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How to create and manage a wedding guest list. One of the most challenging and emotional tasks of planning your wedding, is figuring out your guest list.

And, even if you did have an unlimited budget and can afford inviting everyone and their pet to your wedding, do you really want to do that?

Besides, you probably want to surround yourself with loved ones who will be there on your big day to witness your marriage.

But where to start?

It’s not as easy as taking all your phone contacts and inviting them, or going through your Facebook friends or Gmail contacts. And then there’s the factor of who your parents get to invite, and so on... 

So, we have created this informative post to answer all your wedding guest list questions, plus help you to set one up!

One of the most challenging and emotional tasks of planning your wedding, is figuring out your guest list.

And, even if you did have an unlimited budget and can afford inviting everyone and their pet to your wedding, do you really want to do that?

Besides, you probably want to surround yourself with loved ones who will be there on your big day to witness your marriage.

But where to start?

It’s not as easy as taking all your phone contacts and inviting them, or going through your Facebook friends or Gmail contacts. And then there’s the factor of who your parents get to invite, and so on… 

So, we have created this informative post to answer all your wedding guest list questions, plus help you to set one up!

How to make a wedding guest list

5 Steps to create a wedding guest list

  1. Determine your budget and research some costs

As with most wedding planning steps, the budget is key. Your wedding guests is where most of your wedding budget will go. You need to feed them, pay for their chair and table seating, invitations, wedding favors, etc. The list goes on.

And as things are getting pricier each year, you should know what the basic costs per person is, on average. What is deemed as affordable, and what does a luxury venue charge per person?

Once you are clued up on per-person-costs, what type of venue you can get for that per-person price, etc., you can start making informed decisions and start working in your wedding budget.

After all, your wedding budget will determine what you can afford, and when and where you should cut costs.

  1. Choose a ballpark figure which you can tweak later on

If you already have an idea of the kind of wedding you want, you can easily decide on a set number of guests. 

If you decide to have a tiny wedding, you obviously don’t want more than 50 guests at the most. Go a bit bigger, and your number can be anywhere from 50-80 guests…

On average, weddings are normally between 100-150 guests, and anything above that will be seen as a large wedding.

Anyways, having a figure will help you to get the necessary quotes for your wedding, and help you to compare your wedding suppliers and choose which prices and services fit right in your budget.

  1. Gather lists from parents and keep them on hand

When choosing wedding guests, it’s not just about who you, as a couple, would like to invite. Normally, the parents of both the bride and groom also have a say on who they would like to invite.

And even more so if the bride’s parents are paying for the wedding. Then, traditionally, they would get first pick on who gets invited. 

However, there are other ways to include wedding guests that’ll make everyone happy. See number 5.

  1. Research your wedding venue + size

If you already have a wedding venue and it’s pretty much booked and all set for the big day, then you have a clear figure or capacity number to work with when building your list.

However, if you’re still trying to find the perfect wedding venue, then you need to take into account how many people they can host (capacity), the cost per person (this is normally an all inclusive price), accommodation costs if applicable, and also the season in which your wedding will take place at the venue (this will affect costs).

Also take note of any extras you will need at the venue, and which additional services they provide as well, such as a DJ, or in-house photographer, perhaps.

  1. Create the list, revise and edit

Finally, your budget is set, you have an idea of what things cost, how many guests your ideal wedding venue can cater for, and hopefully you have also received lists from your parents, if applicable.

Now you can start creating the list, and edit as you go along. We use Google Sheets for this step, as it is easily shareable to those who need to access it, regularly updates as you type and edit, and, very important: backed up in your Gmail account/Drive. Plus it can be accessed from anywhere, which is handy when you’re meeting a supplier and quickly need to whip out the list.

Read on to see what info you should include in your wedding guest list.

Also Read:

8 Tips for making your wedding guest list

  1. Always keep your budget in mind, and in hand! Your wedding budget is your friend, we promise. And when working with guest counts and stuff for your wedding guests (favors, invites, etc.), it can all add up drastically.
  1. If you are stuck on the whole “children at my wedding” factor, then think about who you really want present on your big day. Also, yes, children are loud and excited and will probably also run around on the dance floor. But children also bring joy.

