Deciding who you invite to your wedding can seem almost as momentous as deciding who to marry. One would think this would be a simple task; invite your close family and friends and call it a day when in actuality this can be one of the most challenging parts of planning a wedding. Who falls into the close family & friends category? How many guests should my parents invite? Do we invite kids? Is there proper etiquette to follow? I don't know about you but this is enough to feel a bit anxious but thankfully, we’ve provided some helpful & unique tips below to really help navigate you through the guest list and stay organized throughout the process!
1. Venue and budget
The first item to think about is how large of a wedding you want. Do you want a big party or intimate affair? What physical setting do you have in mind? A church wedding, garden wedding or grand ballroom? Keep in mind that some settings may be too large or too small for the number of guests your envisioning. Be flexible and remember the most important element is celebrating with your close family & friends.
When it comes to your budget there are a few things to keep in mind. Consider the cost per person for food and beverages, and the maximum capacity of your venue. You'll also have to factor in the cost of wedding invitations and other stationary, the favors, table centerpieces, welcome bags, flowers — pretty much every financial decision you make will be based on the number of guests attending your wedding, so make sure you know how much you want to spend. This may mean you cut some people off your B list but do remember to invite everyone that is important to you.
Tip: A way to conserve your budget is to consider offering a buffet for your guests which is less expensive per person than a formal seated meal. Also consider having your wedding on a Friday or Sunday as they are cheaper than a Saturday night.
2. Create your dream list
We’d suggest both you and your “husband to be” create your own guest lists that you would want at your wedding from family, friends, college teammates ect. List out anyone and everyone that you’d love to be there and categorize into two - “Must Have’s” and “Maybe’s” or “A” and “B” lists. The “B” list could consist of co-workers, third cousins’s and acquaintances that you could invite but would understand if they weren’t on the list. Also, have your parents create a blue print list of guests they’d like to invite.
Tip: Choose a number for your guest list that's smaller as its much better to keep your number on the conservative side, and then, if there's room in the budget or you end up having more space than you thought, add later on.
3. Parent’s guest list
It is customary that the parents on both sides create their guest lists as well which should include family members, friends and colleagues. When the bride's parents are paying for the wedding, it's customary that they be allowed to invite more guests. If the groom's parents are paying, the same holds true, although in either case, if one side has a larger family, that side should be allotted more spots. If you find that the guest list is becoming too large it is best to communicate to your parents that you'd like them to limit their lists to people whom you actually know. After all, this is your day and the guests should be family and friends that you and your fiancee know.
4. Decide whether or not to invite kids
One thing to consider when creating your guest list is if you’ll be inviting kids. Before extending the invite you’ll have to find out if the venue allows for kids under a certain age and if the venue is “child-safe”. If you decide on inviting little one’s we suggest having an on sight-babysitter or older cousin/relative to watch the kids in a separate room in case they get tired or rowdy. You could also invite the kids to the ceremony and opt for a kid-free reception. The kids could then go with the older cousin/relative to a family member’s home or hotel to watch the kids there. First and foremost this is your day and if the thought of a crying baby or a giggly toddler at your ceremony or during your first dance doesn’t suit you we suggest opting for a kid free wedding. Rest assured most parents would be happy with a “parent’s night out”. :)
Tip: If you are not inviting little one’s to your wedding and/or have an age limit of 21 and older it is important to make this clear to your guests. Be sure to make this decision clear on invitations & reply cards. We also suggest making a note on your wedding website noting: We hope you share our excitement for an adults-only celebration. If needed, we can assist in arranging child-care services.
5. Decide on plus 1’s
Inviting your friends and family’s spouses is a must and well a no-brainer but the question does arise when deciding if your single guest should bring a date.
There are a few scenarios that you’ll run into:
- Single guests who live with their significant other
- Single guests who are dating someone - this then stems into how serious it is, is the significant other the date of the week or have they been together for a year?
- Single guests who are not dating someone
You will decide if you want to invite all of your “single guests” significant others so you stay consistent with the invites or you can invite significant others if they’ve been together a while and are serious. It’s really entirely up to you how this rolls into play. When I got married a key was if I knew the person my friend was inviting and also if the single friend would know anyone if they came solo. The last thing you want is to invite a friend and they don't feel comfortable at your wedding coming solo. Another consideration is offering +1s on a case-by-case basis which is always a safe bet.
Tip: On the invitations and the RSVP cards be sure to include the names of all invitee’s so there is no confusion on who is invited. Be prepared as nine times of of ten you will have a friend or family member ask if they can bring a guest.
Keep in mind that not every guest you invite will be able to make it to you wedding. It's safe to assume that about 20-30% of your A-list guests won't be able to attend. Knowing that, you can send out more invitations than you have seats available. To remain on the safe side, wait to receive regrets from guests before you start sending out invitations to the rest of the B-list.
Tip: Sending out your B-list invites too close to the wedding basically tells them they’re second best. Send your A-list invites three months before, and then there's still time to send your B-list invites six to eight weeks before your wedding. Print a second set of reply cards with a later RSVP date too.
7. Keep calm & stay organized
Use an online tool like a Google spreadsheet to keep track of guests and everything in between. We suggest creating a few columns with your guest’s info.
- Name of Guest (s)
- Formal name of guests (Can be used when calligrapher addresses wedding invitation envelopes)
- Meal choice
- Gifts received
- Thank you note
Inputting this information can take some time but it is really great to have it all in once place. It will help keep your wedding super organized and you’ll be thankful later you did it. Beyond your wedding day, it's great to have everyone's contact info all in one place, so that later on, you have a list for holiday cards, baby announcements and anniversary party invitations.
We hope these tips and tools help as you navigate your way through settling on a guest list! :)