A wedding is one of those occasions when the happy couple and their respective families enjoy being surrounded by friends and family, often the more the merrier. Sense has to rule the day however and if several hundred people are to be invited, not only to the ceremony, but also to eat and drink at the reception, it has to be faced, it can possibly be the most expensive. The first thing the couple and their parents must do therefore, is decide on a budget for the reception.It is a good idea to tour around a variety of venues to see how the prices for the reception are structured. Generally speaking the costs are charged per head depending on the menu chosen. Buffets tend to be cheaper even with a few exotic dishes because they require fewer staff to serve and clear, than a sit-down meal. Most venues provide brochures covering their wedding provisions, so armed with these, it is possible to sit down, consider how many people to invite and what sort of menu to choose. If a budget figure is set at the outset, you can then tailor the guest list accordingly.Guests come into categories - those invited by the respective parents, special friends of the bride and the groom and, often overlooked, partners of named guests. It is not considered good form to invite only one member of a partnership, one spouse, or one element of an item.Where relatives are concerned it really depends on the relationship. For example a teenage cousin may be invited together with his or her parents alone and without their regular girl or boy friend. However, the friend is often invited to please that cousin and keep him/her company during the proceedings.It is another good idea for both families to get together to compile the guest list. This is not always possible however so everyone should be informed of the number they may invite so they may submit a list to whoever is organising the event. That way any additions or subtractions can be discussed amicably, and mutually satisfactory agreements reached. Once the final list has been compiled a further decision has to be made, whether to split the guests up into those invited to the ceremony and reception, those to be invited just to the reception and, if there is to be an evening event as well, which will be invited to that.Once these decisions have been made and the various lists compiled, it is essential ALL invitations are sent out by ONE PERSON ONLY, otherwise there is a danger of one or two extras being slipped in without the main organiser being aware of them. This can cause embarrassment to all concerned if, at the reception, insufficient places have been reserved for the number of guests that turn up.Traditionally the brides mother issues the invitations, or a senior female member of the brides family. However, these days, there is no longer a hard and fast rule and anyone nominated by the bride, or the bride and groom together, may issue them.Invitations should be sent out at least six weeks before the wedding is due to take place, this gives guests time to reserve the day. It also gives the families time to find substitutes for those who cannot attend or to inform the reception providers of a change in numbers.Invitations may be handwritten on standard stationery or printed specially. The last will obviously require more time to order. Invitations always carry the legend RSVP which is an indication that a reply is required and it is polite to answer as soon as possible for obvious reasons. Replies MUST be sent to the person issuing the invitations.In the unfortunate event of the wedding being postponed, a notice must be sent to each invited guest explaining briefly why there has been a postponement and giving the revised date and time. If in the unhappy event of it being cancelled, again each guest must be notified in writing.It is convenient if the person issuing the invitations also takes controlof the gifts as they arrive. A special book should be kept with the givers name and the gift they presented. After the wedding, the bride should write thank you letters from herself and her husband using the booklet for reference.