How to create your Wedding Guest List

Ask any bride their favourite part of planning their wedding, and you can guarantee it won’t be creating their guest list! This all-important task will probably be one of the most stressful moments in the lead-up to your day.

Your guest list is a substantial contributing factor to the overall cost, experience and life-long memories of your wedding. After all, these people will be a part of the most memorable (and expensive!) day of your life.

Deciding who cuts is not a task to be taken lightly. Before sending out those invites, you’ll need to consider a few different variables. Luckily we have some helpful tips for creating your wedding guest list and avoiding any unwanted drama, family politics or budget woes along the way! Before you even start debating whether great uncle Bob should be there on your wedding day, you’ll want to figure out exactly how many guests you can realistically invite in the first place. There’s no point drafting your guest list without setting a limit (and sticking to it!) regarding numbers.

How to find that ideal number of guests is going to depend on a few different things. You’ll need to consider your personal preferences and practical considerations like budget and venue restrictions. Looking at the big picture first before getting into the specifics is essential. First things first, what do you picture when you envisage your dream day? Do you imagine a close-knit, intimate affair with just a handful of your nearest and dearest? Or does your wedding vision look more like one big party with hundreds of loved ones celebrating together?

Both options have pros and cons, so think about what feels right to you and your partner. Remember, this is YOUR wedding, so think carefully about how you want the day to handle and the kind of experience you want to remember. This will be your first indication of whether your guest list will be on the small side or if you want a larger group. 

Have you locked in your dream venue for your wedding? Your venue capacity will be one of the most critical factors regarding guest numbers. Before you even think about starting your guest list, make sure you know the restrictions regarding how many guests the venue space can hold. Most venues will have a strictly capped number of guests. This will vary depending on whether you plan a cocktail reception or a sit-down dinner. You’ll find that a cocktail-style wedding will allow for more guests due to the floor space being freed up from tables and chairs. It can be an excellent tip to consider a cocktail-style wedding if your venue space limits you from the number of guests you would ideally love to invite.

Ask your venue for their guest capacities at the very beginning, so there are no nasty surprises along the way. If your platform specifies that the space can hold 100 guests maximum, then it goes without saying that you shouldn’t invite more than 100 guests to begin with. No exceptions!

Even if you expect some overseas relatives to decline or you know friends might have other commitments, it’s better to be safe than sorry. An easy way to work around this is by creating A and B guest lists so that you can invite more guests later if your RSVPs allow, but more on that later. 

Another non-negotiable factor when deciding on your guest numbers is that dreaded B-word – your budget! Your guest list and your budget go hand in hand. As much as you might dream of having an unlimited number of loved ones to celebrate with you, the harsh truth is that every single guest costs your wedding. Think about the individual costs that correlate to each guest. The most obvious considerations are their meals and drinks. Still, even the more minor details like wedding stationery and rentals like cutlery, napkins, plates and glassware can start to add up. Once you tally up these individual costs, you’ll be able to see how much each guest will affect your budget.

It’s likely you and your partner have set yourselves a wedding budget already – it was probably the very first thing you did! Use this budget to determine the maximum number of guests you can realistically afford based on their costs. Make sure you take a firm stance with this number, too, especially if you have a strict budget with no wiggle room.

So now you’ve decided that you can logistically and financially invite X guests. Here comes the not-so-fun part – putting names to those numbers and deciding who does or doesn’t make the cut. It’s essential to develop a streamlined process for this before you start. This is where emotions can come into play, and you might need to diffuse awkward situations! Ultimately, deciding who you want to spend your wedding day with will come down to you and your partner. But before you sit down and put pen to paper, you might want to consider who else might be expecting input. Usually, this will be family members who contribute financially to the wedding, like your parents or future in-laws. If this is the case and you have family footing the bill or covering certain costs, it’s only fair to be mindful of this and return the favour by allowing them to have a say in your guest list.

This is where you might need to be delicate and set some ground rules. Ideally, it would help if you did this before anything gets paid to avoid feeling stuck or obligated due to financial input. If you are tight with numbers due to venue restrictions but your in-laws insist on having their distant cousins there on the day, this might be an issue. The easiest way to combat any conflict is to divide your numbers upfront and allocate a predetermined amount of guest invites per family. The traditional idea is to divide your guest list into thirds – with one-third for your family, one-third for the groom’s family, and one-third for you and your fiance’s close friends and acquaintances.

In saying this, there is no cut-and-dry formula, so the best solution is to have an honest and open conversation before making any decisions to outline your expectations. It’s essential to be grateful for the financial contributions to your wedding, but you might need to (respectfully) put your foot down if your family insists on total control of the guest list.

