Here are 6 things to consider when creating your wedding guest list:
1. CONSIDER YOUR WEDDING VISION AND VENUE
How do you envision your big day? For some, the answer may be sharing with a few of our closest family members and friends in a romantic, intimate setting. For others that may mean, a large celebration of love, in a gorgeous and festive setting. Whatever your vision may be, be sure to let that guide you in creating your guest list, instead of letting your vision be drowned out by guest list guilt.
Additionally, your venue has to be considered, as well. If you've fell in love with and booked a beautiful estate that comfortably accommodates 75 guests, don't try to squeeze 100 guests in there because of again, guest list guilt. Furthermore, before booking your venue, having a preliminary guest count is key, and sticking in and around that is important. If you know in advance you want a large wedding, don't waste time considering small venues. Again, let your vision (and budget covered next), be your guide!
2. CRUNCH THE NUMBERS
Let's face it, budget really is a huge part of creating a guest list that must be tackled early on in the planning. You may have tons of family and friends that you'd love to share your day with, but can you realistic afford catering and bar services for 300 people? Maybe yes, maybe no. Here's a pro tip, your reception will likely be the biggest expense of your wedding.
As a planner, one of the first steps I take with my sensational couples is creating their itemized wedding budget, with their wedding style and the guest count they are considering in mind. This is so valuable to do at the onset because in some cases a couple's guest count doesn't match their budget. For example, you want to invite 200 guests and the venue you love provides catering and bar services, which are $200 per person. However, you were hoping to spend $40,000 on the entire wedding, so there's a problem. Thus, crunching the numbers with your planner is crucial.
3. CREATE THE LIST WITH YOUR FIANCE
You and your love are preparing to join together as one, and a great way to start learning how to make decisions together is with the guest list. It's your big day, so come to a consensus together on who you two would like to share it with. Decide how you two want to handle the guest list, whether that means 75 guests for you and 75 for your fiancé, or your fiancé may want less guests on his side because you have the larger family, or simply you two list each guest together. Do whatever feels right to you two.
Now some of you might be saying, our parents aren't going for that, in the event that they are financing the wedding. I get it, sometimes money equates to decision making. However, that doesn't have to put a monkey wrench in the two of you calling the guest list shots. In many cases, some of the guests your parents want to invite, you were already planning to invite anyway. In other cases, it may call for a heart to heart with mom and dad, and letting them down easy, while assuring them you've carefully considered everyone YOU really want there. Outside of your parents, I would strongly encourage you to limit outside involvement with your guest list for the sake of your sanity. Thank me later :)
4. A LIST, B LIST, AND GUEST CATEGORIES
Creating your guest list doesn't have to be a headache, with the a and b list option. This is especially helpful for couples who struggle with large guest counts. Instead of stressing yourself and considering an elopement, after you've done the tips above, create an A list based on the must invite guests that add up to the guest count you set. Another pro tip is you can add a few extra guests to this list to account for guests who may not be able to come - but a few, not 50 :) Now, for those 50 extra guests that you're thinking of, those folks can go to the B list. Once you've sent out save the dates to the A list, you'll likely get insight from guests who know they can't attend, in which case some B list guests can move up to the A list.
Another tip is to arrange guests in categories, based on their relationship with you. This is helpful in organizing your guest list, and limits the chance of forgetting a VIP. Here are some guest categories to consider, and rank them in order of priority:
- Parents, Siblings, Grandparents, Godparents
- First Aunts, Uncles, Cousins
- Closest Friends
- Family - not listed above
- Co-Workers, Fraternity Brothers/Sorority Sisters, Church Family - Group 1
- Friends and Friends of Family - not listed above
- Co-Workers, Fraternity Brothers/Sorority Sisters, Church Family - Group 2
- Children (if they are invited)
When doing the category exercise, you may find that certain categories won't make the cut based on your guest count, such as children or some college friends, which is why ranking in order or priority will help to determine the essential guests.
5. TO EXTEND OR NOT EXTEND A PLUS ONE
Plus ones is another important item to consider when creating your guest list, and really deserves it's own post (coming soon), but I will break it down simply for now. First and foremost, your married guests' husbands or wives SHOULD be invited. Whether you've met that co-worker's spouse or not, it's proper etiquette to invite the spouses of your guests. Therefore, if you already started your guest list, but didn't include spouses, be prepared to up your numbers.
You don't have to extend a plus one for all unmarried guests. However, it's recommended to be strategic and fair if allowing some, but not all unmarried guests to have a plus one. For example, you may want your double date night crew who are not married to attend, which makes sense. On the other hand, you may have a friend who just got into a new relationship and you don't know her significant other yet, in which case it's fine if you don't want to extend a plus one. Also, it's important to consider unmarried couples who have been in a long-term committed relationship and/or live together, in which case it would be challenging to invite 1 person in a household and not the other (with the exception of children, who don't have to be invited to a wedding, unless you want them, too). In short, be wise and fair with plus ones.
6. CONSIDER HISTORY AND YOUR RELATIONSHIP TODAY
When working with couples who are trying to cut down their guest list, I recommend that they consider their history and current state with those particular guests. Here are some great questions to ask yourself when contemplating if you want to invite a particular guest or not:
- Are we really close or have we grown apart?
- When was the last time I spoke to or saw him/her?
- Has this person ever met my fiancé or know anything about us as a couple?
- Was I invited to his/her wedding?
- Has this person attended or declined the last 3 events I hosted?
Remember this is a big and special day, that realistically can't be shared with every single person you know, so choose your guest list wisely.