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10 Things to Consider While Making Your Guest List

One of the toughest parts of planning is finalizing the guest list! To ease your mind we’ve come up with a few tips for drawing up the final list.

wedding guests group photo beach

wedding guests group photo beach

Photo: Camille Fontanez Photography

After the reality of your engagement begins to sink in, it’s time to get down to the nitty gritty of planning. One of the toughest parts about the process is finalizing the guest list, which can end up being a tricky balancing act of family members and friends. To ease your mind a little we’ve come up with a few things you should think about while drawing up the final list.

To put it simply, more people = more money you have to spend. Caterers and venues typically charge you a certain amount per person. If the caterer gives you a quote of $45 per plate and you plan to invite 200 people, that’s $9,000 spent on their dinner alone. Giving out favors or providing transportation for a large number of friends and family members can also add to your total cost. It’s important to be wary of these numbers when putting your list together.

Are you tying the knot close to home or somewhere in the tropics? Having a destination wedding may call for a lower headcount since a good deal of traveling is likely involved. If you have a large family and lots of friends, a remote location may not be conducive to that kind of wedding. Long guest lists work best close to home so that more people are able to attend.

One of the first pieces of info you should know about a venue is what their capacity is. If you want to invite around 200 people, but the space you want has a limit of 150 people, we recommend you look elsewhere. If you’re having a wedding at a private residence, you’ll likely have more flexibility in terms of how many people you can invite, but be sure to think about what types of tables are best for your guest count. Round tables won’t fit as many people as banquet tables, so take that into account when making your seating chart.

When you and your fiancé(e) picture your wedding celebration, do you see tons of people on the dance floor or a few dozen of you gathered around a single table? A big hooplah isn’t for everyone, and it’s perfectly fine if you prefer to host something a little more private. Having an intimate ceremony and reception makes it easier to cut down your guest list to just the closest people in your life. If a big celebration is something you two have always wanted, then we say the more the merrier! It’s a simple matter of which style you prefer.

The issue of plus-ones is always tricky. We recommend establishing some kind of rule of thumb that makes sense for you two and upholding it for every guest. For example, you could say guests only get a plus-one if they’ve been with their partner for at least six months. If you’re trying to cut corners, you could restrict plus-ones to just the wedding party. Whatever it is you decide, make sure you treat all guests equally.

If you’re thinking about inviting kids, consider what that would entail. Would you offer them a separate menu? Would you provide them with extra entertainment or would you hire someone to keep them under control? If you don’t want to deal with the extra leg work of having children at your wedding it’s perfectly acceptable to declare it an adults-only affair. You can offer babysitting services during the ceremony and reception, or you can politely state it’s a kids-free night on the invitation so your guests can find a babysitter in plenty of time.

This can be a sticky situation since you see the people you work with every day, but the protocol for co-workers is if you’re friends with them beyond office walls or if you work in a relatively small office, invite them. Otherwise, you have no obligation to do so, even if they throw you a wedding shower at work.

Family situation
Think about both of your family situations. Do you have a million cousins you never see while your S.O. has a great relationship with all seven of their aunts? If you have a large extended family discuss with your partner if it’s really necessary to invite every single one of them. If you only see your second cousin Greg every other year for Thanksgiving, you may feel like it’s better to invite a close friend instead. Every situation is different and you should handle it how you and your S.O. see fit.

Don’t over
  • or under-invite
  • The rule of thumb is this: if you invite them, assume they will come. Sure, a few guests may not be able to attend for various reasons, but you should never plan on that being the case. Don’t send out an invitation with the thought that “they probably won’t be able to make it anyway.” You’ll be surprised how many people really make the effort to come. If you invite 30 guests more than the venue’s capacity limit and all 30 of those people show up, then you’ve got a problem on your hands. The same goes for the other side. Don’t scale your guest list back so much that you end up with half-empty reception tables. Agree on a number that makes sense and stay true to it.

    Work together
    Creating a guest list really is a team effort. Make sure you’re not getting too caught up in the politics of who to invite and that you’re thinking in terms of who matters most to you both. If you chose not to invite certain people you have to hope that they will understand. At the end of the day, this is about you and your significant other making a commitment to one another, everything else is just background noise.