Children will also cost money when looking at it from a budget perspective, however, most venues are accommodating towards children, and will likely make their meals more affordable.

And finally, consider having a kids table and play area if your budget allows for it. Some venues also have a separate area for kids to watch movies and play games under supervision. 

  1. When considering single wedding guests, you need to decide on giving them a plus one or not. To make this easier, take into account how long they have been dating someone, or if they have recently broken up with someone and started dating the same person again…
  1. Although it’s not talked about much, many couples create an A and B list. The A-list people are the ones who are invited first, and if they RSVP “no” or for some reason cannot attend the wedding anymore, someone from the B-list are then chosen to fill their spot. It sounds harsh, but if you’re on a really tight budget and can only afford a very limited amount of guests, this might be an option.

When sending out invites to your A-list, do it a little in advance (10-12 weeks before the wedding). That way, your B-list guests will still have time to RSVP without wondering why their RSVP date is so close to the wedding day. For your B-list, make send out invites 6-8 weeks before the wedding.

Remember to change the RSVP date for the B-guests to a later date. If you send them RSVPs with a date that have passed already, you might as well go run and tell them that they’re second best!

  1. Create groups for your wedding guests and arrange them by their priority. These groups can make wedding guest list-building easier for you, since one group may be more important to you than another group. The common groups are: Immediate family members, extended family members, good friends, close friends, colleagues and acquaintances.
  1. Remember: your wedding is not a reunion! You don’t have to invite an old school friend from the days of yore, whom you bumped into last week. Rather catch up with them on a coffee date after your wedding.
  1. Set some rules when it comes to inviting people. If you invite everyone who you personally know, have been friends with, invited you to their wedding, or are possibly related to you, then you’ll likely end up with a guest list you simply can’t afford. When you have rules in place, it makes it a little easier. Example: only invite those who you’ve seen or talked to in the last 12 months.
  1. Decide who gets which amount of guests they can invite. Traditionally, the couple gets half the guest list amount, and the parents of the couple each get a quarter. However, you can split the number any way you want. If you split the list 3 ways, everyone’s most likely to be happy.

7 Rules for creating your wedding guest list

Rule #1

When parents pay, they get a say. You’re as free as a bird when you pay for the entire wedding yourselves, and can then invite anyone you want, though many couples still let their parents invite a certain amount of guests they want.

Rule #2

When having a backup guest list (see number 4 above), do not (1) let anyone know that there’s a B-list, which can result in a ton of drama, and (2) set a different RSVP date for the B-list, because the A-list guests will have to RSVP first.

Rule #3

Don’t feel bad if you don’t want children at your wedding. It’s not for everyone, and it’s not a crime to have an adults-only wedding.

Rule #4

We already mentioned that your wedding is not a reunion, or a guilt-trip for that matter. You don’t have to repay the favor of inviting the couple who invited you to their wedding, or the mutual friend who is mutual to everyone at your wedding. Or the inappropriate cousin who is on the list because he is family…

Rule #5

It’s your wedding, so don’t just give in to adding people to your list whom you don’t know, or are uncomfortable with.

Rule #6

Be clear on who the invitation is for, as well as the RSVP card. Guests should just ‘assume’ that their entire family is welcome to attend your wedding, at your cost… Better yet: write guests’ names on the RSVP cards, so that they can’t fill it in themselves. In the case that someone still does it, politely call them and explain that your budget is limited, etc. No exceptions.

Rule #7

Be fair. If you’re going to strike through any names on your parents’ lists, you need to remove one from your own list, too. This will help to avoid the ever-present drama when creating a wedding guest list.

How to begin creating your wedding guest list

Before you begin creating your wedding guest list, there are some final decisions to make. After receiving the initial lists from both parents, there should still be a discussion about:

  • If children are invited or not / is there a minimum age?
  • Who will get a plus one?
  • Are colleagues or work friends invited?
  • Which rules and boundaries will we set when it comes to inviting people we know?

