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How to Easily Create Your Wedding Guest List

Updated on January 3, 2019
VVanNess profile image

Victoria is a stay-at-home mom, author, educator, and blogger at Healthy at Home. She currently lives in Colorado with her family.

By this point in the beginning stages of your wedding planning, hopefully you and your fiance' have sat down and really discussed what the two of you want from your big celebration. If you haven't discussed your wedding budget yet, you'll want to check out my article on Creating an Ideal Budget for Your Wedding.

So you know what kind of wedding you'd like to have, you've decided whether family will be helping with paying, and hopefully you've come to a decision on a relative wedding budget. Now's the time to sit down and come up with a guest list. It takes time to compile this list, make a decision on wedding stationary, and you want to give your guests time to respond, so it's important to get started early. The dreaded guest list is one of the big parts of wedding planning that just about every couple fears.

How do you know who to invite? What if you forget someone? Will someone be angry if you don't invite them? What about children? So many questions and decisions, it's a wonder anyone survives this. I promise, with my help, and some much needed patience, this process doesn't have to be painful.


Who Do I Invite to My Wedding?

The big question. One of the best things to focus on during this process is really who you'd like to celebrate with on your wedding day. This is not the time to invite EVERYONE you can think of. Keep in mind that every additional person invited means one more plate of food, one more slice of cake, one more chair and chair cover, one more plate, napkin and glass, and even another favor, if you even choose to include all of those things. The point being, this could easily make your per person cost anywhere from $50-$100 in a jiffy. It can get out of hand real quick!

You obviously don't want to think of your friends and loved ones this way, but this may be the one factor that makes or breaks your wedding budget. Start with your ideal wedding venue. Were you thinking of having your wedding in a large, fancy hotel, a wide open field out on some land, a friend's backyard, or a small church? Your ideal venue can help you determine an appropriate guest count to shoot for quickly. (Most locations will tell you hold many people they can accommodate.)

Also think about whether you want a small, intimate wedding or a large, fancy wedding. A quick tip: 80 guests is a pretty typical number for a wedding. 30 guests would be considered small and intimate, and 120 guests would be considered pretty big. Hopefully this helps! All of these ideas will make a big difference on the number you choose. Once you have an estimate, leaving room for changes in the future of course, it's time to start your list.


Dividing Up Your List

This seems like a lot of pressure for one, or even two people. It's customary to separate your list into thirds. You and your fiance' take one-third of the list, you hand one-third over to the groom's family, and one-third to the bride's family. Let's say you're inviting 100 people. The groom's parents could choose 33 people they want to invite, the bride's parents could choose 33 people they want to invite, and the two of you (let's face it, it's your wedding) could choose 34 people to invite.

If this doesn't sound like something you're interested in, don't stress it. My husband and I wanted something small and intimate for our wedding so we took over the entire guest list ourselves. I don't have a heck of a lot of family (and those I do have would be in another state), and we have a very close knit set of friends. We did made sure to call each of our parents to ensure that we didn't forget anyone that would be really important to them. In the end, we had exactly who we wanted at our wedding, those most important to us!

To make this really easy on you, each of you should make sure your parents have heard the vision you have for your wedding day. Let them know that you are aware they probably have specific people in mind that they would like to invite, and suggest they create a list complete with full names, addresses, and phone numbers. By no means does this mean they should begin inviting people on their own. You may consider asking them not to "invite" anyone until the final guest list had been compiled and formal invitations have been sent out.


Additional Tips

Have each party label their guests so you know who's most important on the guest list, such as with an A, B, or C. This way A's would be critical invites and would be considered first, B's would be important invites that they would love to have at your wedding, and C's would be the people your parents would like to have if possible, and would be the first to be cut if needed.

Let them know the approximate number that each person will be able to invite, but let them know that this might change as the wedding approaches. You will also want to give them a deadline to have their lists completed. I suggest giving everyone about a month. You'll want to give yourself plenty of time to order stationary, address envelopes, and track down missing contact info.


Potential Issues

1) If one person has divorced parents, the parents on that person's side would then split those guests allotted. In the case of 33 invites, the mom and her husband would get 16, and the dad and his wife would get 16.

2) If one parent or both are helping to pay and want to be given more invites, let them know that you wanted everyone to have an even share of guests to invite. Stick to your guns and don't give in.



Quick Poll

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Compiling Your Final List

So, in a month, you'll collect the lists from each of your parents. You might want to give them periodic reminders about their guest list throughout the month (him with his parents, her with hers) so that they are ready when you finally ask them for their lists. Make sure everyone's lists have full names and all contact info, including at least addresses and phone numbers, along with A-list, B-list, and C-list designations.

It's going to get pretty hectic when it comes time to send your invitations and you don't have all of the contact information you need. Or worse yet, you get all of your invitations sent and you need a head count, but don't have all of your RSVPs. You'll need another way to contact each of these people. With just an address, you won't have another way to get ahold of them. More information is always better than less.

If you are combining all of these lists together, make sure that you are color coordinating the three different lists; yours, her parents, and his parents. This way if you end up having to cut any guests, you can make sure that each list has an equal number of guests coming to the wedding. I promise, if one side of the family ends up with more guests than the other, you'll see fire explode from the unhappy parents.



One Tip

Don't share who you've cut or allowed from the other family's list. And if you get problems from one side about who you are cutting, ask them for a compromise. Maybe they'll trade out for someone else on their list. However, if this is someone you really don't want to come, like someone who will cause problems, put your foot down and stand your ground. You are the ultimate determiner of who comes to your wedding. State your reasons respectfully and stick to your guns.


I bet you that you'll end up with way more names than you expected to get. It's going to be hard for an party to stick to their assigned number of invites. Don't worry. Throughout this month you will have been Choosing Your Wedding Date, Picking Out and Ordering Your Perfect Wedding Stationary, and Looking at Wedding Venues. At this point you'll have a much better idea about the right number of guests to invite.

One huge bonus is that it's likely that you will have duplicate names. I bet you and your mom will both invite your beloved Aunt Sue and your Cousin Darla, and you're fiance' will likely experience the same. That just means that these go to the top of the A-list! It sounds a little complicated, but it will likely work out much easier for you. And likewise, if you see someone on any of the lists that you or your significant other most certainly do not want at your wedding, it doesn't matter what letter they have next to their name. This is your wedding, and you always have veto power.

Keep one thing in mind when compiling your list. Only about 75% of those you invite will likely be able to attend your wedding. Prior scheduling conflicts, pregnancy and due dates, weather, finances, work schedules, and even travel difficulties can all prevent some of your most beloved friends and family members from attending no matter how much they want to be there. This is why it's so important to have a B-List and C-List.

Now it's time for Cutting Your Guests List Down to Size coming up next!

© 2013 Victoria Van Ness


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