Does thinking about your wedding guest list make you anxious? You may not know where to start or how you’re going to explain to some loved ones that they aren’t going to be invited or how you’re going to trim it down to fit within your budget. If you’ve never planned a wedding before, all of these questions can be extremely daunting. That’s where we come in. First thing first: take a breath. Working yourself up is only going to make the planning process that much more stressful. Now that you’ve cooled off a little, scroll through this step-by-step guide to creating your wedding guest list.
Step-By-Step Guide to Create Your Wedding Guest List
1. Your guest list should come before choosing your venue but after determining your wedding budget
Unfortunately, guests are expensive. Remember, you’ll need to account for food and drinks for all of your guests—and more guests means more tables, chairs, dinnerware, etc. That’s why it’s essential to determine your wedding budget first. This way, after you move to step two and make your dream guest list, it will be easier to “cut” guests based on the funds you have to spend.
Recommended Reading: Free Wedding Budget Spreadsheet
2. Create your dream list
We highly recommend making a date night out of this next part. Go to dinner or pick up some pizza and wine to enjoy at home, grab your favorite notebook, and get to writing everyone you’d love to have in attendance on your special day. Because this is your first draft, it’s more than okay to dream big and include everyone in this list. We know your parents might have guests they’d like to invite, and they might be footing the bill, so we’re not saying to leave them in the dust, but do make your list first. You’ll then be able to explain to your parents that there’s X room for more guests according to your budget.
3. Establish the “rules”
Are children invited? Who gets a plus-one? These are important questions to ask. If you’re deciding on a no-children wedding, make sure your wishes are made very clear on the invitation. When it comes to the plus-one list, a general rule of thumb is to give a plus-one to couples who are engaged, married, or seriously dating (aka you’ve met their partner and your gut tells you they’re in it for the long run). On your invites, you can include language along the lines of, “We’ve saved X seat(s) in your honor” to make it clear if they do/don’t have permission to bring an additional guest.
4. Go back to your list, and get organized
Now that you’ve established your budget, made your list, consulted with your parents, and determined the rules, it’s time to get organized. Section your list into categories, such as distant relatives, close friends, distant friends, immediate family, etc. This will help you in the cutting process to see what groups you may have to leave out. For example, if your distant relatives and distant friends categories have the same amount of people and you need to eliminate one, you can think about that category as a whole instead of trying to single people out and cross them off that way.
Recommended Reading: Free Wedding Guest List Template
5. Make your “cuts”
This is one of the hardest parts of putting together a guest list. It’s time to make cuts. Although it’s difficult, it’s okay to make cuts to your guest list, especially if it means not breaking the bank. If you don’t know how to begin, here are some questions to ask yourself when cutting back your list:
- Can you imagine your wedding without this person there?
- Would you go to dinner or drinks with this person outside of your wedding day?
- Will it bring you joy to have this person at your wedding?
- How long has it been since you’ve seen or spoken to this person?
- Did this person invite you to their wedding? (Note: Reciprocal invites are not a must!)
6. Send save the dates
You’ve gotten through the hard part. That means it’s time to shop for save-the-dates. Remember the 10% rule: At least 10% of your guest list might not be able to make it to your wedding. In this case, it’s OK to have a backup list of people who you’d like to attend in their place. This is why we recommend sending out save the dates as soon as possible. It’s alright if you haven’t taken your engagement photos yet—there are plenty of invites that are beautiful without a photo.
7. Stand your ground and lean on each other
Emotions are tough. Sometimes people won’t understand your perspective, and that’s okay. Take it as affirmation that you made the right decision by leaving them off of your guest list. You don’t need that negative energy on one of the biggest days of your life. Use this time and these potentially tricky situations to grow closer to your person. Come wedding day, this will all be behind you.
Now that you’ve got your guest list sorted out, it’s time to think about your venue. First, check out our ultimate guide to finding your wedding venue. Then be sure to check out these questions that you should be asking while you tour! They’ll help you nail down the venue you’ve always dreamed of while helping you stay prepared.