Wedding Planning Guide
How to Create Your Wedding Guest List
Our stress-free guide to figuring out who to invite to your wedding.
WHAT TO CONSIDER
When you're ready to tackle your guest list, keep these three things in mind: wedding venue capacity, budget, and wedding style (a.k.a. the overall ambiance and party vibe you're hoping to create)—all three will be major factors as you put together your guest list. To get started, here are some questions to talk through with your partner.
We recommend drafting a rough guest list before you visit potential wedding venues—this will help you narrow down the options so that you're only looking at spaces that can accommodate your party size. (However, it's certainly fine to work the other way around—to book your dream venue first, and then work your guest-list size around the venue's capacity.)
What to ask potential venues:
- What is the maximum and minimum capacity of your ceremony and reception spaces?
The size of your guest list will likely have the biggest impact on your wedding budget than anything else—the more guests you invite, the more money you'll spend. So if you're on a tight budget, keeping your guest list as small as possible will help you save on all aspects of the wedding, from the food and alcohol to the stationery and flowers.
What to ask your partner:
- Realistically speaking, roughly how many guests will our wedding budget allow us to invite?
- Will we be setting limits on how many guests our parents can invite? (Related: If your parents are financially contributing to the wedding, that will likely impact the number of guests they might like to invite.)
Chances are you've envisioned your wedding day: Is it a big, grand blowout with everyone in attendance? Or maybe it's an intimate party, with just your nearest and dearest? There's no magic number to determining your guest-list size; rather, it's all about the type of experience you want to create.
What to ask your partner:
- How do you want the wedding to feel? Small and intimate? Large and festive?
- What does that mean for our guest list?
HOW TO CREATE YOUR WEDDING GUEST LIST
Once you've discussed the items above with your partner, it's time to get to work. Here's our five-step guide to creating your wedding guest list.
1. Start by setting a goal for your guest list size. As discussed above, this can be based on the capacity and space limitations of the venue(s) you want to book, on your wedding budget, and/or the overall wedding vibe you're hoping to create.
2. Have everyone involved in the inviting—you, your partner, your parents—compile a list of the people they'd like to attend. They should rank the names in order of importance; we suggest making an A-List and B-List (see more details on creating an A-List and B-List below).
- For more in-depth advice on putting together a list of potential invitees, see the "Who Should I Invite to My Wedding" section below.
3. Compare the lists and cross off any duplications.
4. Add up the names that are left and compare that number with your goal.
5. If your count is over the limit, determine how many names you need to eliminate. Then, have each person cut an assigned number of names, starting from the bottom of his or her personal list.
- For more in-depth advice on trimming your guest list, see the "How to Trim Your Guest List" section below.
WHO SHOULD I INVITE TO MY WEDDING?
How do you decide who does—and doesn't—get an invitation to your wedding? Here's our guide to help you and your families figure it out.
1. Immediate family
Start with your parents, grandparents, siblings, their partners, and their children. Then move down a step to add your aunts, uncles, and cousins that you see regularly.
2. Extended family
If you’ve got extended family members that you're close with and would like at your wedding, be sure to add them to the list. How far through the extended family do you go before friends start becoming more important than a family connection? Ultimately, it’s up to you and your specific family dynamics.
Start with your closest pals and put them on the list; next, think about friends you see or speak to on a regular basis or are significant in your life. These could be friends from school, activity groups, neighbors, and just those pals in your life who would be a great addition to your guest list.
A good rule of thumb is to only invite co-workers that you spend time with outside of the office or feel especially close with.
Adding a plus-one to your single friends' invitations can increase your overall wedding guest list numbers. Here's our best advice to navigating plus-ones:
- Married, engaged, and cohabitating guests should get a plus-one.
- Give your wedding-party members a plus-one.
- Also, guests who’ve been with their significant other for so long that it’d be awkward not to invite them.
- For everyone else, make a blanket rule, such as “only immediate or close family can bring a date” and stick to it.
