Because food is usually one of the largest costs associated with a wedding, and because catering costs are determined on a per-person basis, keeping your guest list small is a major money saver. Depending on what you serve, the per-person cost can range anywhere from $10 to $200; more in large cities for elaborate affairs. If you like, start by making as big a list as you can, I refer to this as the fantasy list. Then get ready to wield the pen as hatchet and whack that list into shape, cutting ruthlessly until you are within budget.
Also dependent on your guest list is your choice of wedding/reception venue. If you have your heart set on a small country inn but plan to invite 200 people, you can see the problem it presents. So figure out which is more important to you: more guests or a specific venue. If you choose more people, find a venue that will comfortably accommodate them. If venue is most important, find out how many folks your space will hold and invite accordingly.
If the issue at hand is the potentially hurt feelings of the uninvited, remember that remote cousins often feel as indifferent toward you as you do toward them, and may be happy not to come. The same goes for distant friends. A wedding is not an excuse to round up every lost intimate friend you have known since you were 10, focus on people who matter now.
As for friends-in-law you wish you’d never met, start with this crucial connubial ground rule: You two are separate people with different tastes. You don’t have to like each other’s friends, but hey, letting them share some champagne with you on your big day is not going to hurt anyone.
Take this task slow, take deep breathes and keep an open mind. In the end, you and your husband will look out during your reception and see what matters. Family and friends.