Indian Wedding Basics: Planning the Guest List

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Perhaps the trickiest part of planning a wedding is drawing up the guest lists. Indian traditions dictate that the bride’s family handles this complicated issue (and also foots the bill!). It is essential to manage this aspect delicately in order to avoid hassles in the longer run.

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If your (i.e. the bride-to-be’s) parents are handling the guest lists, then tradition holds that you get to invite more of your guests. But it is essential that the groom’s family gets to invite a proportional number, irrespective of who is handling the costs. Hence, both families must sit down and carefully discuss this matter.

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Naturally, there is no cut-and-dried or “one size-fits all” solution to handling the guest list. Here we shall attempt to give you some tips to help you plan this aspect of your wedding:

  • Taking care of feelings-In Indian families, parents are the ones who decide upon the guests. The best way to do so is to invite everyone and not leave anyone in the dark. This way, feelings aren’t hurt.
  • You host the wedding, he hosts the reception-Many Indian families attempt to solve the matter by having two large ceremonies. The wedding is hosted by the bride’s family and the reception by that of the grooms’. Two separate guest lists and two separate sets of invitations!
  • To or not to invite colleagues-Many families may endeavor to keep the invitees below a certain number-in such a case; one must not be under an obligation to invite bosses or co-workers. In order to avoid false expectations, do ensure that you make it known to them that the wedding is a ‘small affair’ with friends and family only. This way, no one would feel excluded. It will also help if you can limit your ‘wedding related discussions’ at the workplace.
  • Intimate wedding guest list-Not all Indian weddings are grand and elaborate affairs. Many couples and their families choose to have small and intimate ceremonies. It is essential that you are honest with your friends, relatives (and co-workers) that your celebrations are limited only to close members of the two families. It might be a difficult task; but it is essential that you explain the ‘small wedding guest list’ to your friends-if they are mature and understanding they will not feel hurt.
  • Big fat Indian weddings-In large Indian weddings; creating a guest list can be utterly chaotic. But there are ways to handle the ‘craziness’. Setting the right expectations regarding the size of the wedding is essential to create the list. You can choose to divide the number of invitees equally (for example- you get to invite 200 people while the groom invites the remaining 200).  To minimize confusion, wait for initial lists from your parents and in-laws to help you arrive at the final/target number.
  • Stick to limits-Once you have set the boundaries; stick to them. Do not let yourself be bullied by elders. This is hard to do- but you must make sure to let it be known that it is YOUR event. This can be tricky while explaining (especially to the in-laws) but if you do not do it earlier on, you are sure to be overwhelmed at a later stage.
  • Online tools-One way of avoiding confusion and last minute invitees is to draw up lists and maintain them online or on Excel spreadsheets. There are many sites which have excellent guest-list manager tools. Use them. The earlier you come up with an organized list, the better it is for you to plan the remaining things. It is also a good idea to draw up two lists, this way (once you start getting RSVPs) you can add or subtract names from the other to arrive at the final list. Make sure that you do this way-in-advance, so your invitation cards can be sent out at the right time.


Again: there are no fixed rules here. The more you talk to people, you are sure to get inputs about this matter. We hope that these pointers considerably ease your guest-list tension.

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