Start With Percentages
After you determine the venue and the number of guests you can afford, assign 50 percent of that number to the bride and groom and 25 percent to each set of parents (or, with multiple sets of parents, 25 percent to each side altogether. If your parents are paying for the wedding, you may want to give them a higher percentage. If it turns out that one of you doesn’t need all their allotted spots, you can redistribute them to whoever has requested more.
Give Parents Their Number Early
To save embarrassment later, give them specific guidelines as soon as possible―before they start making phone calls inviting friends and family.
Create an A, B, C list
Start by asking everyone involved― you, yourfiancé, and both sets of parents―to make up a wish list of people they'd really like to include. If you can invite everyone, then do so. If not, ask everyone to rank each potential guest as A, B, or C. Your must-have A's are those family members and closefriends you can't imagine not being with you. After removing duplicates, add up the A's. If you're not already overbooked, begin adding guests from the B's and then the C's. No matter how carefully you plan, at some point you'll be faced with having to make tough choices. Your cousin or your fiancé's fraternity brother? Your future mother-in-law's college roommate or your dad's coworker? Before you get out the scalpel and attempt a precise surgical maneuver that might result in seriously hurt feelings, take another look at the list. Chances are, you'll find pockets of guests―your mom's bridge club, who can be deleted as a group.
Do the One-Year Test
If you’re not sure whether to invite someone, “Ask yourself, ‘Have I seen or spoken to this person in the last year?’” says David Tutera, celebrity event planner and host of the TV show My Fair Wedding. “If the answer is no, odds are that you can keep them off your must-have list.”
Selectively Offer Invites With Guests
One thing that often trips up brides and grooms is whether to have ‘plus guest’ on the invitation. The solution is to do so only when you have socialized with the couple. If someone asks if he or she can bring a guest, diplomatically tell him or her that this is how you made the difficult decision; that there will be a lot of other singles going without partners; and for budget reasons, you had to eliminate a lot of family and colleagues, which should make them feel special that they themselves were invited.
Consider Having a Small Wedding
Perhaps the easiest way to offending people while keeping your numbers manageable, says David Tutera, is to keep your wedding day to family and close friends only. Then, when you’re back from your honeymoon, have a large cocktail party and invite everyone.