6 Tips for Creating a Wedding Guest List


words by | Eve Green

Creating your wedding guest list takes a great deal of coordination, patience, and stamina. You want to include everyone (or...maybe you don’t) but with each additional guest the cost of your wedding rises. Successfully navigating which friends and family to have at your wedding isn’t easy. Consider our 5 Tips for Creating a Wedding Guest List and you can approach this task in a smooth and uncomplicated manner.

1. Decide Who Will Be Involved in Creating the List

It usually isn’t just the couple who decides who gets invited to the wedding. Even if parents aren’t chipping in, they may still want their closest family, friends, and coworkers in attendance. Before you start jotting down your guest list, coordinate with anyone (like Mom and Dad or maybe even the grandparents) who you want to have a say in who will receive an invitation. As it is your special day, if guest list numbers need to dwindle, the couple should have the final say in who stays and who goes.

2. Coordinate with Your Venue

In our 10 Questions to Ask Before Booking Your Venue blog, we advised asking the venue coordinator how many guests the location can hold before you book. Being that venues book so far in advance, many couples book their venue before they start their guest list. The amount of guests your venue holds can have a huge impact on how many people you are able invite to your big day. When you start drafting your guest list, it is vital to keep your venue’s maximum capacity in mind. In reverse, many venues have a minimum head count requirement you should keep in mind.

3. Start with Your Dream Guest List

When creating your guest list, we recommend starting with your ultimate dream list and go from there. Set the ideal number you are trying to reach first. Then you and your fiance (and possibly your parents) should each create your own preferred list. After everyone has completed their list, it’s time to sit down together and review the list and start whittling. Allow plenty of time for this process. Consider setting aside an evening or a time over a weekend. Keep it as relaxing and low key as possible. Serve refreshing beverages (maybe skip the wine for this one) and healthy snacks and take your time. The goal is to reach a fair number of guests for both families, that meets the bride and groom’s wishes, adheres to your venue’s capacity requirements, and enables you to keep to your budget. Remind everyone that although it is an exciting life event, you are not expected to invite everyone you know. Also remember, if you were invited to someone’s wedding, it’s customary to invite them to yours.

4. Determine if Children Will be Invited

Adult receptions are becoming more common for formal evening weddings. If you choose to opt-out of inviting children, the key is choose an age threshold and stick to it. Guests will be more understanding of your “adults-only” rule if you don’t make exceptions for other guests. Of course, it’s completely acceptable to deviate from this rule for immediate family and wedding party members like the flower girl and ring bearer.

5. Plus-One?

Everyone knows, weddings aren’t cheap. Compromises have to be made along the way to achieve your dream wedding without spending a fortune. Ideally, you would be able to invite everyone you want and they would all be able to bring a guest, because no one wants to attend a wedding alone. Unfortunately that isn’t an option for all couples. If you are considering opting out of the “plus-one” rule, we love this tip from Martha Stewart Weddings for navigating this tricky issue.

If a relative or friend is engaged to be married, their fiancé (or fiancée) must be invited. Beyond that, many people draw the line by inviting only truly significant others, meaning long-term or live-in partners. If you make a rule like that, be sure to apply it across the board….Beware, many unmarried people find it tremendously upsetting to not be allowed to bring a date. Prepare them for the idea and pay careful attention to where the singletons sit during dinner. As for your attendants—letting them bring an escort would be a considerate gesture. It’s not required, but they’ve done a lot for you.

6. Stick to the List...If You Can

Your guest list has been set in stone, invitations are sent, and the time has come and gone for RSVP cards to be returned and your final headcount is due to the venue and caterer. This is also usually the time last minute add-ons start popping up. Invitees who said they couldn’t come are suddenly available and you feel torn; your vendors have a deadline for the final headcount for a reason but you don’t want to exclude your loved ones. In this type of situation it’s best to consult with your venue coordinator to see if there is any wiggle room to allow for a last minute add-on. Most catering companies and venues have baked in enough resources to easily handle a few additions. Perhaps another guest who originally RSPV’d yes is now unable to attend and you can make room. However, if it’s too late to add another head to the final count, rest assured that your friend or family will understand with a thoughtful explanation that you would love to have them there, but unfortunately the venue isn’t able to make any last minute exceptions.

When you consider the rules of etiquette and the cost of your head count, creating a guest list that makes everyone happy is no small feat. The most important thing to prioritize is to only invite those who you truly want there to help you celebrate your special day.