Once you have established these things, you can go ahead and start creating the list. 

This is how we create a wedding guest list:

Step 1: Create a new spreadsheet in Google Sheets

Log in to Google Sheets with your Gmail account, and create a new blank sheet. Rename the spreadsheet to something you’ll remember, like your initials + guest list. Example: F & S Guest List

Step 2: Lay out spreadsheet and add headings

Create your first row of headings for each column. The basic ones we normally add are:

  • A numbers column, to number each entry
  • Name
  • Surname
  • Cell number / contact number
  • Address (if sending out invitations by mail)
  • Email address (if sending out e-invites)
  • Number of guests per household (if inviting entire household)
  • Save-the-date sent (checkbox)
  • Invitation sent (checkbox)
  • Number of guests in household who RSVP’d “yes”
  • Number of guests under 12 years old (or another age, and only if applicable – example: some venues half half price on food for children under a certain age)

Optional things to add, if necessary:

  • Dietary requirements, food allergies etc.
  • Gift received from guest (this is helpful when sending out thank you letters to these guests after the wedding)
  • Thank you letter sent (checkbox)
  • Accommodation booked (if it is your responsibility to book these for certain, or all guests)

Step 3: Add names and other information

Hopefully by now you’ve received both sets of parents’ guest list, plus have a base guest list of your own.

In this step, add all of the names and additional information into your spreadsheet.

Note: Typing errors can be an embarrassment, especially if a guest’s name is spelled wrong, or their email address is wrong and they never received an invitation. If possible, ask your parents and the groom’s parents to create their lists electronically or in Excel, for example, so that it is easier to copy and paste the info, rather than typing it out.

Step 4: Color code

Luckily you have plenty of color options, so now you can label guests according to their info and relationship.

Fill the cells in your spreadsheet with the chosen colors.

Be sure to add a key somewhere to the spreadsheet, so that you know what each color means. For example: blue for your friends, red for family, yellow for friends of your parents, orange for the groom’s family, green for children, etc.

You can also add unique colors to guests with special preferences, such as food allergies or dietary requirements.

Step 5: Create the A-list and B-list (optional)

If this is something you have to do, because your guest list is too big, or you don’t have a massive budget, then the last step is to create your backup guest list.

At the bottom of the spreadsheet you can add another spreadsheet. On a computer, simply right-click and choose “duplicate” from the menu. Rename these tabs to A and B, respectively.

Now, you can move the guests around. Remove the ones from the A-list who are negotiable, or extra guests, if you can afford them. The A-list is purely for the guests who will definitely be invited.

As you work with you guest list, and the RSVP’s start to roll in, you can replace the guests in your A-list who aren’t attending, with guests from the B-list.

Also Read:

13 People to leave off your wedding guest list

You don’t have to invite everyone you know, but sometimes you also need to leave some people off your wedding guest list, simply because of reasons.

Leaving these people off is the fastest way to reduce budget costs, or fit guests into the required venue capacity. 

  1. Work friends, colleagues and your boss

As emotional beings in general, we tend to get personal with people at our workplace. We can’t help it: it’s natural for humans to socialize.

And with that said, you’ve probably considered inviting some of your co-workers, or even your boss, to your wedding…

Don’t. If you are already on a tight budget, or a limited capacity venue, these should be the first people to keep off your list.

Your wedding should be that one event in your life that you want to share with close family and friends.

  1. Unnecessary plus ones, or plus ones you’ve never met

If your brother is playing the field like a pro, he probably would’ve already made plans on who he’s going to take to your wedding.

Keep in mind that this person, the speed-dating plus one, is probably going to be in many of your wedding photos.

  1. Plus ones who have been dating for less than 3 months

Some couples are relatively new. And the same principle goes: the plus one guest might be in many photos…

If the wedding guest is a good friend, imagine them visiting you after a year or so, while dating someone else, and to their horror, see photos of you with them and their former plus-one in it, hanging on your wall. How dreadful.

