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Ask The Pros: The B List

August 20th, 2012 by Jeannine

Ask the Pros: The B List

Ever heard of a B List? It is a secondary list that contains guests whom you want to invite to your wedding, space permitting. It can consist of co-workers, distant relatives, or friends who are not close enough to make it to the mandatory list but you still want them to be a part in your special day. Invitations are extended to the B List when A List guests decline their invitation… but this move can be quite controversial. Some brides consider it tacky, others think it’s perfectly acceptable, if executed properly of course. I’ve decided to ask the pros what they thought of this guest list maneuver. You may remember Briar Johnston (Vancity Vendor Epic Events), Kailey-Michelle Veenstra (Kailey-Michelle Events) & Erin Bishop (Filosophi Events) from my previous Ask the Pros article about tipping etiquette. They’ve gladly stepped up again to clarify what the B List is really all about. Here’s what they had to say…

How common is it to have a B list?

Briar: Very common! I would say almost every wedding this season has one.

Kailey: In my personal experience, more couples are spending the time and effort in solidifying their guest list prior to venue hunting, thus eliminating 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.

Erin: Extremely common. Almost every couple I have worked with has had more friends than room at the wedding.

When does a bride need to have a B list? Is it something you would suggest for them to have?

Briar: You never have to have a B List. If your original guest list can’t come sometimes people just enjoy the budget savings rather than try to fill a seat. If it is in the budget/venue space to invite everyone right off the bat then great!

Kailey: 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 to meet a minimum spend established by a venue of choice (either monetary or headcount), to accommodate a small venue, or to honour a tight budget.

Erin: It’s safe to say that every bride and groom out there know more people than they could ever host at one party. The first challenge they face in planning their event is deciding which of the people they know are close enough to be a part of this special occasion and which are not, and there is bound to be some grey area there. In most cases, limited by budget or venue size, couples wish they could have more people than they can actually invite. This means some people will need to be cut from their primary list. However, if they had the room or budget to include those people, they would have – these people are the secondary list. In the event that people from the primary list are unable to attend, I absolutely suggest that the couple invite some guests from the secondary list. It is their big day and they want to be surrounded by as many of their loving and supportive friends as possible!

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

Briar: Having a B List means that you will be able to extend an invitation to those guest you really want there but may not have had room in the venue or budget to have come!

Kailey: The main advantage in doing so, is being able to closely meet,  if not meet perfect 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.

Erin: Having primary and secondary (A and B) guest lists are certainly a good idea, mainly because in the event that someone on the primary list is unable to attend, you can then include someone else who you likely were not very happy about excluding. On a logistical level, many venues require a minimum expenditure on food and beverages, so you want to have the planned amount of guests there to attain that minimum. In the event that you don’t reach the minimum spend, the difference is applied as a room rental – so of course you want to have the amount of guests needed so your money is being spent on food and drinks for people you care about rather than on nothing. Having a prepared secondary list will streamline the process of filling the spots of any guests who RSVP as unable to attend. The only disadvantage is of course someone finding out they are on your B list and taking offense to it.

Is having a B list acceptable? Why or why not?

Briar: It is totally acceptable and very common. Our generation completely understands that there are limitations to hosting an event (whether you are paying for it yourselves or have chosen an intimate reception venue). It doesn’t need to be advertised or widely known once guests have been invited off of your “B List” – they will (99% of the time) just be thrilled to be asked!

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

Erin: B Lists are simply a reality. Almost every party host has people who they would like to invite of they just had more room, in the venue or in the budget. The intent of a secondary list is to have as many people as possible be able to celebrate with the couple, so it’s absolutely acceptable.

Do you have any warnings for brides considering a B list?

Briar: Use common sense and common courtesy when approaching a B List. Make sure NOT to send a Save the Date to someone who will not be guaranteed an invitation. Remember that you do not have to fill every seat in the house!

Kailey: 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.”

Erin: If you have someone on your list who you feel would be outright offended at discovering they were a part of the secondary list, I would question whether that person is truly friend enough to be a part of your big day. A true friend understands the challenges and limitations involved with putting on a wedding and and would never hold it against you.

How To Properly Execute B-List Invitations

Erin has written out detailed methods on how to properly execute B-List invitations. First, the open and honest approach:

  • Send out the first wave of invitations earlier than usual, and as the ‘unable to attend’ RSVPs come in, to send along a nice note with the invitation to the next guest saying something along the lines of…“We are having an intimate wedding with limited capacity, so initially we were unable to include everyone we would have wanted there with us in a perfect world. However some family members are now unable to attend, and happily this means we are able to ask you to be a part of our celebration. We apologize for the later than usual notice, and hope you will be able to join us.”

If you wish to do this more discreetly, Erin suggests the following:

  • Plan ahead so that your two waves of invitations are far enough in advance that the second wave won’t notice that their invitations came later than usual, and thus everyone should be blissfully unaware of a primary and secondary list. This would look something like this:

Wedding Date is September 1st

First wave of invitations is sent out by May 1st with RSVPs coming in by about June 1st.
Secondary invitations sent out by June 15th with RSVPs coming in by about July 15th.

Erin says you can make two sets of invitations with different RSVP dates for each wave. If you are concerned about the costs or risk people finding out the 2 RSVP dates, she suggests for you to make the RSVP date later, hoping that the primary list will respond sooner.

Final Advice from the Planners

Briar: Again, it doesn’t need to be advertised that there is a B List and most friends completely understand if they are on one! Family is a trickier subject and needs to be approached with a bit more caution. The key is to make sure that you set some ground rules for the invitations. If you have a few extra seats, then all of your cousins get to bring a plus one. Not just a few of them. If you are getting too close to the wedding date that there is no time to send a proper invitation, a warm phone call will do the trick. You can just explain that you are thrilled to now be able to extend an invitation. Chances are they will be thrilled right back!

Kailey: 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.

Erin: If you are going to do the discreet method, it’s important that you consider which primary and secondary guests know each other or work together etc because if one gets an invitation, it could be mentioned to the other and their primary and secondary status could be discovered – which is what you were hoping to avoid.

So the question now is… will you be having a B List? Thank you to Briar, Kailey and Erin for weighing in on this issue. I hope their tips come in handy when it’s time for you to decide on your guest list. If you like their advice and want to find out more about them, please visit their websites and show your support :)

Epic Events | Facebook | Twitter
Kailey Michelle Events | Facebook | Twitter
Filosophi Events | Facebook | Twitter

Photographer credit: Pure White Studio (feature photo), Ophelia Photography, & Jenna & Tristan

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