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Our easy, no stress guide to figuring out exactly who to invite to your wedding.

  • Things to consider
  • Creating your list
  • Who gets invited
  • Making the final cut
  • And managing your list

Trying on wedding gowns can be a lot of fun.  Cake and dinner menu tastings…yum. I’m guessing though that drafting and revising your guest list doesn’t get you nearly as excited. The idea of planning your wedding has been something you’ve imagined for years.  The time has finally come but then you realize that before you can get into all the fun stuff like the dress, decor and even the venue, you have to figure out the guest list.

It’s actually a pretty complicated task, most likely one of the most challenging tasks you’ll have to do as a newly engaged couple.  Unless you have unlimited space and money, you can’t really just make a list of everyone you’d like to celebrate with you on your big day.  Chances are, you have a clear idea of who you definitely want to be there, then you may have others that you’d prefer to skip and then those that you aren’t sure of.

So how do you decide?  The most effective way to make your guest list is to take everyone into consideration that has a say in the wedding.  Fairness is of the utmost importance. Before you start making your final list, use the guide to follow to help you work through this process in the best way possible.


Things to Consider before
Making your Wedding Guest List

Before starting your guest list, we recommend having open and honest conversations with all parties involved – both sets of parents and of course your future spouse about  a few key things that must be considered; the wedding venue, your budget and the style of your wedding (the overall feel you want your wedding to have, think “vibe”). Each and every one of these things will impact your guest list so it’s important to know exactly what to consider.

Photo by Alasdair Elmes on Unsplash
The Wedding Venue

A lot of couples have some ideas of the venues they’d like to consider when planning their wedding.  Here at RC, we like the idea of drafting a ROUGH guest list before getting too serious about any particular venue just to see what venues can accommodate your potential party size.

It’s perfectly OK to book your dream venue to get it locked in and then tailor your guest list to fit the space available.

If you have a shortlist of venues you’d like to consider for your wedding, ask them what their minimum and maximum capacity is for their ceremony and/or reception spaces are.

Your Overall Wedding Budget

Maybe the most important factor in determining the size of your guest list is your overall budget.  Simply put, the more guests you invite, the more money you will have to spend. If budget is tight or if you have very little wiggle room then you may have to make some sacrifices to keep the guest list as small as you possibly can.  

Keep in mind that the guest list size isn’t just about the cost of the food.  It’s going to impact many other aspects of the wedding too such as stationery, flowers, favors, alcohol, etc.

A few things to consider as a couple:
  1. How many guests can you realistically invite based on your overall wedding budget?
  2. Will you be limiting the number of guests each of your parents can invite?  (This is especially key if your parents are helping financially with the wedding.)
wedding style
Photo by Álvaro CvG on Unsplash
Consider Your Wedding Style

Most couples have imagined at least a little bit what their wedding day might look like.  Do you envision a huge party with everyone you know celebrating with you? Do you picture something more intimate and personal?  The beauty of your wedding is that there is no right or wrong. There is no magic number or right way to do this. It’s about the type of day you imagine for yourselves and the experience you want to give your guests.

Things to discuss as a couple:

What kind of wedding do we want to have?  A huge party or a small and intimate party?  How does that impact the guest list?

How to Make your Wedding Guest List

Once all parties have discussed and agreed on the points above, it’s time to get to work creating the guest list.

Traditionally the couple gets 50% of the guest list and each set of parents gets 25%. Being clear about this up front means you’ll avoid potential drama later.

  1. Guest List Size:  If you discussed all the points mentioned above then you should have at least a general idea of the size guest list to aim for.  This may be determined by budget, venue size and/or the overall feel or experience you want to create.
  2. Everyone Involved Should Compile a List:  There are different ways to do this but we like the idea of creating a “dream list” as a starting point, knowing that it will likely need to be trimmed down. (More in-depth help on creating the perfect guest list see “Creating your Dream Wedding Guest List” below.)
  3. Once everyone has created their lists, compile them into one list and remove any duplicates.
  4. Compare the compiled list with the total number of guests you are aiming for.
  5. If your list is larger than the goal you set then you need to establish rules for how to eliminate names.  (More in-depth information on cutting your guest list see “How to trim your guest list” below)

Who to Invite To your Wedding

While there are likely many easy decisions on who does and doesn’t get an invitation, there are probably just as many that are much harder to decide on.  Below is a guide to help you and your families figure it all out.

Immediate Family

Probably the easiest names to add are your immediate families.  This includes parents, grandparents, siblings, their partners, and their children.  Then move down one step to add aunts, uncles and cousins that you see regularly.

