If you’ve been engaged for any time at all, then you know just how insane it can be trying to put together a wedding guest list. You don’t want to hurt any feelings or step on any toes, but you also can’t afford to invite every family friend and second cousin. So before you tackle your guest list, there are a few decisions you need to make—after all, you do have your mother-in-law to think about.

How high will you climb on the family tree?

Family can be a tricky thing. We were close when we were young, We haven’t spoken in years, and How are we related again? are pretty common wonderings of brides and grooms to be as they sort out their wedding guest list. Knowing your family tree and just how high you’re willing to climb will be a game changer.

Wedding etiquette says that it’s polite to abide by the none-or-all rule when it comes to family. If you’re going to invite one first cousin, it’s polite to invite all of your first cousins on that side of the family. Obviously there are special circumstances to consider (like if you have fifty first cousins), but in general, this is a good guideline. It’s also possible that you or your partner are closer to your extended family than the other. Just because you’re inviting your partner’s great aunt doesn’t mean you have to invite the great aunt you’ve never met.

Are you allowing plus-ones?

Ah yes, the infamous plus-one…a very common wedding guest list struggle. There are some major factors that play into whether or not you allow plus-ones, but the biggest one by far is budget. In a lot of cases, you simply can’t afford to include plus-ones on the invitation, and that is more than understandable.

You also might want your wedding to have a more intimate feel—you know, like without strangers. If this is the case, you can even state this on your invitation with a simple, “We’re excited to spend our special day with our families and closest friends, so we won’t be allowing plus-ones. Thank you for your understanding.”

Keep in mind that not all plus-ones are created equal, meaning that it’s alright for you to allow long-time partners as plus-ones and exclude casual dates. One way to do this is to include the names of long-time partners on the invitation and leave off a blank plus-one field.

Will children be invited?

Not every baby will cry during your wedding vows and ruin everything…but there’s a chance that one might. Whether or not to add children to your wedding guest list can feel like a bigger decision than it actually is—most parents are used to reading “Please respect our wishes for a child-free celebration” on wedding invitations. Because of the normality of excluding children, feel free to make this decision without any added guilt.

And if you do decide to allow kids, you could always have a plan for entertaining them during the ceremony and reception with print-out activities and crayons. This way, you get all of the cuteness of your niece in a flower crown without the added pressure of whiney children interrupting your big day.

The key to finishing your wedding guest list without losing your sanity is taking it one decision at a time. Odds are, you’ll hurt some feelings along the way, but that’s ok—you won’t be the first to step on some toes in this process.

We’d love to hear about your battle (or triumph) with your wedding guest list on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. If you loved this article, save the pin below to your wedding Pinterest board.

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