  1. Neighbors

Yep, the saying still goes: good fences = good neighbors. And it should preferably stay that way.

Also, how many of us actually know our neighbors personally, and became great friends with them?

  1. Friends of friends

Even if the friend is a mutual friend to many guests at your wedding, that doesn’t mean you have to invite them.

  1. Children, or children under a certain age

Having kids at your wedding is a personal decision. But we have found that most couples with no children, prefer to have an adults-only wedding.

You can also opt for the no-kids-under-certain-age policy. To avoid the whole ordeal all together.

Take note, however, most guests who have children will be offended, and likely not come to your wedding.

  1. Distant family, or family you haven’t seen in years

Your wedding shouldn’t be a family reunion. You’d want to spend it with close loved ones and immediate family and friends. It’s a very special day for you and your partner…

  1. Family you’ve never met

This falls in with number 7. If you haven’t met them, don’t invite them.

  1. Friends you haven’t heard from in the last year or two

Few a friendship is the type where you can say “oh we haven’t seen each other in years, but it’s like we saw each other yesterday”…

If you haven’t spoken for a while, chances are, the friendship has died down. Maybe you can meet up with that person at another occasion in the future, but your wedding isn’t that occasion.

  1. People who invited you to their wedding (unless they’re close)

You’re not obligated to invite people to your wedding if they invited you to theirs.

Unless they’re very close and good friends of yours, then by all means, add them to the list.

  1. Rude, obnoxious, unpleasant people

Some people thrive on being a generally negative person, and this could be a red flag for your wedding.

Your wedding is supposed to be a drama-free, positive and love-filled day! Don’t let that one guest spoil it for you, and everyone else. Better yet: don’t invite them at all.

  1. Friends with a bad rep

We probably all have that one friend…

The one who can’t hold their liquor. Or, the one who perversely swears so much, it’s like being on a pirate ship. Or, the one who is known for being an unruly guest at most events.

If you can’t leave them off the list, best to speak to them beforehand, and if possible, appoint a groomsman or two to take care of them if the matter escalates.

  1. People whom you have invited simply to “fill up the list”

Just like having a capacity limit, most venues also have a minimum limit. And if you don’t make the minimum guest count, they might require you to “pay in” per person.

Let’s say your venue has a minimum of 50 guests, but you only have 48. You will still have to pay for 50 guests.

In this case, if the gap between the amount of guests and the minimum venue count isn’t a lot, it may be worth paying the full amount.

But, if it is a huge gap, say minimum 50 and you have 38 guests, it might be better to find a different venue with a lower minimum. This can save you a lot of money per person extra.

Anyways, you don’t want to sit with wedding guests who you didn’t really want to be present on your wedding day.

How can I reduce my wedding guest list?

Luckily, there are plenty of ways to reduce your wedding guest list. You might feel stuck now, but bare with us. These are just some of the ways:

  • Go through the list of people we have mentioned above, and work through those.
  • Create an A and B list. The A-list guests are the non-negotiables, the ones who are definitely invited, no questions asked. This list should be the max number of guests to invite. 

Note: as much as 20% of your A-list wedding guests won’t make it to your wedding. Make sure your B-list can fill that number.

  • Consider the type of group you’re inviting. Are they friends? Family? Parents’ friends?

“If your parents are anything like mine, the rule of thumb is always: family comes first. Then, whatever space is left can be filled with friends. That’s why it’s important to have priority groups in your guest list.”

Also Read:

9 Tips for creating a backup wedding guest list

Maybe you need to create a separate list of the guests you really want to invite, but your budget doesn’t currently allow for it.

That’s where the B-list comes in.

Tip #1:

Your A-list is for the wedding guests who are non-negotiable. Fill this list with the maximum number of guests your budget, and your venue allows.

Tip #2:

Send your A-list guest wedding invitations earlier than usual. This can be up to 3 months before the wedding day. Also make sure that the RSVP date is set early enough so that you can start making adjustments to your list.

