Wedding Invitation B List | The hows, whys + secrets of maneuvering it

September 6

Recently, I was interviewed by Vancouver Wedding Blog, Vancity Bride, for an “ask the pros” article on the topic of Wedding Invitation B Lists. Jeannine did an exceptional job with the article and I encourage you all to go read it! I was delighted to share a few of my tips and advice, along with a two other vancouver wedding planners.

Today, I wish to share my extended thoughts with some practical, hands on tools for navigating the subject effectively.

Let’s get started, shall we?! 

When does a bride need to have a B list?

It’s a simple fact of life that when planning your wedding, you can rarely invite absolutely everyone your heart desires. Be it your venue restrictions, a tight budget or endless extended family, there are many reasons couples look to the B-list method.

Typically speaking, the main reason is:

  1. To meet a minimum spend established by a venue of choice [either monetary or headcount],
  2. To accommodate a small venue, or
  3. To honour a tight budget.


What are the advantages + disadvantages of having a B List?

The main advantage in doing so, is being able to closely meet, if not meet perfectly the above mentioned scenarios. In contrast, the major disadvantage being the likelihood of hurt feelings and awkward tension, should the presence of a B-list be found out and acknowledged by guests.


Is having a B list acceptable?

I would not directly refer to a B-list as improper or unacceptable, as it’s been a widely common process through the ages of wedding planning. I would however, acknowledge it as dicey. Here’s why…

If a B-list is not acted out with wisdom, sensitivity, attention and due care, you risk making people feel second fiddle. This means when sending out invitations, do so in part by social circles and family ties to avoid wedding talk turning to gossip of “who got their invite when!” For example, if you invite friend Sherry 2 months before the wedding, you would not send out B-list invites to other girlfriend Mary or her sister Samantha weeks before.

If people are prone talk, whether intentional or not, group them together on either the A or B list to avoid hurt feelings.


How can you make a B list work without offending anyone?

The key to forming a B-list is timing; ensure your second round invitations do not arrive too late! Typically, invitations should be send out 2-3 months in advance, even earlier for destination weddings. So as your “regretfully decline’s” roll in, you send out a B-list invite in exchange. While this method is practical, it can be extremely slow in turn, depending largely on the rate at which people respond.

I suggest finalizing your A list response by minimum four weeks out. If people complain or ask about the early response, blame your caterer, venue or your obsessive need to be prepared and organized!

In the end, by keeping your circles together (immediate family, colleagues, extended family, friend group A/B/C, acquaintances), you lessen the chance of people wondering why so and so got their invitation and they haven’t yet.

If you absolutely have to send out a last-minute invite, limit them to people who are easy-going and understanding. Be honest with them. Explain your strict budget and emphasize your delight in having a seat become available so they could join you! People want to feel wanted; not like an after-thought.


How common is it to have a B list?

While it is extremely common, my personal experiences differ: more couples are spending the time and efforts in solidifying their guest list prior to venue hunting, thus eliminate the need for a B-list. Should they happen to have less room than desired, they cut the B-list all together, coming to terms with inviting A-list guests only.

This closely parallels the influx and rise of intimate weddings, with couples choosing to celebrate with just those nearest and dear to their hearts.


What types of guests are usually added to the B List?

As most would assume, A list guests are those that without question, must and will be invited to your wedding. This group typically includes immediate family, attendants, close friends and those your parents insist on inviting.

The B list consists of those you’d wish to invite, space permitting. Generally speaking, these individuals are colleagues, friends of friends, neighbours or far extended family, new friends and old acquaintances.

Selecting your wedding guests should be an honest and genuine experience, with a focus not on image, obligation or “responsibility.” When creating your lists, take time to consider these thoughts:

  • Is this individual a friend or an acquaintance?
  • How long have I known them and will I still in 10 years?
  • Do we spend quality time together regularly and will we after the wedding?
  • Am I inviting them simply in exchange for their same gesture?
  • Do they know the “real me”?
  • Will they celebrate WITH us or simply watch?
  • Would I want to talk to them in the receiving line or would it be awkward?


