How To Narrow Down Your Wedding Guest List

One of the most stressful parts in planning a wedding can be the dreaded wedding guest list.  Your desire may be to invite everyone under the sun, but finances don’t always allow it.  Taking your third grade teacher off the list might be the easiest part, but what about the rest?

The very first thing that you need to do is secure your reception spot and figure out the price per person.  This will give you an idea of the number of people that you can actually afford at your desired venue.  If the number ends up being too small for you to handle, you may have to find another venue that is more affordable.  It’s all a matter of priority.

Once you are satisfied with your location and the number of guests you can have, stick to that number!  Keep in mind that it is common practice to invite 10% more people than what you expect because most likely at least that amount of people will decline.  However, when looking at your list, you should have a pretty good idea if there are definite or questionable attendees on it.  Don’t invite the 10% more if everyone invited is a definite family member that lives close!

Now to start your list!  Here are some basic guidelines to follow:

  1. Make an “A” list which includes all of the must have attendees like close family and friends.  Think about family and friends who are dating and in a serious relationship.  You will want to include their dates on your list as well.  If they are not dating, you don’t have to include a guest.
  2. Now make a “B” list which includes everyone that you can possibly think of that you would like to have at your wedding.
  3. Start taking people from your “B” list to fill in the slots of your “A” list until you reach your budgeted number (plus 10% if desired).  Keep in mind that you will want to have fairly equal numbers from both the bride’s side and groom’s side.  This may take a collaboration of input from all parties, parents included.  However, ultimately it is your day and the final decision is up to you.  Chances are you know when a guest is an important addition to either of your parents versus your mother in-laws third cousin’s nephew who you have never met!  Just be firm and state the budget from the start.  If you get into a real sticky situation, you could always suggest that any overages be paid for by the desired party, considering that your venue has the space.
  4. Send out your invitations, from your “A” list six to eight weeks before your wedding.  As you begin to get responses, you will be able to see if you can add more invites from your “B” list.  If it gets to close to your wedding to send out more invitations, you could always give a personal invitation over the phone.  Most people understand that budgets need to be followed and will be pleased that they were asked.

Some points to consider:

  • Think about if you want an adult only wedding or you want to have children attending.  This can help cut down on your list.
  • Consider the last time that you actually talked to the person you are considering inviting.  Fond memories of someone are one thing but current relationships may be more meaningful for celebrating your day.
  • Some brides have huge families.  Distant relatives, who you rarely see, should understand when you have a limited size wedding.  A good rule of thumb is to have some sort of consistent break off point.  Invite only close family members and none of the extended family will feel left out.  Or invite aunts and uncles but no cousins.  Just don’t invite one cousin here and one aunt there, or the rest of the family will feel slighted.

To keep track of your two lists, make a spreadsheet using Excel so that you can easily edit  and bring people from the B list over to your A list:

wedding guest list using excel




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