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How to Create Your Wedding Guest List in 10 Steps

The title of this post was going to be: How to create your wedding guest list in 10 easy steps. But, I realised that there’s nothing easy about choosing who will and won’t attend your wedding! It’s a big decision and many couples feel overwhelmed by the task. You may be dreading this task and you’ve probably got your knowledge of wedding etiquette on your mind too. I get it, I’ve been there too! And what I’ve done is broken this task down into 10 logical steps to help you create your wedding guest list. So, while this won’t be easy, it will be manageable.

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1. Crunch the numbers

Before working out who to invite, you need to work out how many people you can invite! If you’ve already got a wedding venue, consider your capacity. If you’re at the beginning stages of wedding planning, consult your budget. Consider what type of wedding you want to have and what it will cost to create it. Would you like a big lavish affair? Or do you want something more intimate? Are you staying local or opting for a destination wedding? Work out how many people you can afford to host and what your venue’s capacity is before creating your guest list.

 

2. Talk to your parents

These days, there’s less pressure for couples to accommodate all their parents’ friends. We still think it’s a good idea to at least ask your parents if they have a handful of guests they think should be on the list. It may be a few family friends you’ve grown up with or some family members you might not have thought of including! Make an agreement with your parents on how many guests they can invite so you know how many spots are left for you. How you divvy this up is entirely up to you.

 

3. Make some rules

This is where you need to get clarity:

  • Are children invited? If so, is it all children, all children under/over a certain age, or just children of immediate family?
  • Who gets plus ones? Generally, this is for guests that are married, engaged or in a serious relationship. Your rules may be different though, so work that out together.
  • Are you inviting exes? Unless there are children involved or you had a drama-free breakup, I’d say heck no, but this is your call.

I need to emphasise that you need to be consistent with your rules. If you’re saying “no children”, don’t make any exceptions, unless you’re prepared to offend somebody! There’s less room for hurt feelings if you apply your rules across the board.

 

4. Create your dream list

This is your list of everybody you’d love to have at your wedding! If budget wasn’t an issue and if you could have everyone with you, who would you invite? Write those names down. Consider this a brainstorming session of every possible option. Go through your contacts on your phone, think about close friends and family you haven’t seen in a while, and make sure you’ve considered all your options. This is one way to make sure you don’t forget someone.

 

5. Divide your list into categories

There’s method to my madness, I promise! Take your dream list and break it down into categories. Immediate family, close friends, friends you see regularly, family friends, work colleagues, distant relatives, and so on. At some point you may need to rank these categories, so this task will be hugely helpful then. For example, if you had to choose between work colleagues and distant relatives, who’s getting the boot?

 

6. Group your categories

Ok this is going to seem mean, but it’s a process that only you will know about. By all means, do not tell your guests they’ve been ranked. Out of your categories above, create your A list (you can’t imagine not having them at your wedding), your B list (people you really want there) and your C list (would be nice to have them there).

 

7. Start counting

Add up your totals and, if you’re lucky, you’ll have a nice cut off point. Begin with your non-negotiables (immediate family, etc) then fill your remaining spots with your B list. If you can’t include the whole list, then…

 

8. Cut cut cut

When you create your wedding guest list, this is absolutely the worst part. You might be able to eliminate whole categories (for example, if you said you’d rather have distant relatives over work colleagues, then you know which group to cut). Just explain that you’re only inviting family! If not, remember your category ranking from earlier on!

 

9. Send Save the Dates

This may be controversial, but I reckon you should send Save the Dates and then, if guests can’t attend, you’ve got spaces opened up for guests who were lower down on the list. In a pre-Covid world, it was totally normal for 20% of guests not to be able to make it. The key is to do this early! If somebody gave me a call and said “We didn’t think we could include you because our numbers are so tight, but now that we can, we’d love to have you at our wedding” I would absolutely not be offended. But if I got an invite less than a week before the wedding, I’d feel like a rent-a-crowd.

 

10. Damage control

So far, so good! But you may have some hurt feelings to deal with. Some guests may have assumed they’d be invited or they may have expected to bring their children along. You can’t account for everyone, but clear communication, kindness and openness will go a long way. Tell your work friend that you would’ve loved to have her with you, but you made a decision not to invite any work friends. Whatever it is, make it clear that it’s something you really thought about it and it’s a blanket rule. It’s much less hurtful to think you’re not on the guest list because it’s small than to assume you’re not invited because the couple just don’t like you.

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Kelly Jane Hartmann

Kelly is a former wedding planner and a lover of anything pink. She believes that any bride can plan her own wedding, with a few tips and helpful tools.

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