How to Create a Wedding Guest List
The guest list can be one of the toughest parts of the planning process. Here are some ways to make it easy and fun!
Figuring out how to make a wedding guest list is one of your first to-do’s, and can be one of the more stressful and time consuming things on your list. This will involves conversations with both sets of parents and your future spouse to discuss how many guests you can afford to invite, the capacity of the ceremony and reception venues, and how many people you want to celebrate with on your wedding day. Keep in mind, you will have to take time from your celebrations to greet and speak with each and every one of them.
While there are plenty of guidelines when it comes to how to make a wedding guest list, the most important thing to remember is to stay organized. Keep everyone’s information in one place so that you can more easily manage your guest list. This way you can then easily send it to your stationer, calligrapher, caterer and wedding planner. You can also manage the guest lists for other pre- and post-wedding events like your rehearsal dinner and post-wedding brunch. Our favorite way to do this is with an app called Table Planner. You can not only track your guest count and RSVPs, but also assign them each a seat at your event.
What’s your wedding style?
When it comes to your guest list, before you begin we always suggest that you consider the wedding you’re envisioning. Is this an intimate affair with only your nearest and dearest? Are you looking to party with hundreds of friends and relatives all night long? Are you planning a destination where most guests will be traveling to your wedding? Or do you prefer an adults only celebration? Once you have agreed upon on the style of event then begin drafting your guest list with the names of the people you hope to have attend.
Divvy up the list.
Traditionally, the people paying for the wedding will get to invite more of their friends and relatives, however, with more couples and parents splitting the budget between them, dividing the guest list into thirds is really the only fair option: The couple gets a third of the list for their friends and co-workers, while each set of parents gets a third for relatives and their friends. Always be sure to tell your parents they don’t have to use all the spots allotted to them. For example, if your mom and dad don’t need all 40 spots given to them, you and your fiancee, or even your in-laws can add onto their list. What you want to avoid is having your mom and dad inviting people you’ve never heard of just to fill up their portion of the guest list.
Prioritize & trim your list.
There are always going to be some people on your list who are more “important” than others. Your siblings, their spouses and kids will take precedence over your dad’s co-workers. Organize your gurest list so you have an understanding of what the numbers really are, as well as how much you can cut it without hurting a guest or your parents/in-laws feelings.
Once you have a ballpark figure on how many people are on your estimated guest list, determine if your selected venue and budget will be able to accommodate them. If the numbers don’t add up, start cutting from the bottom until you can make it work. Never invite more people than the venue can fit by simply assume certain people won’t come. They may surprise you. However, when you do get replies from those who cannot attend you can always send out additional invites to those from the cut list.
Do the math.
When calculating your guest list be sure to include plus-ones, kids and health-aides, if they have one. Provide each person or family a final tally column so you make sure the numbers were added correctly. You will need to be sure that your numbers are correct for catering, your venue capacity rentals such as seating, tables, dishes, etc., invitations, calligraphy, favors, transportation, welcome bags, hotel rooms, and so much more!
Set the rules.
In determining your wedding guest list, there is always going to be a scenario where you don’t know if someone can come with a date, or if you should invite your college roommate even though you haven’t spoken to each other in years. Once you have your guest list drafted you have to decide whether you will be inviting single or attached, but unmarried, guests with a plus one. Or if you’re going to allow kids to join in the fun. Discuss this with your fiancé and then create a list of rules for everyone you want to invite. Here are some rules you may want to consider for your guest list:
A plus-one will only be invited if someone is married, living with a partner, engaged or has been dating the person for at least six months. Make sure people know if they can bring a date by writing the plus one’s name on the outer envelope of the invitation.
Kids will be invited if they are a niece, nephew, or godchild of the couple, or perhaps you’d prefer not to have any kids at the wedding. Setting a general children’s rule will make it easier than having to choose whose kids get to come to the wedding and who needs to call a sitter. This will also keep from offending anyone.
If you’re having a destination wedding, and don’t want kids to attend the wedding, realize that some parents may have to bring their children with them to the destination regardless. If this is the case, we recommend offering a sitter service to watch the kids while their parents are at your wedding.
