10/05/2011 01:03 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Who Makes the A-List for My Wedding?

When planning a wedding, there are three very important lists that should be created: wedding guest list, wedding budget and wedding wish list. All three go hand in hand in the orchestration and execution of the big day. In today's economic climate, it all comes down to the 'wedding dollar,' with hopes of achieving items on all three lists, but the guest list is the determining factor.

Everyone that you know cannot be included on the wedding guest list... unless you just won the lottery! Of course, it is a very exciting and special day and it would be wonderful to share with everyone, but it is impossible for many reasons, and expense is reason number one. Special day -- special guests! The entire wedding budget is based on the guest list, and each guest is an equation of the wedding budget. So create a realistic wedding budget: a liquid accessible amount that is not pinned to a possible inheritance.

Next, create only one guest list -- the A-List! The total number of guests should never exceed the guest capacity of the secured location. This list should also only consist of guests special to the bride and groom. From a guest's point of view, who wants to be invited anywhere as a second thought? And remember, when a guest is invited and accepts, never is that guest disinvited! This is just not done.

There is a silent rule of thumb stating that, based on the time of year and the location of the event, 15 percent to 22 percent of the guests may decline the invitation; however, don't count on that. Instead, look at the decline percentage as a possibility to achieve a few items from the wedding wish list, which is a list of everything one could possibly dream of.

Under no circumstances do you, as the bride or groom, have to add 'and guest' on the invitation of a single guest; that is a courtesy, not an etiquette suggestion. If the event is scheduled for the evening, it is also not necessary to include the guest's children; again this is a courtesy, not an etiquette suggestion.

When you have set a realistic budget and have finalized the A-List, divide the total number of wedding guests into the total budget and that amount is the cost per person. The total budget must cover everything needed for the big day, so perhaps it is time to prioritize!

A few years ago, I received a call from a bride requesting services for a 250-guest wedding on a very conservative budget. She immediately began sharing all of the items on her dream list, which I knew could not be achieved, even if she held her event at Mickey D's. So, the next step was to prioritize: what are the least important items, graduating to the most important items, on each list? For this bride, the location and quality time spent with the guests shared the number one position.

The wedding budget is usually set in stone; there is only so much that is available for the big day and the myth of a money tree in the backyard is just that! Taming the guest list is doable, and it soon became apparent that not everyone that made the first draft was a must. For this bride, the 250-name list, which consisted of workout, office and apartment building friends, extended family and professional colleagues, both couples and parents, was tamed down to 100 very special people, allowing the guests to enjoy a beautiful celebration at the perfect location. And the very happy couple was able to spend quality time with everyone.