What’s the most difficult part of planning your wedding? For some couples, the answer will be: making the wedding guest list. A seemingly easy task can quickly become complicated, as brides and grooms must weigh cherished relationships against real world factors like cost and capacity.
Planning a wedding guest list the right way can help set a good vibe for the entirety of your wedding planning experience. For that reason, we’ve compiled the comprehensive guide to making your wedding guest list.
Crafting Your Guest List
Once you decide on a general budget and venue, you’ll have a pretty good idea of how many guests you’ll be able to have at the event. The average wedding will have about 140 guests, which is a fairly typical number if you send out about 190 invites. So how do you decide who to put on the list?
Be fair - or be very, very sure everyone is on the same page. You may technically have more family than your spouse, but don’t create unnecessary strife by assuming that means you’re entitled to more invites. Have a candid conversation with everyone involved, including both sets of parents if they are contributing to the wedding, when it comes to how many invites each person can decide on.
As soon as people start trying to tally an appropriate headcount, they quickly start to wonder: who will actually come? According to RSVPify, users experience 83% acceptance and 17% declines on average. This is just an average, of course; very intimate weddings may experience closer to 100% acceptance rates, while destination weddings in sunny Florida should anticipate a higher rate of declines.
Etiquette: What Would Miss Manners Say?
Don’t use your wedding list as a way to “even the score” with close family and friends. If you absolutely believe that someone’s presence would be poisonous, take them off the list, but don’t debate uninviting people for petty reasons. The wedding will quickly become about past squabbles, rather than about celebrating you as a couple.
If you are trying to keep things small, you don’t need to extend a “plus one” to all your single friends. Keep in mind, though, that in many cases this can help guests feel more comfortable with attending.
Organizing Your Guest List
At first, it may be tempting to simply write down every name on a sheet of paper. This will, however, quickly become a giant mess of cross-outs and add-ins. There are numerous tools for managing guest lists, ranging from programs you already know, such as Excel, to websites created for this purpose, such as The Knot’s Wedding Guest List Manager.
This is also an ideal place to record RSVPs, meal options, and guest addresses as you continue on through the planning process.
Once you have a list of potential names, how do you pare it down? Many opt to create several lists of guests, such as: A) essential guests: best friends, close family B) additional family, friends, colleagues. If you decide to have a B list that you will invite based on the declines you receive, make sure you send out your first round of invites early on.
Sending Out the Invites
After the worst part is over and you’ve decided on who, exactly, to invite, it’s time to send out your invitations. Most couples will send out save-the-date cards 6-8 months ahead of time, with actual invitations coming about 6-8 weeks before the wedding date.
Address each letter individually with the guest’s name so that there is no confusion over who is invited (especially in the case of plus-ones you don’t have room for). And yes, it’s still considered tacky by most to make note of your registry on the card itself. Luckily, most weddings today have an associated website - feel free to note the URL on your card, and keep the more extensive information about menus, venues, and registries on the website.