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Invite only -- pare down your wedding guest list

That reality has led to a disagreement or two over the years, as both the bride-to-be and her future husband make their case for whom makes the cut. To help avoid such disagreements, couples should consider the following tips when paring down their guest list.

• Make a master list as early as possible. It's impossible to pare down a guest list if there's no list to begin with. Once the planning process begins, couples should separately write down all the guests they would like to invite. Once each is finished with their list, the hard work of paring that list down can begin.

• Consider who's footing the bill. If Mom and Dad are paying for the wedding, then their suggestions for the guest list should carry most of the weight. The same principle can be applied if the couple is paying for their own wedding. If the costs are being split down the middle, then both the groom- and bride-to-be should be allowed to invite the same number of guests.

• Ask that kids stay home. Many couples request that their guests leave the kids at home. While nieces and nephews might make the cut, it's perfectly acceptable for couples to state their preference that children not attend. This can be noted on the invitation, addressing friends as "Mr. John Doe and guest" or "Mr. and Mrs. John Doe." Guests should take the hint, but if any RSVP with their kids, be sure to call them immediately and explain the situation. Friends and family should understand the preference, particularly in the current economic climate.

• It's not a reunion. Couples are often tempted to invite long-lost friends to their wedding. But cost-conscious couples must recognize their wedding is not a reunion. If the goal is to keep the guest list under control, only invite close friends and family members who have kept in touch with you over the years.

• Stick to your guns. Couples vary greatly in what they want in their wedding. Some want a grandiose affair they can share with their whole family and all of their friends. Other couples want a more laid-back affair with only those closest to them in attendance. Whatever their preference, couples should remain firm and not feel guilty no matter how many guests they choose to invite or not invite.

• Cut back in other areas. If it's proving simply impossible to agree on a reduced guest list, consider inviting everyone and cutting back in other areas. Before signing any contracts, closely examine each one for items that can be removed without drastically changing the ceremony and celebration. Chances are there are savings to be had, and those savings might make the difference between inviting and not inviting another friend or family member.

(MS)

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