For many couples, agreeing their guest list is a really tough job with a number of factors to consider.  Everyone seems to have an opinion about who should be on the list and they’re not afraid to voice their opinion.

Added to that in recent months, couples have needed multiple lists as the maximum number of guests has changed frequently.  Hopefully very soon, this will be a thing of the past.  But this article should give you the guiding principles of putting your guest list together no matter what circumstances you’re doing it in.

So let’s try to break this down….Creating Your Guest List


Before you even start the guest list:

First things first – be clear about your venue size & capacity and your budget.  Your venue will have a limit on the number of guests it can hold, so that’s a key factor in shaping your list.

Add your budget constraints to this and you’ll get to a maximum number you could invite.

Now you don’t have to go up to this number but it’s good to know what your maximum is before you get started.


Making the draft guest list:

Start by making 2 lists

  1. The absolute ‘must be there’ people
  2. The ‘we would like to invite’ people

So list 1 is immediate family, bridesmaids, best man etc.  It’s important that you both agree that these are ‘must be there’ people.  If there’s any doubt move them to ‘would like to invite’ list for now.

Once you’re happy with list 1, you can start to review the names on list 2.

If you’re really lucky both lists combined will fit within your maximum numbers and everyone is happy – time for a glass of wine!

However, chances are you’ll need a few goes at it.

Wedding Guests Lining The Church Path with Umbrellas I


Other points to consider:

Here are a few other things to think about.

  • Family Politics – Speak to your parents to establish if there are family members who you need to include to avoid a serious family feud. Family politics is a minefield so get their input early on to avoid having to find a way to fit your long lost Auntie Ethel onto the list later on
  • Children – are you inviting them? If you’re not, you need to be consistent with this decision as you’ll upset people if some children are invited but not others (more info here on this)
  • Behaviours (Drunks/Fighters) – come on, we all know someone who is lovely when they’re sober but one too many to drink and they become a totally different person. Do you want/need them there all day?  Or could you just invite them to the evening?
  • Who’s Paying? – if your parents are paying for your wedding (or are making a major contribution) they might insist on you inviting some of their friends so again have the conversation about this early on
  • Pressure – you’re likely to have some friends and/or work colleagues who will assume they are invited to the whole day. Don’t give them any reason to think this is the case until you’re happy with your list.  Also, think carefully about work colleagues – are they ‘just’ colleagues or are they friends outside of work too.  Will you look back on your photos in 10 years and barely remember them?


Bride Hugging Guest at St Wilfrid's Church Burnsall I


What next:

So hopefully now you’ve been able to come up with a fairly decent draft of your combined guest list.

Now it’s time to refine it, maybe with some input from your family, so you can get to a final list you are both happy with.

Remember, you may have to compromise on the list so be clear if there are people you are not willing to compromise about – whether that be for including or excluding them.

If you have time, sleep on it for a while before getting those invites in the post.  You may have missed someone or change your mind so it’s a good idea to have a breather.


The invites:

When you do send the invites, make it really clear who is invited.  Include specific names on the invite, the envelope and the RSVP card.

If you have decided not to invite children, it’s worth adding a note about this.  People often assume their children are invited even if they’re not named on the invite.

If your wedding is more than a year away, it’s good practice to send a ‘Save the Date’ card to your day guests.  This gets the date in their diary before you have finalised the timings & details of your day and allows them to book time off work, think about travel plans etc.

Top Tip – Don’t send save the date cards to evening guests.  

If you send these to your evening guests, they could easily assume they’re invited to the whole day.  This can obviously cause friction and embarrassment when they don’t get an invite to the full day later on.

You could send a ‘Save the Evening’ card if you feel this is necessary and worth the extra expense.


Next steps:

Make sure you have a clear list of who you’re invited (preferably on a spreadsheet) so you can track their RSVPs.

You may have a ‘standby’ list of guests who you will invite if someone can’t make it.  These people should really be people you wanted on the list in the first place but didn’t have space.  Try to give them as much notice as possible if this happens.

I hope this helps you to find your way through the guest list challenge.  As ever, please get in touch if you want some personal support with your planning.