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Brides Want To Know: Do We Have To Split The Guest List Fifty-Fifty?

by Jolene Rae Harrington, Director of Creative Content

Dear Here Comes The Guide,

We are planning a fairly upscale and costly wedding for our daughter. It is a destination wedding for our guests, but more local for the groom side. Therefore, our guests are not as likely to attend as the groom side. Do we have to split the guest list fifty-fifty? My thoughts are that we should have a thirty-seventy, or forty-sixty split. We are paying for the whole thing. What is the norm?


First, congratulations on your daughter’s wedding! I hope has been a valuable planning resource for you, your daughter and her fiancé.

Destination Wedding Invitation by Paper Stories, ChicagoTraditionally, 50-50 split is the starting point. But in our opinion, there are no set rules other than mutual courtesy and thoughtfulness. I’m not sure what the example percentages represent in terms of the split—30% for you, 70% for them or the other way around? You probably don’t want to begin a relationship with your daughter’s in-laws by creating any sort of grounds for disagreement. It’s always okay for you to offer more guests for the other side—but demanding more for your side of the family is bound to cause resentment.

On the other hand, you may be intending to invite more guests than will actually accept, i.e. invite 100 with an expectation of 50 attending. In that case, I’d be frank with the in-laws about this as I’m sure they’ll understand that you’ll need to at least extend an invitation to a certain number of your friends and family. Another way to help you get a read on who will actually attend is to send out a “Save the Date” announcement, and evaluate the feedback. You might be surprised by the response. If you are using a wedding planner, then he or she will be able to advise on all these sticky etiquette issues, and perhaps even negotiate on your behalf.

Finally, while you are being very generous in footing the bill for the lavish wedding, it is better to avoid using that as an excuse to steer decisions in your direction. Your future son-in-law and his parents are no doubt very aware of this, and might even feel uncomfortable about the inequality of their contribution. So in the interest of overall harmony, it’s always better to start from the standpoint of “equal share.”

Good luck to you all, and hope this helps!

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