To B or Not to B

We’ve all heard of the A-list/B-list phenomenon: Divide your guest list into one group of must-have guests and another of guests you’d like to invite later on, provided enough of the A-listers decline. Since this can open the door for hurt feelings, it’s a divisive, thorny issue that most planners urge brides to avoid. But in some cases—say, when your venue holds you to a minimum number of guests—it can behoove you to employ a strategic, thoughtful approach to the B-list.

1. Early planning is a must. “You don’t want the B-list to look like a B-list,” says Phyllis Jablonowski. That second batch of invites should go out early enough that guests don’t suspect they were an afterthought.

2. Once you decide on the breakdown, send your save-the-date cards ASAP—but only to your A-listers. Many invitees will express their intentions (yes or no) after receiving the save-the-date, which helps you gauge how many B-list spots you’ll have even before you send out invitations.

3. “When you find out you’re on the B-list, it sucks,” says Melissa Paul. Avoid this by keeping guest categories (work friends, teammates from your touch-football league, etc.) intact across groups; don’t invite some now and some later. They’re bound to talk and discover your approach.

4. Organize your B-list in priority order, so that when the response cards start trickling in, you immediately know exactly whom else you can invite. And don’t send out more B-list invitations than you have available spaces. The last thing you want is more guests than seats, especially when you’re closing in on the Big Day.

5. Give all guests as much time as possible to respond. Aim for A-list invitations to be sent at least eight weeks before your wedding date; B-list invitations should go out as soon as you can send them, with an RSVP date no later than four weeks before the event date.