Make sure you verbalise your appreciation of their input, but let them know how important it is to have your most cherished loved ones there on the day.

 

A + B lists

With family politics in check, it’s time to start drafting your list. But how do you decide who makes the cut if your guest list exceeds the limitations you have set?

This is where prioritising comes into play, and creating an A and B guest list will be extremely helpful. Your A-list guests are those who will receive your first round of invitations. If any of your A-list guests decline, you can start inviting guests from your B-list.

It might seem unpleasant to have to rank your guests according to priority. Realistically, though, it’s the easiest way to ensure you can celebrate your wedding with the most important people in your life – without going over your budget or venue capacity.

Sit down with your partner and start by jotting down all the people you would love to have to celebrate with you on the day. Don’t forget to include any input from your family if necessary. This will become your wedding ‘wish list’.

To ensure you don’t forget anyone, sort your list into different categories to quickly identify where the guests are coming from. Typical groups include close family members, extended family members, close friends, acquaintances and colleagues.

Once you have jotted down your wish list, you can go back and mark an ‘A’ or ‘B’ next to the names in order of priority. Your A-list is reserved only for those you cannot imagine celebrating without – your closest family members and most treasured friends. These guests get priority when it comes to sending out your invitations.

Guests marked with a ‘B’ are the people that you would love to have at your wedding if numbers allow. Ensure you implement blanket rules when celebrating A or B guests. If the numbers are starting to creep up, you might want to delegate all extended family members or work colleagues to the B-list for both the bride and groom. Having blanket rules that apply to you and your partner is the easiest way to diffuse any tension and keep the process fair.

Don’t forget to consider plus-ones and children before finalising your A and B lists. You might want to implement some blanket rules for this too. For example, A-list guests can invite plus-ones only if they are in a serious long-term relationship or if you have met their partner before.

Creating your guest list can be time-consuming, especially if you have significant people in your life from multiple different areas or a large extended family. If you’re struggling to figure out precisely who should be in your A and B lists, you can refer to our easy-to-follow flowchart to help make those tough decisions!

 

Trimming your B-list

This is a vast, influential, extraordinary day for you and your partner. Not letting invitation guilt sink in when creating your guest list is important. Everyone on your list, even your B-list, should be someone you would be overjoyed to have at your wedding.

If your guest list is spiralling, you might need to trim your B-list. Don’t fall into the trap of feeling like every person you have ever crossed paths with needs to be on your list. Go through each possible guest and think honestly about how you would feel if they couldn’t be there on the day. Would you notice? Would you care? If not, cross them off your list. Whether it’s old-school friends who have drifted from your life or work colleagues you see daily, don’t feel obliged to keep anyone on your list out of guilt. If you wouldn’t catch up with them for coffee or take them out for dinner, then they definitely shouldn’t be on your list!

Once you have confidently trimmed your B-list, make sure the names are prioritised. This way, if an A-list guest declines, you and your partner will know instantly who is next in line for an invite.

 

Invitation etiquette

Once your A and B lists are finalised, you can start sending out your invitations (it’s feeling real now, isn’t it!).

It’s essential to be sensitive and discreet when sending out your A and B-list invitations to avoid awkward scenarios. Because your invitations will be sent at different times, you don’t want one of your B-list guests to think they were just a last-minute afterthought. That’s not a great feeling for anyone!

A helpful timeline to follow is to send your A-list invitations a little earlier than usual, at the 10-week mark from your wedding day. You should start receiving RSVPs within the next couple of weeks, so make a note of any guests who can’t attend. You can then begin sending your B-list invitations at the 6 to 8-week mark when you have a better idea of numbers. Conflict = avoided! If you’re planning a destination wedding, don’t forget that you will need to send your invitations earlier than usual to give your guests enough time to budget and plan for their trip. In this case, you’ll want to ship your first round of invitations at least 2 or 3 months before the big day. If you’re starting to feel overwhelmed with managing your guest list and keeping track of your RSVPs, you might want to look into a digital system to simplify the process. Online guest management tools are excellent for monitoring your invitations and RSVPs.

Using an online tool means you can easily access your guest information in one place and communicate with your guests via email. It’s a total win-win!

Now for the fun part!

It might seem daunting at first, but we promise that once this massive task has been ticked off your to-do list, the rest of the wedding planning process will be a piece of cake.

Let’s be honest. You want to get that guest list sorted as soon as possible so you can start focusing on the fun part of wedding planning, like filling up those Pinterest boards! By following these tips to create your wedding guest list, you’ll ensure that your wedding day is filled with the people who make your heart happy while avoiding any emotional conflicts.