Wedding Planning 101: Guest List

Deciding who gets invited to your wedding is arguably one of the most difficult steps in the wedding planning process.  When you consider that the average cost of a wedding is approximately $180 per guest and often goes much, much higher, you want to make sure everyone on your list is a must-have at your wedding.   So, how do you decide who makes the cut? Here are all of the tips you need to survive the process and to keep peace with extended family, friends and colleagues.

First and foremost, remember it is your {and your soon-to-be spouse’s} wedding!  Parents do get more say in the matter if they are paying for the wedding, but the ultimate decision falls on the two of you when deciding whom to invite. We recommend starting off with a master guest list that includes everyone you and your fiancé would like to attend, considering parents’ lists as well.

When considering your max number to invite, think about your budget and how you picture your special day. Are you picturing a big lavish affair or a small, intimate evening with your closest family and friends? Think about both ceremony and reception spaces – don’t fill the venues just because you can.  Nobody wants cramped guests, a blown budget, or a lack of intimacy at your wedding!

We are asked all the time, “What percentage should we plan on not attending?” This is a difficult question since the size of lists varies as well as the number of out-of-town guests.  Smaller lists will have a higher percentage attend since it is typically a tighter group of your closest friends and family.  We suggest you work down the list and estimate whether or not each guest will attend. Don’t plan on more than 15% declines.  If it turns out to be more, you can be pleasantly surprised {from a budget perspective}, but you also want to make sure you have the space and the budget for 85% of your guests.

Now that you have an ideal guest count in mind, are you worried that your number is too large? Take a deep breathe, we have a helpful hint! Sit down {with a nice glass of vino} and organize your guest list by relationship:  immediate family, extended family, family friends, your friends, and parents’ colleagues.  Subdivide groups and then eliminate entire groups.  For example, all second cousins may need to be chopped from the list.  

If you wish to exclude children, address only the adult names on the envelope.  Afraid your guests won’t catch the hint?  Add the explicit wording to the website.  You may want to consider adding a line to the rsvp card that reads:

____ Number of seats reserved for you

____ Number of guests attending

So what do you do when children appear on the completed rsvp card anyways?  We recommend holding firm and politely disclosing that children are not invited.  Making exceptions to this will create more hurt feelings with those who complied than with those who did not, so be firm with your request.

What about the infamous “plus one” quarrel? Unsure who to issue a plus one?  This gesture is often extended to those with a truly “significant” other and to those few guests who are not familiar with other wedding guests.  Be a gracious host and be sure to introduce these guests to other guests leading up to the wedding day if the opportunity presents itself.

Once you have a drafted invite list, it’s time to get organized.  A computerized guest list will help you keep track of contact information, RSVPs, acceptances, regrets, meal choices, and even gifts.  It also makes it easy to create escort cards.  We assure you this will come in handy throughout the entire planning process!

Once you think you’ve settled on a guest list, do a final look over when it’s time to send out invitations.  Don’t discount people from the invite list because you don’t think they’ll come- always give them the option.  Trust us, your gesture to invite them goes a long way!

With these tips and some great online tools, you are now set to take on the guest list!   Still need someone to talk it through with you?  We’re happy to help!