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14 Essential Tips to Create Your Perfect Wedding Guest List

  • Bridal Basics • Last updated April 23, 2018
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Planning a wedding requires so many important decisions, and one of the most important is deciding on a wedding guest list. The guest list will drive so many other decisions, so finalizing your list is a major milestone. Creating a guest list can also be a massive challenge, but with some guidance and tips you can cross this task off your to-do list.

Find Your Starting Point

A few factors generally influence the guest list. These factors will have different levels of importance to each couple. By identifying the issue that is the most important to you and your partner you can then begin to make decisions regarding your guest list.


Some people believe in tradition and inviting their entire extended family and all of their friends. In some instances the parents of the bride and groom are also allowed to invite guests. If you want to go traditional then include all of your friends and family on your guest list.


For other couples the budget is the deciding factor. In this instance you need to determine how you plan to spend your budget and work backwards to figure out your guest list. For instance, consider the location and style of wedding, and whether you plan to serve a meal or host an open bar. Tally up your expenses and figure out how many guests you can afford to invite. This is where things can get tricky, because you may need to choose between exactly who you want to surround yourself with on your big day and just how extravagant of a wedding you can afford.


If you have dreamed of holding your wedding at a specific venue, or in a certain city with limited venues, you can use the occupancy limits to determine the maximum number of guests you can invite. For instance, if your venue can only accommodate 100 people that’s the largest your guest list can get.

Tips to Creating Your List

Once you have an idea of the size of your guest list and any other factors that will influence the list you can get down to actually creating the list. Here are some tips to simplify the process of creating your wedding guest list.

1. Start with Your Nearest and Dearest

Many couples start putting together their wedding guest list with the people who matter the most to them as a couple and individually. This list usually starts with parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles and expands to include additional relatives and friends.

2. Distant Relatives

From step siblings you rarely see to cousins you lost touch with there may be people you feel compelled to invite to your wedding, even though you are not close. In these instances it may be best to discuss these circumstances with a trusted relative or friend who understands the circumstances or possibly even the potential guest. You want to avoid hurting anyone’s feelings, and keep in mind that not inviting one person may upset others. For example, not inviting a step sibling may upset your step parent. Ultimately, the best decision may be to invite some individuals out of courtesy.

3. Old Friends

When deciding which friends to add to your guest list stick to the people you regularly spend time with or speak to. If budget and space allows you can expand your guest list to include old friends you may not see as often.

4. Ex-Relatives

You may wish to invite someone who was once a relative by marriage, but has since divorced out of your family. This can be tricky if that guest’s ex-spouse is definitely on your list. In this situation consider the current rapport between the exes and other relatives. If everyone is polite and on good terms go ahead and add everyone to your list. If it is likely including an ex will make anyone uncomfortable you may want to leave them off your list.

5. Long-Distance Guests

Sending an invitation to a guest who lives on the other side of the country, or even the other side of the world, may seem like an imposition. Not including this long distance guests is rude. If your guest is unable to attend for whatever reason they will let you know via the RSVP.

6. Family Affair

Whether or not to include children can be a difficult decision. You likely have children in your life who matter a great deal to you, but including them can complicate your guest list and influence other decisions, like meal options. Setting an age limit can help simplify matters. For example, you can choose to only invite guests over 18 years old. If you have children serving as flower girls or ring bearers you may want to include them in the festivities, but draw a line at other children.

7. New Parents

For new parents life is hectic and you may think that by keeping them off your guest list you are doing them a favor. This is another instance in which you should add them to your list and let them decide what they want to do and are capable of handling.

8. Pregnant Guests

You may think a guest in the late stages of pregnancy may not want to dress up and party into the early hours at your reception. Leave the decision to the mom-to-be. Send an invitation and if she feels she isn’t up to it let it be her decision.

9. Plus One

When inviting single guests you need to decide if they can bring a guest, or a plus one. Like most things related to planning a wedding, this decision may come back to budget. If your venue and budget have enough flexibility go ahead and allow your single guests to bring a date.

Each situation is unique, but some couples choose to invite non-married couples if they are engaged or have been dating for an extended period of time. For example, if you have a close friend who is engaged or has been in a committed relationship for many years you may want to consider allowing your friend to bring his or her partner. If you have a cousin who is single and not seeing anyone and your guest list is a maximum capacity you may be unable to give your cousin a plus one option.

10. Your Parents’ Guest List

Traditionally, when parents pay, or help pay for a wedding they are allowed to add names to the guest list. If your parent’s list is getting out of hand sit down and have an upfront discussion. You want to ensure there are no hurt feelings and your parent’s enjoy themselves, but you need to find balance between people you know and want to spend time with and ensuring everyone is happy with the guest list.

11. Guests with Prior Commitments

Everyone is busy and you may know some of your guests have prior commitments. Maybe you have a friend who is going to be in her sister’s wedding the same day, or an uncle who booked a cruise and will be out of the country. This situation is challenging, because you do not want to appear to be asking for a gift. For relatives it is customary to send an invitation, even if you know they are unable to attend. When sending the invite you can include a handwritten note explaining that you are aware of the circumstances. If you decide not to send an invitation you may want to call your friend or relative to make it clear that you understand and there are no hard feelings.

12. Guests Planning Their Own Wedding

You may even have potential guests who are getting married themselves the following day or the next weekend. The final week and days before a wedding are busy and stressful, so even though your possible guest is available on the day of your wedding they may not be able to make it. In this instance, you can add them to the list and include a note in the invite explaining you understand the circumstances. You can also call them to talk things through and find out what they are comfortable doing.

13. Returning the Favor

Simply because you were invited to someone’s wedding you are not obligated to invite them to your wedding. Your guest list should include the people you and your partner want to see on your big day.

14. Coworkers

You spend a lot of time at work, so becoming friends with your colleagues is to be expected. Adding coworkers to your guest list is perfectly okay, but again consider people’s feelings. If you work for a small company, and you invite most, but not all, of your coworkers this may lead to hurt feelings that can spill over into workplace drama.

Create Your List

A lot goes into putting together a wedding guest list, but with careful planning and consideration you can make a list both you and your partner agree on. While creating a guest list is tricky, it is so incredibly necessary, because it drives so many other decisions. When working on your list be open and candid with your partner to ensure you both agree on each name added.