Creating a Wedding Guest List – The First Steps

How to Start the Challenging Task of Creating a Wedding Guest List

Wedding gifts and register
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It's never too early in the wedding planning process to start talking about your guest list. Before you announce that you're having 250 people and start verbally inviting people, it's a good idea to sit down with your fiancé and answer the following questions.

What Are Your Dreams?

First, make sure you and your fiancé are on the same page. Have you always dreamed of a small intimate wedding, or a huge bash?

Do you envision a guest list of 30 or 300?

Who Has to be There?

Until you have your reception and ceremony venues finalized, you won't know how big your guest list can be. However, it's a good idea at this stage of the game to start counting family and your closest friends, and get a sense of how many essential invites you have. After all, if you have 60 essential invites, you should probably forget about the charming chapel that only seats 50. How Many Wedding Guests Can We Invite?

Who Isn't Welcome?

Now is also a good time to discuss ground rules. If you're uncomfortable with inviting ex-girlfriends or ex-boyfriends, even if your fiancé is on friendly terms with them, speak up now. Other persona non grata may include:

  • children
  • + guest for the single people (something that can really up your costs)
  • people who tend to drink too much, especially if you're not close to them anyway
  • business acquaintances
  • those who one of you is estranged from

Who's Paying?

If your parents are paying the bill, you should talk to them about how many people they want to invite – some sensitive negotiation may be necessary here if they have 100 people, but you wanted to have a small wedding or vice versa. If you and your fiancé are paying, or everyone's chipping in, sensitivity is still in order but it will probably be easier for you to call the shots.

Make sure you have developed a wedding budget, and talked about who is paying for each part of your wedding.

What Can You Afford? 

Once you've set your budget, be realistic. How many people can you afford to invite? Ask yourself if it's more important to have lots of people, or to pamper a smaller amount of people with an elegant meal with all the trimmings? Remember that no matter what your style, each extra person will add to your bottom line – if you're on a tight budget, a smaller wedding is probably the way to go.

Dividing the Invites

Once you've got these preliminary questions out of the way, and decided where you're having both the ceremony and reception, you'll know about how many guests you want to invite. The next step is deciding how many invitations to give to each of your parents. Traditionally, the invitations are split evenly between the two families. However, if the bride and groom share the same group of friends, you may choose to give each of your parents a third of the invitations, reserving a third for yourselves.

You and your fiancé should sit down and start naming the names (and gathering the addresses!) that will make up your portion of the guest list. I suggest being organized from the start and using a program like Excel, or the wedding guests managers at the Knot or the Wedding Channel.