Choosing whether or not to invite kids to your wedding can be a stressful decision. They will obviously add to your guest numbers and in some family circumstances you may have no choice. Discuss with your partner whether or not you’ll be inviting children to the wedding; do this early on in the process of creating your guest list, as this could change the dynamics of your day.
7. Family Friends
Now's the time to bring your parents into the conversation. Keep in mind that some parents might feel a sense of ownership over the guest list, especially if they're contributing to some—if not all—of the cost of the wedding. A good solution to navigating this potentially tricky conversation is to give both families the same number of extra guests; this way your parents can use these seats however they'd like.
HOW TO TRIM YOUR GUEST LIST
Cutting your guest list is a common wedding-planning headache—minimize the stress by following our zero-drama guide to condensing your headcount.
Determine Your A-List
Once you and your partner have compiled your master guest list, the next step is to group guests into categories. Sit down together and figure out which guests are on your A-List—a.k.a. the must-have invitees you cannot imagine not being at your wedding, like your family and close friends. These people are your non-negotiables and will receive your first round of invitations.
Your B-List is made up of guests you still really want to be there, so be just as thoughtful about who you put on it. If you start getting RSVPs and it turns out you have enough "regrets," then send out a batch of invites at a slightly later date to your B-List (in order of importance).
Make it Adults Only
A quick way to shrink your guest list is to make your wedding adults only. You might have to break the news gently to the moms and dads in your crew, but chances are they'll be pumped to have a kid-free night.
Cut Whole Groups
Another way to cut down on guests is to eliminate whole "groups." That is, divide your guest list into groups like "elementary school friends," "college friends," and "softball team" and try eliminating a whole group, rather than individual people. This might be easier, or at least more "fair" (one coworker won't feel snubbed that a different coworker got invited, but they didn't).
Try the "One Year" Test
If you and your partner are on the fence about some potential invitees, give the "one year" test a try. Like the name suggests, it's a gauge to see how close you are with a person. Have you seen them in the past year? If it weren't for the wedding, would you expect to see them in the upcoming year? If the answer is no, then you have your answer.
You Don't Always Have to Reciprocate
A common question we get: "A friend invited me to her wedding—do I have to invite them to mine?" While it's a tricky question, the most important detail to consider is your relationship with this friend. If you attended her wedding in the past 18 months and your friendship hasn't changed much, that couple should be on your guest list, as well (especially if you or your partner were in the wedding party!). Were they married three or four years ago, and you've fallen out of touch? You're not obligated to invite them. Save spots on your guest list for someone you're really close with.
HOW TO MANAGE YOUR GUEST LIST
Keep track and stay on top of your wedding RSVPs by following these pro tips.
1. Use a tool to collect guests' mailing addresses.
Rather than emailing or calling guests individually to ask for their mailing address, save time by letting an online tool do the work for you. This way, you'll have all of your guests' contact info in one place; this will become a handy mailing list for future holiday cards, anniversary party invitations, birthday party invitations, and other occasions.
With Minted's Digital Address Collection tool, you can easily request mailing addresses from wedding guests (guests will receive an email from you requesting their mailing address). Your guest list details and their addresses are saved in your online address book; Minted will then print all of your wedding stationery, from your save the date, invitation, and thank-you card envelopes to your escort cards and place cards (for free!). You can also manage your guest list and RSVPs through a custom-made wedding website.
2. Include the invited guest's name on the response card.
To avoid situations where guests add uninvited guests to their response cards (sad but true—it happens!), print (or hand-write) the guest's name onto the RSVP card before mailing. That way, there's no way anyone can sneak an extra invite on you.
3. Avoid last-minute additions.
Inevitably, you're probably going to hear something along the lines of, "I can't wait to come to your wedding!" from someone not on your invite list. Rather than blurting out, "Me too!" and hastily mailing an invitation, stick to your guns. An easy out is to blame it on venue space limitations ("I'm so sorry, I wish we could invite everyone but unfortunately our venue is really tight on space."). Otherwise, you'll wind up with a bloated guest list and a giant headache later down the road when you're forced to cut the guest list (and potentially disinvite them).