I think if any couple has survived doing the mandatory marriage course (a prerequisite for most church weddings) and not ended up in a major disagreement over some of those hot topics, the next category to test the unity of the dearly intended is most definitely the guest list. Many families have notions going back years as to whom they think should be invited, who is “owed” an invitation and who should NOT be allowed to attend.(!!) Now combine this with the differences between the bride and groom’s respective families and you have a possibility of a family feud being set ablaze from the differences in opinion and preconceived notions developed over a lifetime.
First of all, most of the arguments are centered on the reception and its inherent price tag as the number of invited guests dictates the cost of the reception. One might think that they barely know 50 people and are shocked to find out that they actually are hoping to invite well over 100 guests without even the other partner’s guests and family. With immediate family likely requiring the better part of a couple of dozen invites it does not take long to reach 100 guests as many guests have a significant other whose attendance must be counted as a distinct possibility.
Sometimes the easiest way to save an argument over who gets to invite who is to calculate the maximum number of guests you can afford together to have attend the reception and split the number down the middle. Often, one side has a bigger family or more close friends and/or wider social group. Strangely enough it is not always the bride’s side with the larger numbers. In more traditional families (or of varied ethnic origins) it can become a big clash if one side of the family is exclusively paying all the wedding costs. In these cases tact and diplomacy are critical.
A very special friend and relatives may be very important to the groom but perhaps not in the budget of the father-of-the-bride should he be picking up the complete tab. I had a similar experience. My parents-in-law (to-be) had offered to pay for the reception. After all the numbers of guests from both sides were accounted for my mother decided she simply had to have a dozen more of her friends attend. I barely knew these people (other guests I had included were friends with my mom but I also knew them quite well). I objected on the basis that I already had 140 guests (most of which were my friends and family) and with the groom’s family paying for the reception as a gift… the friends my mother wanted in attendance did not really matter much to me.
Well quite a heated debate ensued. In the end my mother asked the cost of each guest at the reception and presented me with a money order paying in advance any extra cost the extra dozen guests might incur. I gave in. In the end it worked out well as my mother was kept quite happy and busy at the reception with her friends and I did not have to increase the overall budget of the reception.
A good rule of thumb when trying to calculate numbers is to remember that a minimum 10% of the invited guests decline or are unable to come (not including out of town guests). Normally this does not matter but in cases where you want to (or need to) invite the occasional extra attendee this does provide some leeway and might prevent a family war.
A few resources listed below to help calculate who you can comfortable invite and who will likely attend.
Wedding Guest List
Wedding Planning: How to Decide How Many People to Invite
Wedding & Dating Advice: How to Decide Who to Invite to Your Wedding
The Wedding Guest List: Where to Cut
Cutting Your Wedding Guest List