If you haven’t spoken to the person in over a year, don’t feel obligated to invite them to your wedding, even if they invited you to their big day.
Extended family members can add a lot of numbers to your guest list. Decide where you want to draw the line, possibly at first cousins of you and your parents. By not inviting second or third cousins this will considerably slim down your overall guest count.
Stick to the numbers.
Once you’ve determined the maximum number of guests you can invite to the wedding don’t change the guest list, unless it’s to remove people. Your wedding venue can’t magically add tables if the room simply cannot fit them. The only way to add more people is if someone sends regrets, you decide not to invite someone after all, or you choose a larger venue. Make sure your parents are made aware as soon as the guest list has been finalized so they know that they can’t invite anyone else.
Figure out where to cut family off.
Talk with your parents about how many extended relatives you should be adding to your guest list. If you spend every holiday with all of your aunts and uncles and first cousins they should make the list but hold off on second or third cousins unless you’re very close with them. Keep in mind, however, sometimes it’s better to invite someone than to cause a rift in the family that may last for generations to come. For relatives you don’t invite, you may want to mail them a wedding announcement after the big day to share the news!
Should you invite co-workers?
Deciding who from the office you should invite is one of the most commonly asked wedding etiquette questions. Honestly, the answer depends on your out the office relationship. For example, your immediate boss and assistant may be the first co-workers you add to your guest list. You may also want to consider the co-workers you eat lunch with daily and hang out with after work or on weekends. If you work with a small team, consider inviting the team, but if you work with more than just a handful of people don’t feel obligated to invite all of them. Remember that you will have to invite married and engaged co-workers with their partners, which bring the numbers up. It’s also okay to not invite anyone from the office to your wedding, too. They’ll understand.
What if potential guests invited you?
Friendships change over time, so you shouldn’t feel the need to send a wedding invitation to a couple just because you celebrated their wedding. If you’re no longer as close as you once were it’s perfectly acceptable to decide not to extend an invitation to them. However, if you’re still friendly but you’re planning a smaller, more intimate wedding, it’s perfectly okay to not include them on your guest list, or you’re A-list. Just let them know what you’re planning for your wedding so they don't feel slighted. In the same respect, if you have mutual friends that will be going to your wedding let them know if you aren’t planning to invite a certain someone so they don’t talk about your plans in front of them. Just because you’re not inviting someone doesn’t mean you want to hurt their feelings or create an uncomfortable situation.
What if they already sent a gift?
In the weeks after your engagement you will receive cards and engagement gifts, regardless of whether or not you’ve had an engagement party. If someone you weren’t planning on inviting to the wedding sends you an engagement gift don't feel obligated to send them an invitation. This can make figuring out how to make a wedding guest list even more difficult. If it’s a friend of your parents or grandparents, politely let them know that there isn’t room on the guest list to invite this person and they, if asked, can let him or her know that the wedding will be an intimate affair. If you’ve received a wedding gift from someone not on the guest list, simply send them a thank you note for their well wishes. You really do not need to more people to the guest list at the last minute.
Can you disinvite someone?
Sometimes friends fight, but that doesn’t mean the friendship is over. If after you’ve sent out a save the date you’ve had a falling out with someone, you might be reconsidering having them as a guest at your wedding. Take some time to really think about whether this argument is the end of your friendship or not. If it isn’t, send them an invitation as a peace offering and they will know that you still want them in your life.
Can you invite your ex?
Some people remain close with their exes and may want to invite them, or even their families, to their wedding. We highly recommend having a conversation with your future spouse about how you both feel about having this person, or family, at your wedding. If it makes one of you uncomfortable please don’t extend an invitation. In the long run, it simply is not worth it.
Avoid the verbal invite.
Sometimes it’s hard not to mention the upcoming wedding in conversation, even with someone not on your guest list. Saying in passing, “You should come!” or “We’d love to have you!” is letting the person know to expect an invitation. And when and invitation doesn’t arrive it will result in hurt feelings or even embarrass them or yourself. It’s okay not to invite everyone you know. If someone is excited for you simply say, “Thank you.” You don’t have to send them an invitation for their well wishes.