tips to help you make a wedding guest list

One of the hardest parts of the planning process is creating the guest list. So many of the decisions and your wedding budget revolve around the number of guests you’ll have. For example, you don’t have a date until you book your venue and the size of your guest list will determine which venues you can even consider. Using the information below to make your guest will take some stress out of the process.

Determine how you want your day to feel

Long before you begin making a list of names, think about what kind of wedding you want to have. If you want a small but romantic feel, it will be a challenge to accomplish that with hundreds of guests. If you want to throw the party that everyone will be talking about for years, it will be difficult to create that with only your closest friends and family in attendance.

A couple embrace near the Snake River during their summertime Keystone wedding

Talk with your families about expectations

Before you invite anyone, it’s important to chat with each of your families about the guest list. Doing this early in the process will help reduce drama later. If family is helping with the budget they might feel entitled to joint control over major decisions like the guest list. If you happen to be paying, you might compromise by allotting  them a set number of invites for people you didn’t include on the list. Regardless of what you decide, open an honnest communication is the best practice here.

Start with your siblings’ list

Did one of your siblings get married recently? If they did, it’s a good idea to look at their guest list. You don’t have to invite all the same people but it might prevent you from forgetting a family member by accident.

The bride share a moment with her friend

Figure out how to handle plus-ones

There is no hard and fast rule to determine which of your guests will recieve a “plus one” invite. You probably already know which of your guests is engaged or a long-time significant other. Having a “singles” table is perfectly acceptable so don’t feel bad about limiting plus-ones.

Don’t forget about kids

Kids will also be included in the final guest count. Choosing to invite lots of tiny humans or having a child-free wedding are equally common. It’s totally up to you. Just remember that whichever you decide, it can potentially complicate things for guests with families. If your venue has some extra space a great compromise is to hire a baby-sitter for the wedding.

The bride dances with a newborn during her Madison at the Mill wedding

List everyone first

I find that it’s easier to list everyone in your family/friend network, then categorize. That means listing everyone. Even if you don’t think you’ll have room or they won’t come, put them down anyway. When you’re done, you’ll know the largest number you could have.

Categorize guests into (at least) two lists

Start with the people who are most imporant to you. You’ll know exactly who they are. If it wasn’t for including them in your day, you might consider eloping. You can then create a second or third tier. If you send invites out early enough you’ll begin to recieve RSVPs from the first batch of guests. If some of them can’t come you can begin to invite other people. Be careful about inviting some, but not all, of certain groups like cousins or co-workers.

The bride shares a champagne toast with her bridesmaids while getting ready for her Cherokee Ranch & Castle wedding

Use the one year rule

If you don’t know if you should invite a certain friend, use this test – have you seen them in the past year? Will you see them in the next year? If they were getting married this year, would you be upset if you didn’t get an invite? It’s easy to want to invite anyone who was a part of your lift at one time but if they’re not part of your present it’s ok to leave them off the list.

Remember veue restrictions

Each venue has a maximum number of guests and they didn’t haphazzardly determine that number. They know exactly how many people they can accomodate for a ceremony, coctail reception or sit down dinner. There are also legal limits placed upon venues because of fire codes. I’d warn you against inviting more people than your venue allows, thinking some people won’t come. If you receive more ‘yes” RSVPs than you planned on you’ll have some unplesant conversations to have.

Guests dance around the bride and groom during a wedding at Emerson Fields in Excello, Missouri

You can use the guest list for other things

It’s perfect to keep track of addresses and gifts you receive. You can also use it to dermine who to invite to the shower or rehearsal dinner. Obviously, you’ll want to use the guest list to track RSVPs. Use a spreadsheet program and assign each guest a number. Then write that number on your invitations. That way when you get a blank card back you’ll know who to call.