7 Handy Wedding Guest List Tips for the Perfect Event

August 4, 2020

Ever since that glittering engagement ring made its first appearance, you've been hearing wedding bells in your head. It's easy to daydream about that amazing day on the horizon. Getting through the to-do list that brings you to the big day is another matter.

There are plenty of sources of stress while planning your wedding, and they vary from couple to couple. Making the guest list tends to be one of the top contenders for most people, though.

As you build and refine your list, start with these wedding guest list tips.

1. Start With a Max

First things first: before you jot down a single name, you need to know your maximum. What is the top number of total guests you can have at your wedding?

There are a few ways to do this. Your ceremony venue and reception venue will tell you their maximum numbers but don't take them at face value. That maximum number might come from cramming in guests more closely than you'd like.

Start by creating your ideal layout for each venue. Map out space for the bridal party and all the tables that fit comfortably. This will give you your top number.

Don't forget to take your budget into account, though. Think about how much each guest's food and drinks will cause. You might be able to fit 200 people in your venue but your budget might argue that 150 is better.

2. Divvy Up the Guests

Your wedding is a celebration for those who love you, those who love your fiance, and those who love you both. Before you start making a guest list, you need to know how to divide your numbers.

If you're inviting 200 guests, you might decide that you and your fiance can each have 75 guests, plus 50 guests who are mutual friends.

It doesn't always work to divide it evenly, though. If one of you has a far larger family than the other, you might need to skew the percentages.

Regardless of how it ends up, you need to decide on this from the beginning so it doesn't turn into a fight later.

3. Create Tiered Lists

You might not want to tell your guests this, but it's a good idea to categorize your potential invitees.

Start with a list of must-have guests: close friends and family members who you can't imagine excluding. Next, have a second-tier list of people you'd love to have at your wedding if possible. Finally, have a third-tier list for people you'd like to invite if you have space.

Fill your guest list first with those on your must-have list, then fill the rest with your second-tier list. When guests from your initial list start to RSVP that they can't attend, it frees space for guests from the next tier.

4. Know How to Estimate

There's a difference between the number of people you invite and the number of people who come to your wedding. Estimating your attendees will help you plan more accurately.

There's no singular percentage that is reliable, but there are guidelines. For invitees who live in the same city or area as the wedding, estimate that 85% of them will attend. For out-of-town guests, estimate closer to 40%.

Take those percentages with a grain of salt, though. You know your guests better than anyone, so tweak the percentages based on what you expect.


5. Take a Stance on Kids and Significant Others

As you go through your guest list, you'll probably focus on the adults you want to invite. What about the extra guests that may come along with them, though: kids and "plus ones?"

Make your rules about this early in the process. Some couples love seeing kids at their wedding, while many couples today have kid-free weddings. It may depend on how tight your guest list is.

Consider "plus ones" as well. Do you allow every single person you invite to bring a guest? Or will you limit them to those who are in long-term relationships?

Your rules on these topics could double your guest list, so it's important to decide where you stand from the start.


6. Consider the Atmosphere You Want

Your wedding is your wedding; it's a day for you and your fiance to have the celebration of your lives. You deserve to have the atmosphere that you want on your wedding day.

Take that into account when you're creating your guest list. Do you want a fun, lively atmosphere? If so, consider whether you want to skip guests who tend to be negative or who may add stress to your day.

Perhaps you want your religion to be a cornerstone of the wedding day. If so, you may want to focus the guest list on those who share your faith or, for guests who don't, give them a heads-up about what to expect.

7. Choose Your Seating Chart Wisely

Creating your guest list goes hand-in-hand with developing your seating chart. You want a wedding where guests are seated with people they'll enjoy so everyone is comfortable.

The easiest way to get started is to use a templated wedding seating chart you can customize. This way, it's easy to rearrange and adjust the chart as needed.

Group guests based on who gets along best with who, and who might have the most in common. It's a good idea for you to do the chart for your guests and your fiance to do the chart for their guests. After all, you each know your own guests best.

To avoid creating more work for yourself, though, wait until the RSVPs are in before you create your seating chart. Otherwise, you'll be re-working it every week until you know who's coming and who isn't.


Using the Top Wedding Guest List Tips to Your Advantage

Your guest list can be a stressful part of wedding planning. You're worried about excluding anyone but you also have limits and budgets to maintain.

The wedding guest list tips above can help you create a well-proportioned list with everyone you love, all with as little stress and work as possible. To bring that same effortlessness to your other planning tasks, check out more articles on our blog.