How to Create a Wedding Guest List

French's Point
Published March 29th, 2012

Figuring out who to invite to your wedding can be a daunting task, especially if you have family members chiming in. So how do you draft a guest list that feels right for both of you? Here are a few tips:

Do the math: First, figure out how many people you can accommodate in your venue and within your budget. One common way to divvy it up is to split the guest list 50/50, bride and groom, or you can assign 50% of those guests to the bride and groom together and 25% to each set of parents, giving the option of more seats to whichever set of parents might be paying much more for the wedding. Parents should be notified early of their guest allotment because they do tend to get excited and spread the word. Of course, these numbers are flexible depending on the circumstances. If one of you comes from a small family and the other from a large one, the percentages may need to be adjusted.

Work the numbers: You’ll likely get some requests for additional guests, but remember many more guests, say, on your parents’ side means fewer guests get to be invited by you, your partner, and the other set of parents. If someone is adamant about inviting a bunch more people, you may have to tell them kindly that they’ll have to pay for those additional folks. Another way to handle requests like this is to create A and B lists of guests, assuming that about 10-20% of the A list (the priority list) will not attend, you’ll need to pull people from your B list (the alternates). So if you have space for 150 people at your wedding, invite slightly more – say, 180 – assuming 30 or so people will decline. If you receive more than that, you start working down your B list. Remember, the Bs should have a different RSVP than the As, with a later reply date.

Limit the variables: Since this is a math exercise of sorts, you want to make sure you’re in charge of the numbers. I suggest that you put the names of your invited guests on the RSVP. Why? Plenty of responders try to cram a “plus one” into the RSVP and if you haven’t planned for two people than that can be a real nightmare. So have your calligrapher write the name on the reply with space alongside to indicate whether or not that particular person will attend.

Use technology: You’ll likely have a truckload of names, phone numbers, and addresses that you’ll need to work with as you create, refine, and confirm your attendance list. I recommend creating a spreadsheet in Excel early and saving it online (in the cloud, as they say) so that you can access it anywhere. A number of websites have guest list managers, including The Knot and Brides magazine.

Simplify the equation: Whom to whittle? Some of the low-hanging fruit include children, friends or relatives you haven’t spoken within a year, the casual partners of invitees (generally anyone they’ve been with less than one year, or do not live with), and, of course, strangers (or relative strangers) that a family member requested be invited.