Extended Family

If you have extended family that you are close with, they should be added to the list.  Rules should be determined in a fair way to determine how far down this list you will go before friends are more important or closer to you than family members.  There is no right or wrong, it comes down to your specific family dynamics and what you feel is best for your wedding.


Just like family, start with your closest friends first.  One step down from there would be friends that you see or talk with regularly or that are significant in your life.  Depending on your situation, this could be friends from school, college, church or other activity groups, neighbors, etc.


Because co-workers can take you down a rabbit hole, the best rule of thumb is to invite only those co-workers that you spend time with outside of work or that you feel especially close with.


Just like with the other categories, there is no right or wrong but adding plus-ones to your single friends’ invitations can significantly increase your overall guest list and you have to decide if you want a lot of strangers that you’ve never met at your wedding.  Here are a few tips for navigating plus-ones:

  • Allow plus-ones for married, engaged or cohabiting guests or for those that have been together for so long that it may be awkward to not invite them
  • Allow plus-ones for single members of your wedding party
  • For everyone else, it’s best to agree on and stick to a blanket rule such as only allowing plus-ones for immediate family.

Even though it’s becoming more and more common for couples to plan an adults-only wedding, making this decision for your own wedding can be stressful.  Including children can obviously add to your overall guest list count, there may be some family circumstances where you don’t have a choice. This is a decision that you should make with all parties involved early on to avoid drama or problems down the road.

Family Friends

One of the areas your parents will need to be involved is with family friends.  This is why it’s best to divide the guest list evenly between both sets of parents early on so that they can use those seats however they wish.  When parents are contributing financially to the wedding, they may feel a sense of ownership over the guest list so it’s best to have this discussion up front before any financial help is accepted so that you have control over how many guests everyone can pick from their own list.

greenery vellum belly band wedding invitation

The Best Way to Trim Your Guest List

When the guest list exceeds the venue space or budget, knowing how to trim the list in the least stressful and drama-filled way can be hard.  Below is our guide for condensing your headcount without adding drama to your wedding planning.

Establish an “A/B” List

If you followed our guide above, you most likely have more names on your “dream list” then budget or space allows for your final list.    Sit down with all involved parties and thoughtfully organize each guest into one of two categories.  

Your  “A” list would be your must-have guests.  Those people you can’t picture your wedding day without.  This would include your family and close friends. These are essentially the people that are not negotiable.  Your “B” List would be those guests that you’d still really like to have at your wedding if budget and space allows.

Here at RC, we have mixed feelings about using your A/B List to send invitations in batches. Too often it’s obvious to the “B-List” that they didn’t make the first cut and that leads to hurt feelings and just looks flat out tacky. It’s just not a good thing to do. On the flip side, using an “A/B” list does allow you to keep your budget in check and keep your venue while inviting the most people possible. If you are going to do this, do it right and DON'T be obvious. Here’s how to do it right. Your “A” list is the people you would never dream wouldn’t be at your wedding. Your b-list is made up of people you really want to be there but have to come after your family and best friends. Your B-list should NOT be just someone to fill a seat. If you start getting RSVPs with “regrets” then start sending out invites to your “B” list (in order of importance). If you are going to have an alternate list, plan ahead and send out your A-List invites 10 or 11 weeks before the wedding (a little earlier than normal) so you have time to send out invites to your “B” list as needed. If you send invitations to your b-list too close to the wedding, you are telling those guests they are second best.

Consider having an Adults-Only Wedding

We touched on this before but one of the easiest ways to cut down on your guest list is to eliminate children.  This may not go over well with everyone as they will need to find and pay for appropriate child-card for the evening but others may actually look forward to a kid-free night out.

Consider Eliminating Entire Groups

The idea of fairness cannot be stressed more and grouping guests into groups may be an easier and more fair way to cut down a guest list.  Think “high school friends”, “college friends”, “church group” or “co-workers”.  

Establish other “Rules” of Cutting

If you are still having trouble cutting your guest list down, here are a few other “rules” that we suggest trying:

  • If neither of you has spoken to, met or heard their name before, don’t invite them
  • If neither of you has seen someone in the past year and aside from the wedding wouldn’t see them in the next year, don’t invite them
  • If there is anyone that you are inviting out of reciprocating their invitation?  The key here is to evaluate your actual relationship with the person. Reciprocating an invitation is not enough and should not make you feel obligated to invite them.

Make your List and Keep it Organized

The way you choose to create your guest list is entirely up to you.  There are so many tools available that allow you to collaborate with everyone involved so everyone can make and see updates in real time.  A good tool also allows you to keep track of RSVPs for final head counts, keep track of gifts and thank yous sent and so much more. Below are a few favorites: