So you have a shiny new diamond on your left hand; congrats! Now that the bubbly has been popped and the news spread, it’s time to get to the fun part of planning. Over the next few months you’ll be tasked with everything from picking out the perfect linens to finding a DJ who will bring it on the dance floor. With so many big decisions ahead of you, we’re here (just like a trusty bridesmaid!) to help with Real Brides Ask, a new series that tackles your toughest bridal questions.

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“How do I decide who to invite to the rehearsal dinner and the brunch the next day? And how do I know when to give someone a plus-one?” — Lauren Grossman, Founder of @eats.and.the.city.

When it comes to your big day, we understand that you’ll want allllll your closest BFFs and family friends there. But sometimes, a venue — or budget — can’t accommodate your *dream* guest list. Deciding who gets to celebrate with the couple the night before or who can bring a plus-one along for the ceremony can be a *project.* So Bay Area wedding planning expert Shannon Leahy of the dreamy Shannon Leahy Event Design and Planning breaks down some etiquette-approved tips to tackling your invite lists — without any hurt feelings along the way.

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1. Stick to your wedding party for rehearsal dinner. The extended wedding weekend can include a sit-down rehearsal dinner, an informal cocktail party, a day-after brunch, and just about anything in between. And if you aren’t careful, any one of them can turn into an affair as big as the main event itself. To keep it manageable, Leahy’s advice is to stick with giving the rehearsal dinner nod only to those *directly* involved in the main event. “A rehearsal dinner is only for the bridal party or really anyone directly involved in the ceremony,” she says. Have a large out-of-town contingent you can’t imagine leaving to their own devices? If you’re looking to keep your entire Brady Bunch involved, Leahy recommends hosting a welcome reception instead of (or in addition to) the rehearsal dinner. “If you are having people coming from out of town, it’s nice to do something for them over cocktails and desserts,” she says. Not in the budget? No worries. “Something as simple as a welcome box in the room will work too,” she advises.

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2. Don’t single anyone out. The band is playing, the cocktails are flowing — and your unattached friend is feeling left out. Womp womp. Being selective with the plus-ones can often cause problems that spill over to your wedding day, intentionally or not. “Some people go by the rule of thumb that engaged, married, and those in serious relationships get a plus-one — but’s hard when there’s one or more friends this doesn’t apply to,” Leahy says. It’s not always economically or logistically feasible; we get it. But Leahy advises her couples to err on the side of generosity and give everyone a date, so they have the option to bring a new interest or friend along.

3. Extend the invite in other ways. At the end of the day, including all 250 of your wedding attendees in each extra activity is probably unrealistic. So to prevent any marred emotions on your love-filled weekend, Leahy suggests a few ways to keep the good feelings going, like an after party (“everyone should be invited to that,” Leahy says) or a morning of eggs benny and mimosas the morning after for faraway travelers. (“It’s nice to invite all out-of-town guests to the brunch if you’re having one,” she adds.) Or, for destination weddings, setting up group outings such as wine tours or bike rides is a fun way to ensure everyone leaves with a new buddy — and no feelings get hurt along the way.

4. Manage your RSVPs. When it comes down to the invites, much of the outcome lies in properly managing them. So, make sure you have a structured way to track your RSVPs (the wedding planning pro suggests Google Sheets) as well as a hard deadline for responses. And while it *is* popular to have a B-list, Leahy recommends against it. “It’s not proper etiquette to invite guests too last minute or late,” she notes. So get your list in tip-top shape before sending!

Do you have any burning bridal questions? Share it with us @BritandCo using hashtag #WeddingWoes for a chance to have it answered in our next feature.

(Photos via Getty; Illustrations via Marisa Kumtong/Brit + Co)