Are there any warnings for brides considering a B list?

To reiterate my above concerns, remember that B-list success depends largely on your ability to time your invitation batches, be discreet in execution and effectiveness in grouping social circles.

If you fear you may goof up and risk making the B-list known, I suggest printing out your B-list response cards, WITHOUT a reply by date listed. Simply state, “We request the honour of your presence or Kindly reply ASAP.”


Are there alternatives to having a B list?

My first recommendation is to create your guests list immediately upon getting engaged. After reviewing it with your families and settling on a number, select a venue that can accommodate both your guest count and your budget. Plan to invite roughly 15% more than you hope to have, with a standard acceptance rate of 85%.

Other alternative options are to look at ways of cutting costs and scaling back:

  • Seek venues other than hotels, golf clubs and private clubs
  • DIY where possible
  • Borrow and seek help from family for things like attire, jewellery, decor + dessert
  • Scale back on the luxury of your wedding
  • Consider a bunch, cocktail or lunch reception
  • Remember the three most important rule* [budget + book your three most important elements first, divvying out the remaining money amongst the rest]


There you have it! Now the question remains…. Will you be having a B-list?



About Kailey-Michelle

Grace clinger. Marriage lover. Moment savourer. Passionate Creator. Seeking to inspire this generation as a Professional Wedding Planner, Speaker, Writer and Business Coach, to focus on what matters most in life and leave a legacy of love and service.
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4 Responses

  1. Jan Mitchell says:

    My daughter is getting married on 10/11/14. She has had several “no’s” on RSVPs. She has now told me (her Mom), if there any friends I would like to invite, I may do so (since it looks like on 60-65% of people invited are attending). This wedding is three weeks from tomorrow. I have 4 people I want to invite, but I don’t want to hurt their feelings since they won’t get their invitation until way after round 1 was sent (late July 2014). They all know my daughter is getting married and probably will figure out why they are getting a late invite. My daughter didn’t think there was enough room to invite them in the first place, and now there is. My friends are former co-workers and I’ve been close to them for many years. My daughter invited alot of people from out of town, and most of them are unable to attend. The food ordered from caterer is for 100 people; looks like 55-60 have confirmed. If I decide to mail these invites tomorrow, I know not to use the RSVP card she used on Plan A; leave it out? Do I include a personal note with the invitation, don’t send at all, or send and don’t worry about it? Thank you so much!!!

    Jan Mitchell
    Hendersonville, TN

    • Hi Jan, At this point in the game I would simply be honest with those you’d like to invite, either though a hand delivered invite and explanation, or a personal note. Explain the situation, as it’s a very common one, especially with a large amount of out-of-town guests; it’s understandable that not everyone on all family me members A lists can be accommodated. Share your desire to have included them from the get go, but emphasize that you are thrilled now to have the opportunity. Those who know you well will trust that your intentions were good and your heart genuine in the situation. Those that will take offence to it, would, regardless of how you present the invite at this point.

  2. Mary says:

    I am currently working on the guest list. We had to postpone our original date and are working with a much smaller venue. I know etiquette states that you need to rein cite all the previous invitees. So with that said, thinking of sending the invitations to the out of town guests first then those local – the original rsvpd guests were just at what our new venue will hold- so thinking this will hold true again. My question is – is it ok to set an earlier RSVP date for the out of town guests then at that date send the local invitations?

    • While it’s not necessarily common, I don’t see this being a huge deal. More notice is always better for out of town guests anyways. With my own clients, especially ones that have a great deal of out of town guests, I will sometimes suggest sending out all invitations earlier than normal, with a RSVP as early as 2-3 months before the wedding. This will give you ample time to confirm late reply’s and invite B List Guests without making them feel like a last minute addition.