Congratulations on your engagement! No doubt, this is one of the most exciting times of your life, full of dreams for your future together and fond memories of your early days as a couple. But at the same time, there’s so much to do!
Making a guest list is just a single item on the list, but it’s one of the most important and sometimes one of the most sensitive. Don’t let it stress you out – this should be fun! Here are some tips to help get you started.
Creating Your Guest List
Start with the least fun part of wedding planning: your budget. How much do you have to spend, and how many people can the venue accommodate? Once you know that, you can move on to the more sensitive issue of who gets to invite how many people.
“How do we divide up the total?”
You’ll see different arguments out there for how to go about this. The Knot says that the traditional strategy is to decide on how many guests you can accommodate, take half for yourself, and Hubby, then give each set of parents half of the remaining number.
Martha Stewart says that’s one option, but it’s particularly well-suited for weddings where the couple is paying, or both sets of parents are sharing the expenses. If your parents are footing the whole bill, Martha etiquette says they should have more sway over the guest list.
If you can, talk it over with everyone involved. Maybe you have a small family, but your future Hubby has a boatload of cousins. If your folks are okay with it, it might be helpful to hand over some of your side’s guests to his side. It’s an excellent way to build goodwill for the future too.
“Who should I add to my wedding guest list?”
When you know how many people you and the fiancé can invite, start by making the big-picture decisions. Will kids be welcome, or will this be an adults-only wedding? Do you have any categories – coworkers, second cousins, and so forth – where if you invite a few, you have to ask them all?
Then comes the fun part – brainstorming. List everyone you want to have at your wedding, broken down into categories if that helps. Once you have everyone listed, identify your A-list invites like immediate family, close extended family, besties, your sorority sisters, and his fraternity brothers (if he has them). Look at your numbers and add or subtract as necessary.
“Who should get a plus-one?”
Deciding who gets a plus-one can be problematic – and awkward – call to make.
Generally, the following people should get plus-one invites:
- Married or engaged guests
- Guests who are living with someone or in a serious relationship. (If you think of the two of them as a package deal, that’s a plus-one situation.)
- Members of your wedding party
- Someone you want at your wedding won’t know anyone else.
Don’t feel like you have to offer someone a plus-one for reasons of social obligation, including “All my other sorority sisters are in relationships.” The more exceptions you make, the more complicated every other decision will get.
Pro tip: Put the plus-one’s name on the invitation, even if you have to do some detective work to find out what it is. It’s more personal, and it prevents the awkward moment when your best friend thinks you don’t know her fiancé’s name.
“How do I keep track of it all?”
The more people you add to your guest list, the harder it can be to keep track of everyone. A guest list template can be a big help.
There are lots of downloadable templates online. Some, like The Knot’s Wedding Guest List Manager, are multi-functional and let you do things like categorize guests, track RSVPs, and even prepare thank-you notes.
If you don’t need or want that many moving parts, there are downloadable spreadsheet templates from places like Style Me Pretty and Document
Wedding Planning and the Guest List: A Final Word
The most important thing is that you and Future Hubby have a fun day with the people you love most in the world. If you think Great-Aunt Thelma’s heart will be broken if she’s not there, invite her, even if she’s the only “great” that comes. If your coworkers won’t stop talking about your wedding, but you can’t invite all of them, have another party a few weeks after the wedding where you can ask more people.
Remember, this is your special day!