One of your first wedding planning tasks is to make your guest list. If you’re anything like me though, I didn’t even know where to start. I had so many questions. Like, do I really need to invite my great aunt twice removed and all six of her kids? What about my bestie from grade school that I haven’t talked to in 5 years? The rules aren’t clear and I didn’t know how important my guest count would be to the planning process. So I’m diving into my suggestions for who and how many guests to invite.
Who to invite?
Here are a few guidelines to get your started making your guest list. These are not steadfast rules. Everyone is different and wants different things for their wedding. You are free to make exceptions or disregard completely any of these that don’t fit your situation and preferences.
STEP #1 – Start with VIPs
Putting your immediate family and closest friends on the list is obviously a MUST! It’s easy to forget to add your wedding party to the guest count so even though they are for sure invited add them in accordingly.
STEP #2 – Make a decision about extended family & kids
The general rule of thumb is if you invite one cousin you have to invite all of the cousins, if you invite one uncle you have to invite all of your aunts and uncles, you get the point. The nice thing about this rule is that if you don’t want to invite any of your second cousins you don’t have to as long as everyone in that category is getting the same treatment. Another good criteria could be whether or not both you and your fiancé have met the family member. If one of you haven’t met the person then they aren’t invited.
Some people are really opinionated about whether or not kids should be invited to their wedding. From my experience kids do drastically change the feel of an event. If you want your wedding to be a raging party or a refined event, then kids probably shouldn’t be invited. If you are NOT inviting kids then you should make that very clear on your invitations.
STEP #4 – Add friends and plus one’s to your guest list
When adding your friends to the list think about whether of not you be invited and excited to go to their wedding . If the answer is YES, then they should be on your guest list. The traditional rule for plus ones is, “no ring, no bring” but obviously if your bestie has had a boyfriend for three years and you basically lived with them at one point she might qualify for a plus one. These are all generally done on a case-by-case basis.
STEP #5 – Review your guest list with your family
Everyone is going to have an opinion of your guest list. Have an open conversation with your family about who is invited. As we’ll talk about next, budget should be a part of this conversation too. It can get tricky when you aren’t paying for your own wedding. Parents that are paying should have a degree of input in the guest list, but should respect your general wishes for the size of the event.
More Guest List Thoughts
Determining your guest list isn’t just about WHO to invite. It is also important to consider HOW MANY people to invite. An intimate event with 50 guests feels very different from a large 300 person celebration. Your guest count dictates many of your other wedding decisions. First and foremost, your budget can determines your guest count. The average cost per wedding guest in Kentucky is $124 (visit here to see the average for your state). Use this estimate to determine your guest list limit. Note that some people will spend more or less than $124 per guest, but this is a good estimate. With an estimated guest count you can quickly decide if a venue, caterer, baker and florist is a good fit for you.
Guest Count Tips
- As a general rule of thumb, approximately 80% of the guests that receive an invitation will actually attend. This number may be lower if your guests have to travel a long distance to your venue. This percentage may be higher if you or your fiancé are a part of a tight-knit group like a fraternity, sorority or first-responder unit.
- Leave wiggle room in your guest count so that last minute additions can be made if necessary. The last thing you want to do is exceed the capacity of your venue. Venues have a maximum guest count that they legally cannot exceed.
- If you’re struggling with inviting too many people, Lauren Chitwood of Louisville, Kentucky says, “If you wouldn’t invite them to dinner in a year, don’t invite them to your wedding”. Plus, your wedding day is a BIG day, you won’t have time to catch up with those you haven’t seen or talked to in years.
- Manage your guest list on an Excel spreadsheet, Google Sheet or in Aisle Planner. Each of these options give you a place to collect addresses, track RSVP’s and monitor your guest list total.
Guest list decisions can be challenging, and you do run the risk of making some people upset, but guess what? It’s not their wedding day, it’s yours and you and your partner are the only two people who matter on this day so invite who you want!so we’ve made a list of basic guidelines to follow when looking for that magic number.
Once you have an estimated guest count, you’re ready to start venue shopping. Check out the following posts to get started:
- 8 Questions to Answer Before You Start Wedding Venue Shopping
- 10 Details to Know About A Wedding Venue Before You Tour
- 5 Tips for Making the Most of Your Wedding Venue Tour
*Feature image by Kelli Lynn Photography!