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Big fat Arab wedding: How to plan for a large wedding guest list

Most Middle Eastern weddings tend to have a large guest list, ranging from 200-600 people at times

Lara Barakat

Published: Updated:

Most Middle Eastern weddings tend to have a large guest list, ranging from 200-600 people at times. If you and your future spouse both come from large families with lots of children, and you are both equally popular, you can expect a large guest list, which is not ideal while planning a wedding. We have a list of suggestions to help you overcome your large guest list, staying in control and well within your budget.

Five-year, five-minute rule

This rule can be very helpful while finalizing your list. The more guests you have, the more expensive your wedding will be. Every invitation sent out must be accounted for. Do not assume that some guests may not attend. Do not invite someone if:

- you have not spoken to that person in the last five years

- you do not see yourself in the presence of that person for more than five minutes

Once you have consulted your spouse and family on invitees, it is time to get planning.

Venue

Ensure your venue will comfortably accommodate all your guests. Book an appointment and request to speak to a banqueting manager, explain your large guest list, and ask how the venue can accommodate. Better yet, ask to visit the location; once you are standing in the area or room, you will be able to envision the floor plan.

Space out your floor plan evenly. An area can quickly become stuffy and hot with a large number of people dancing, so address important facts about your venue such as air-conditioning.

Travel

If you are hosting the ceremony in a separate location from that of your reception, some guests may struggle with transport. To ensure their punctuality and ease of mind, arrange their transport for them. A coach can collect them at an assigned meeting point and drive them to your ceremony. This will also help guests travelling from abroad, as some may not be familiar with the area.

If your budget restricts hiring transport, consider hosting both ceremonies at the same venue but in different areas. For example, have a garden ceremony with an indoor reception party.

Socialize

Your guests are coming to celebrate your special day with you both. Having a large guest list can make it challenging to socialize with everyone, dance and enjoy your wedding all at once. You could host a pre-wedding dinner, commonly known as a rehearsal dinner. You will be able to socialize with most of your guests at this dinner, as well as the guests travelling from abroad.

You may also consider hosting a post-wedding dinner before your honeymoon. That way, you can personally thank your guests for attending without them feeling left out. Alternatively, try to visit most of the tables during your reception, and while on the dance floor bust some moves with your remaining guests to make them feel welcomed.

Entertainment

With a large number of guests, it may seem like a struggle to keep them entertained, or you may feel that as a bride it is your duty to assure that they are all having fun. We all love photo make-your-own stands (cupcakes, candy charts), but they are not ideal when you have 200 or more guests as it can get messy. We suggest including a photo booth so guests can take personalized pics.

Think out of the box and get creative. Give them a reason to get up. Consider live cooking stations between courses. Our favorite table games include I-Spy (provide your guests with disposable cameras and ask them to capture moments your photographer might miss, such as the father-daughter dance). Or print out ‘Advice for the Mr & Mrs’ cards, place them on each table, and have guests write funny messages for you and your future spouse.