Tip #3:

If your B-list guest wedding invites are too close to the wedding date, they will know that you thought of them last. Make sure you send it out early enough so people can still decide to attend. 6-8 Weeks before the wedding.

Tip #4:

Create your B-list early enough, so that you can decide who is on which list. Maybe you forgot about an A-list guest, and only thought of them when creating your B-list.

Tip #5:

Set a different RSVP date for B-list guests. If they get a date that has already passed, they will likely know that they are the “last-minute” guests.

Tip #6:

Prioritize your B-list, so that if a spot opens up on your A-list, you know who you want to add first. 

Tip #7:

Guests on your A-list and B-list shouldn’t know each other too well, or socialize with each other much. This way, it’s harder for them to find out on the wedding day and compare with each other which list they were on. Group guests on both lists in a logical way.

Tip #8:

Make sure you give your wedding guests enough time to RSVP. They obviously need to check their calendars, finances and other arrangements before they can decide to attend your wedding.

Also, you can only start adding B-list guests to the A-list after the A-list’s RSVP date has passed.

  • For A-list guests, send out invites 12 weeks before the wedding, with the RSVP date 6-8 weeks before the wedding.
  • For B-list guests, send out invites 6-8 weeks before the wedding, with an RSVP date 3 week before the wedding. 
  • Most suppliers and the venue will need a final guest count 2 weeks before the wedding.

Tip #9:

Have a deadline for sending out B-list wedding invites. It will be much easier to keep track of who was invited and then, who RSVP’d. Don’t fill in those last spots after the B-list RSVP date, as this will cause guests to become aware of the whole A-list, B-list and laughably, a C-list situation.

What percentage of wedding guests actually attend?

There’s no definite way of proving this number, as each guest list is different. But on average, 20% of your wedding guests may not attend. This doesn’t mean that you should invite 20% more guests than you already have on your list, because in the rare event that every single person shows up, your venue can handle the numbers.

Who should you invite to a wedding?

This is different for everyone. Some parents insist on a family-only event. Others prefer close ones and friends. There are those people, like your best friends, close family members and loved ones, who you definitely want at your wedding. Then there are those who are considered, but it doesn’t make you jump for joy when thinking about having them at your wedding. Carefully go through our list of people who you should not invite, which we mentioned earlier.

Is the wedding party included in the guest list?

Most couples include their wedding party, and themselves as guests on the list. You pay for the food, seating, decor, favors, etc., so why shouldn’t they be included? You will also need to plan out their seating, and decide where each bridal party member will sit. So, as wedding guests, their names will be added to the seating plan, name cards will be made for them, etc. Sure, they have other responsibilities, but they are still guests at your wedding.

Should you invite coworkers to wedding?

Inviting anyone from your workplace is considered a courtesy. And we put it this way, because they will definitely want something to talk about when you’re back at work on the Monday after your honeymoon. Another thing that you should consider, is that inviting coworkers to your wedding are ground for some office politics and unnecessary work drama: “Why was so-and-so invited but not me?” or, possibly some embarrassing moments worth forgetting, which people at work would love to bring up. We mentioned earlier that your wedding is a special event, witnessed by close friends, family and loved ones. So why invite anyone who you’ll likely never see or hear from again when you decide to move jobs two years down the line?

What is the average number of guests at a wedding?

We briefly talked about the number of guests and wedding sizes. On average, a wedding has anywhere from 100-150 guests. The number of wedding guests is highly dependent on many factors, such as the wedding budget, location and season. Guests’ financial situations are different, so there’s that, too.

When should I send my wedding invitations?

For a normal wedding guest list (no backup or B-list), wedding invitations should be sent out 6-8 weeks in advance, with the RSVP date 3 weeks before the wedding date. When you go the A-list and B-list route, your A-list invites should be sent out even earlier, to make up ample time for the B-list RSVP’s. Send out A-list invites 3 months before the wedding, with an RSVP date 6-8 weeks in advance. The B-list invites should then be sent out after the 6-8 week-RSVP date of the A-list, and B-list RSVP date 3 weeks before the wedding.

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