How to Plan the Wedding Guest List

How to Plan the Wedding Guest List

How to Plan the Wedding Guest List

This can be one of the most enjoyable times of your life as you announce your intentions to family and friends and make all the plans for your big day. The two of you will be the center of attention because, after all, who doesn’t love a romance?

Once the excitement from getting engaged begins to fade, it’s time to start working on the wedding guest list. You have quite a bit to consider, from the number of guests to invite to how you’ll divide the invitations among the bride and her family, and the groom and his family. If you’re not careful, you may find yourself in the midst of your first in-law battle, and it can go downhill quickly from there. Nip problems in the bud before they get out of control.


For many couples, the main determining factor in the size of the guest lists is the budget. Once you know how much you have to spend on the reception, you’ll be able to do the math and come up with a number you can comfortably afford to invite.

Some wedding experts claim that you can expect about 10 percent of the people you invite to not show up, but that’s not a hard and fast number. Include an RSVP but know that not everyone will reply. Only invite the number you can afford, and if they don’t all show up, that will be money you can spend on the honeymoon or maybe even a down payment on a house.

Cost considerations:

  • Food and beverages: If you want more people, you may want to consider serving hors d’oeuvres instead of having an expensive formal sit-down meal.
  • Entertainment: Some forms of entertainment may charge per person, while others charge by the hour.
  • Favors for the reception: You may choose to have favors for each person or something for the entire family to enjoy.
  • Venue: The larger the group, the bigger the space you’ll need.

Family and Friends

How will you divide the invitations? Will the bride and groom have equal numbers of invitations? Will you want to invite immediate family only, or will you want to include extended family, including third cousins twice removed? Are you planning to invite everyone you know from the office? These are all questions you’ll need to answer before you think about having your invitations printed.

If the mothers and fathers of the bride and groom want to get involved, it’s probably best to let them, especially if the parents are helping to pay for the wedding. However, you might need to hang around to referee if either of them wants to hog all the invitations. Start with a total number of people, decide who must be invited (siblings, best friends, aunts, uncles, and first cousins) and work your way down to the rest of the people you would like to invite.

Be cautious about inviting coworkers. Remember that if you invite half the people from the office and the others find out, you may come back to some hurt feelings that can make your workdays very uncomfortable. If you decide to invite more than one or two people in your department, consider sending invitations to all of them. Another option is to have a separate celebration with all your coworkers after you return from the honeymoon.

Plus One

You should be very clear in your invitation regarding the acceptability of additional guests. For example, if one of the people you want to attend is in a long-term relationship, you probably want to include both names on the invitation.

If your budget allows, you may allow your single guests to bring a date. You can even include that in a note with the invitation. If not, be very clear that the invitation is only for the person named on the invitation.


Before you send invitations, decide whether or not you want children to attend your wedding. Since you’ll have to count everyone in attendance at the venue, remember that children will likely cost as much as an adult. If you or your future spouse have children, you will probably want to include them, and many couples feel that it is important for children to join in the celebrations. If you do include children, make them feel welcome; however, keep in mind that if you are having a formal wedding, younger kids may become bored and not have a good time.

Friends of Parents

Some brides and grooms are faced with family obligations—perhaps the bride’s father has a business partner who would be hurt if he or she wasn’t invited, or the groom’s mother has a client who invited her to the wedding of one of her children and she feels pressure to reciprocate. If the budget allows, by all means, invite friends of the parents. Goodwill is part of life, and this is a good exercise in showing your parents appreciation, particularly if they are helping to pay for your wedding.

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