The Guest List Guide

By Becca George

You have the person, the ring and have almost narrowed it down to the place. It’s all smooth wedding planning sailing from here, right?  Well, the guest list can be the next big hurdle and one of the hardest parts of wedding planning.

It is not a bad idea to start the guest list process before you have chosen a venue so that you are looking for venues that can comfortably accommodate the number of guests you are expecting.  If you already have a venue and haven’t begun your list, make sure the venue you have booked will hold the number of guests you are estimating.  If it seems too small you may have to make some cuts from the list.

Where do you begin when it comes to making out the guest list? First start with a wish list of everyone you would invite if you could. Also, get a similar list from both sets of parents. Think about the people you are adding in terms of your relationship with them. For example, close; such as acquaintances, work friends and workout partners, closer; the people you hang out with on a regular basis or extended family that you may not keep in touch with, and closest; people that you can’t imagine celebrating your wedding day without.

Now, take a look at this list, how many people are on it?  100, 500?  As you look at the list ask yourself how often you see the people who made it? Many people who make the list might not be as close to you in life as they once were and might be able to be removed.  Every family member will have an opinion here on who you should invite to the wedding, coworkers, babysitters, or cousins twice remove. Remember that some of these people may fall on their closest list and should make the cut but others may not and can easily be removed from the list.    

Keep in mind that 60-75 percent of the people you invite will attend so that is the number you should be basing all of your estimates on.  Also, the number of guests you have will be directly related to your budget.  It is as if you are taking everyone on your guest list out to a nice dinner but at this dinner you are paying for the tables, chairs, flatware and glassware they are using.
What type of environments do you flourish the most in?  Large groups with a lot of people to bounce back and forth from or small intimate gatherings with your closest family and friends? Something in between? The setting you feel the most comfortable in could play a huge part in how many guests you want to have at your wedding. Once you get to the reception everyone in attendance will want to speak to you personally.  These conversations span the evening, cocktail hour, dinner and dancing.  Do you have the energy to have a conversation with three hundred guests? If the answer is yes, then have a big wedding! If that makes you cringe then maybe scale down a bit.

Once you have this list together, if it is too large it is time to start culling.  Remember, unless your venue and budget are unlimited, you just won’t be able to invite everyone. Look at that close list first and start removing from there, take off that first grade teacher, the girl you stand beside at Zumba and the barista at your favorite coffee shop.

When going through this process keep in mind that others involved may feel very strongly about who stays on the list. Your good friends should take precedence over a parent’s work acquaintance but also be willing to bend and allow them to keep their closest circle on the list. Keep an open conversation going with your families, especially if they are contributing to the wedding. This is a very important day to all of you and you will want those people that mean the most to you there to celebrate.

What do you do if you just can’t seem to cut anyone from the list?  If keeping everyone is important to you, you may consider raising your budget to allow for the number of guests you are expecting, as long as the venue will hold them.  You might also want to consider cutting some things from your budget to make room for all the guests on the list.  

Another option to consider might be an A and a B list of guests to invite. Having two lists might help take a bit of the pressure off you and help you feel as if you are not leaving people out.  If you do this, you will not want B list guests to know they were on that list but instead want them to feel like they were all carefully chosen.  This means making sure those B list guests don’t get their wedding invitation a week before the wedding.

How do you do this? You will want to send the first round of invitations out early.  When sending one list of invitations, we recommend mailing them eight weeks before the wedding with and RSVP cut off of four weeks before the wedding. When doing two lists, you may want to consider mailing the first round ten to eleven weeks out and set the RSVP date at seven weeks before the wedding.  Once the RSVP date passes take a few days to follow up with those guests who didn’t respond. If you have room for more guests start with the top of your B list and send invitations out to them.  Make sure to get all the invitations out no later than six weeks before the wedding with an RSVP date no later than three to four weeks prior to the wedding. However, when doing this, make sure you put a different RSVP date on the B list invites so they don’t receive them after the RSVP date. Also, you should consider which guests know each other closely but may end up on different lists. You don’t want to hurt any feelings if one gets invited early.

Choosing who to celebrate with can be hard, but remember that the most important thing is to have those you truly love the most there with you. This will be one of the most exciting and memorable days of your life and you want those you love the most to be able to share it with you.