How to Create Your Wedding Guest List
Creating your wedding guest list can be a daunting task, but it is one of the biggest parts of planning your wedding! It’s not as simple as writing down names and gathering addresses. Your guest list will be a working document that will change frequently at the beginning as you add/subtract guests, so don’t get frustrated that you haven’t finalized it right away. It sometimes takes months to figure out. You have important decisions on how to determine who will be attending and who will not. But fear not, I am here to help you make those decisions a little easier!
1. What is the max capacity of your venue?
The first thing you need to figure out is the max capacity of your venue. If you don’t have a venue set, you might want to consider doing this first as this will set your date and give you how many people you will be able to invite. Knowing that your venue can hold 150 guests will help you narrow down which guests to include. There can be a little wiggle room on that guest list as some say that 15-25% of your guest list will decline, but go with your gut. Most couples know their guests and will know approximately how many people will decline or know that most will say yes. So make sure to stay on the conservative side if you know that most of your guests will reply yes to coming. It can get pretty messy if too many guests accept and you don’t have enough seating for everyone when the big day arrives. Also, consider the time of year that you are getting married. My wedding was in the middle of June and we had several guests decline because they were either leaving or coming back from vacation the day of our wedding. Another example, fall weddings are all the rage (in my area…Northeast Ohio) and guests can have conflicts because of kids’ sports schedules and even other weddings. So make sure to look at all these components because they could effect your guest list as well.
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2. What is your budget?
The size of your guest list will have one of the biggest impacts on your budget. Everything will be based on your guest count, invitations, food, drinks, etc. So the more you invite, the higher your cost will go!
If your budget is on the lower side, here are some things to think about. If you’re wanting your wedding to have a high end look and spend a little more on items such as your cake, food, and decorations, you may want to limit your guest list to allow you to afford those options. If you feel like you cannot skimp on your guest list, you will need to find budget friendly vendors and do a lot of DIY items.
One is not better than the other, as it is your day and whatever you envisioned will come into play, whether that be the perfect Pinterest wedding or being surrounded by all your loved ones. But making sure you figure out your budget and sticking to it will be something you need to set right away.
3. Divide & Conquer
To make things easier, have your significant other and both sets of parents create a list of people they would like to invite to the wedding. This will alleviate some of the stress on one person. Some parents will feel that they should be allowed to invite a large portion of guests, especially if they are paying for a large portion of the wedding, but it is important to talk with them and set boundaries to help with max capacity and staying within budget.
A good way to help divide the list, is to go over the total amount of guests permitted in your venue, giving the couple 50% of the guest list and each set of parents 25% of the guest list. By doing this, it can eliminate some hurt feelings and give everyone the chance to invite who they want.
4. it's time to trim the list
Compile all the lists together and cross off any duplicates. To make things easier when creating the list, is to organize it with the most important people listed at the top and to keep “sides” separated. What I mean by this is start with spouse 1’s family, then move to spouse 2’s family. Keep people in their “groups” like family, friends, co-workers and order each guest in that group from most important to least important to you as a couple. This will help when trying to trim the list as you can look at each group and eliminate those that you aren’t as close to.
Some ideas to help tailor your guest list can be specific rules. By making your wedding adult only allows your guests that are parents a welcomed kid free night out. Cutting out an entire group of people (think co-workers, old college friends, etc.), this may help reduce hurt feelings when all of them are cut, instead of inviting a handful and not the others. And for those friends that you were invited to their wedding years ago, you are not obligated to invite them. If you went to their wedding within the last year or year in a half and you are still close, then you need invite them. However, those friends that you went to their weddings longer than a year and a half and you lost touch within those years, it is fine to not invite them. Trust me, most married people will understand as they have gone through this very same process themselves.
When trying to compile the list, a great way to do this is by using programs like Microsoft Excel, Google Sheets, or Airtable. This gives you the freedom to delete, add, make a “B-List” in an organized fashion and you can ditch the notepad and scribbles. I personally used the free edition of Airtable (not sponsored), which is a spreadsheet program, because it allowed me to add tags to each guest line. I was able to makes tags for my family, my husband’s family, each of our friend groups, and our co-workers into their own groups. I also had a column that indicated the amount of guests per line so when I toggled between the groups (tags), it allowed me to see how many guests were accounted for in each one. It was super helpful to just see one group at a time and decide if we needed to keep or cut. I know this all sounds kinda harsh, but you have to draw a line for your guest list or your spending can get out of control because it all adds up quick! So you have to keep in mind who means the most to you and who you can’t imagine not being at your wedding during this entire process.
As for how to choose between guests, here is some food for thought:
- Extended Family: Set rules as to who you are going to invite and those you are not. When it comes to aunts, uncles, and cousins, do you see them regularly and do you get along, as every family has their dynamics and that should be considered into making that decision. As for great aunts/uncles and second cousins, are you close? Do you hang out or talk or do you just see them at family reunions? How far down the list do you go before they start taking spots from important friends.
- Friends: When it comes to your friends, start with the people you see on a regular basis, which are the ones you can’t possible cut from your big day. As you go through the list, think about when you saw them last and if your partner knows them. Set up parameters with your partner. My husband and I had a rule of thumb that if they have never met either one of us (we had been together for 6 years before getting married), then they needed to be cut. Each couple is different, so it’s a MUST to talk out what is important to you.
- Children: This is another group that can be a stressful decision. Some kids may have to be invited due to being in the bridal party or are immediate family members. But this is another group that you may set up some limits as to what kids are invited. I had a larger wedding and we drew the line to only our first cousins’ kids were invited, as they were all above the age of 6 and there weren’t a lot of them to be added to the total count. This is again a topic that you need to discuss and sometimes it is just easier to cut this group if your list is getting tight.
- Your Parents’ Friends: So this could be a difficult topic to navigate as some parents feel that if they are contributing some, if not all, the money towards the wedding, they expect to be able to add their own friends. An easy rule to go by is allowing each set a certain amount and sticking to it. Also something to think about is, do you know these people? If not, you may be able to discuss with your parents that they need to be cut because of the lack of relationship they have with you.
- Co-Workers: This topic can be a little tricky and can lead you down a slippery slope if you don’t find a cut-off! If you work in a small setting and you feel they can fit within the total count, then sure, invite them. But in instances that you need to make a cut-off, do you hang out with said co-worker(s) outside of work? If so, then invite them! If not, then don’t feel like you need to invite them if the guest list is tight and you want to make room for family or friends.
- Plus Ones: Giving your family and friends a “Plus One” can add up pretty quick when making your guest lists. Here is my best advice for choosing who gets one. Married, engaged, and co-habituating couples need a plus one. Guests that have been with their significant other for a long time and it would be weird if you invite one without the other. As for the rest, it might be wise to just stick with immediate family and close family members with plus ones.
I know that even thinking about this task can be overwhelming, but knowing where to start makes it easy! The best advice I can give is to be organized. It will reduce a lot of stress and like I stated above, being able to look at groups will help you decide where that line needs to be drawn. You may feel bad about cutting people and that is ok, but inviting everyone you know will break bank or won’t fit in your in your venue. But once you set this list and you put it in spreadsheet program, it’ll make other things like invitations easy as well! So check back for our blog about mailing invitations! In the meantime, head over to happyoccasionsbyabe.com to check out some great wedding invitations since that’s the next step!