In today’s article, we’re going to dive into how to create the guest list for your wedding! Remember, by this point, you should have a solid headcount – this will ensure that your guest list doesn’t spiral out of control.
(There’s a difference between a “headcount” and a “guest list” – click here to learn more and to understand why it’s best to create the headcount before the guest list.)
When it comes to creating your wedding guest list – there aren’t any one-size-fits-all rules that will work for all couples.
Sure, there are common etiquette practices, but those are null in certain situations. So I’ll be honest: I don’t have all the answers.
For many of these guest list decisions, the answer is basically: “it depends.” It depends on you, your partner, the vibe your going for, your guests, your budget, etc. So my advice is simple: create your own rules about who to invite to your wedding.
That said, the tips below are simply meant to give you some perspective, general guidelines, and to help you brainstorm some ideas for your very own guest list “rules” – let’s get started!
Start With the Numbers
Don’t lose sight of your headcount! Remember, to keep your guest list under control, you have to stay within your headcount – doing so will also keep you within budget and within the venue’s capacity restrictions (if there are any).
So, again, if you haven’t settled on a headcount (or range), I recommend you do that first. Make sure you know how many people you can realistically host before you start listing names of potential guests.
Split The Headcount with Your Partner
By this point, you should have split the guest list with your partner so that you’re both on the same page about how many guests each of you are allowed to invite.
Use a Shared Google Spreadsheet!
I love Google Drive for so many reasons – and I highly recommend that you create a Google Spreadsheet and share it with your partner to create your guest list. This is a great tool because: it’s shareable, it’s online (so you don’t have to worry about losing a piece of paper), you and your partner can edit it simultaneously and view each other’s updates in real time, and it can be accessed from any device.
Tip: Start your guest list spreadsheet by numbering the rows to match your headcount – that way you’ll have a visual reminder about how many “spots” you can fill and keep yourself from going overboard.
Start Listing Guests’ Names!
This is the fun part – you get to start coming up with your actual guest list! Below I’ve listed some general guidelines to help you create your guest list – but feel free to do whatever you want 😉
In general, start your guest list with your immediate family members and grow your list from there to close family members. (Again, this is not a one-size-fits-all rule – so don’t feel like you HAVE to invite your family just because they’re related to you. If you have a strong preference for not inviting them to your wedding – do you!)
Bridal Party Plus Ones
Since your bridal party is doing you a huge favor by helping out with the wedding – it’s a nice gesture to allow them to bring a guest.
Your closest friends are likely already in your bridal party – but if anyone wasn’t able to commit, start your list with your closest friends and move through your social circle from there.
Come up with a plus-one rule to help you decide who gets a plus one and who doesn’t. In general, guests who are married, engaged, or cohabitating should get a plus one.
I wrote a whole article about this! Go read it 🙂 Basically: be sure to work this out with your parents well before you start working on a guest list – what way you can avoid some and hurt feelings when the invitations are out.
Figure out if you’re open to inviting kids to the wedding. I strongly believe that having an adult-only wedding is easier to plan because it eliminates the need to accommodate kids – which means you won’t need to coordinate things like kids meals, a separate space for them, entertainment, etc.
This is a tricky one! In my experience, I found it best to either (1) invite them all, (2) don’t invite any of them, (3) invite your closest coworkers if there’s a way for them to not discuss your wedding at work so that folks who weren’t invited won’t feel left out. That’s a tall order, I know. My two cents.
Create an A-List and B-List
Not everyone will be able to attend the wedding for one reason or another – so expect to get some declined invitations. That’s why I think it’s a good idea to have a backup list, i.e. a B-list.
First, complete your A-list by prioritizing folks to fit into your headcount number. Anyone who didn’t make the cut for the A-list can be put on the B-list. When you start receiving RSVP declines, you can start inviting folks from your B-list.
Yes, I know there are mixed feelings about B-lists – some wedding experts say that having a B-list is rude and that your B-list guests will know that they didn’t make the first cut and may have their feelings hurt. But in my experience as a professional event planner, having a B-list just makes logistical sense. So don’t be afraid to use this strategy!