but my parents are paying for the whole thing. What should I do?

Answer: Kendall Brown, owner Eclatante Event Design and Boutique in Northern Liberties, has seen this before, and she says her number one tip for tackling guest-list overload is to have a heart-to-heart with your parents, so that they understand your vision for your day. Then she’s got a few key points to help plead your case.

“If your favorite venues happen to be suited only for smaller, more intimate celebrations—rather than a larger hotel ballroom—you may not really have the option of a lengthy guest list,” she says. And the big one? Price. Not only will more guests up your catering bill, but a large wedding effects every aspect of the celebration: “More guests mean a costlier wedding at virtually every turn,” say Brown—more invitations, centerpieces, favors, everything.

If all else fails, and Mom and Dad get their way, there are ways to throw a large party with an intimate feel. First, says Brown, create individual vignettes of smaller tables of about six or eight. “If you cluster these smaller tables and maybe even intermix them with some casual seating groups, along with the right ambient lighting, your wedding celebration will certainly have more of a feeling of closeness than if you use the traditional banquet seating,” says Brown. Also, avoid a receiving line. “Obviously, the more guests there are, the more time a receiving line takes. A long receiving line takes time away from the real fun of the reception: the music, dancing and mingling with the guests.” Brown’s recommendation: “Instead, consider lengthening your cocktail hour and ask your parents to make sure that they introduce you and your husband to those people whom neither of you know very well, if at all. That way, during your reception, you can focus your time on the guests you do know—and dance!”