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A Stress-Free Guide to Creating a Wedding Guest List

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Photography: Lauren Fair Photography

In the age of intimate weddings, the guest list has become more important than ever. After all, every guest counts, especially when you have limited space. But even if you're throwing a grand celebration with thousands of guests, it will be hard to choose the right venue without knowing how many people you will invite.

Weddings come in so many different styles and sizes these days, it can be hard to make a decision on which one is best for you. There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to your big day, as long as you think of every aspect carefully. First things first, go through the list below to determine the number of guests you should invite.


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Photography: iStock


What to consider when deciding on the number of wedding guests

Wedding venue

Which comes first, your guest list or venue? The answer depends entirely on you and your partner. If you must invite a certain number of guests, then find a suitable venue that will accommodate them comfortably. On the other hand, if you simply can't imagine getting married anywhere other than your dream wedding venue, adapt your guest list accordingly.

Reception style

When talking to the representative from your venue, ask about the capacity for both standing and sit-down events. A venue that only accommodates 150 guests for a seated dinner, for example, can hold more than twice the guests for a standing banquet. This way, you might be able to use your ideal venue without sacrificing too many guests.

Wedding atmosphere

Another thing to consider is the level of formality or vibe you're aiming for, whether it's a black-tie affair or a laid-back, casual celebration. For a formal wedding, you can go with either a small or large guest list. However, it will be harder to maintain a relaxed atmosphere with more than a few hundred guests.

Budget per guest

Your wedding budget will determine how much you can spend for every guest, which leads to the number of people you can invite. Remember that adding one guest requires more money, especially for a seated dinner. Intimate weddings aren't always cheaper than bigger ones, so calculate everything carefully and compare the costs.

Who foots the bill

This determines who is allowed to have a say regarding the guest list. Whether you, your partner, or your parents will be the major stakeholder, always maintain the art of negotiation. Stay respectful of each other's opinions, and keep in mind that your parents may have been looking forward to celebrate your union with their loved ones as well.

Now that you've at least formed an idea of how many guests can be invited, it's time to do the hard work and actually write down all the names. Make sure that you, your partner, your parents, and anyone else who has a say regarding the guest list will follow every step below.


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Photography: iStock

How to create your wedding guest list

1. Write down all your guests and group them together

Start by asking your partner and parents to jot down each and every person that should be invited to the wedding, from your cousins and childhood friends to the coworkers you sit next to every day, Once you're done, divide the names into the following groups.

Family

Aside from your parents and siblings, you will probably invite your aunts, uncles, and cousins to the wedding. Depending on your family dynamics and the scale of your wedding, expand your list to include extended family members as well. If you're unsure about which distant family members to invite, consult your parents.

Friends

This group consists of every friend that you want to invite, including your bridesmaids, the best friend you meet every week, and even childhood friends that you can't wait to catch up with. Don't worry too much about inviting too many friends for now. Simply write everyone down and sort them by priority afterwards.

Coworkers

These include your colleagues at work, clients-turned-friends, and anyone who is significant in your professional life. If you can only invite a few people from the office, ask them to keep things discreet. When you can't invite anyone from work, however, it's best to be honest. Explain how limited your wedding capacity is and consider having a smaller celebration after the big day.

Other social groups

These are the people from your sports club, religious institution, charity, or any other organization that you and your partner are actively involved in. Just like your coworkers, these friends and acquaintances should be handled with care. If you invite only a few of them, the others might feel left out.


2. Categorize each guest based on priority

Once you've written down all your potential guests, start dividing them into three different categories: must-invite, likely to be invited, and least likely to be invited. To make things simpler, use alphabets or numbers. For example, your best friend will be categorized in the first priority, while a college friend you only meet once a year can be in the second priority.

Keep things efficient by sorting out the priorities while grouping your guests. Below, we've prepared some handy guest list cards to help you to get started. Print and hand them out to your partner and parents, then count the number of filled cards to determine the number of guests you will invite.


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3. Consider additional guests

Significant others

When you invite a married guest, their partner will be automatically invited as well. Take note of this when calculating the total number of guests. It's always a good gesture to allow plus-ones for your single guests, but do this only if you have enough space. If you don't, make sure to communicate this clearly to avoid misunderstandings.

Children

Depending on the type and venue of your celebration, you might opt for an adult-only wedding without inviting any children. Alternatively, you can set a minimum age limit to prevent young children crying or running around during the ceremony. Keep things fair by not inviting your underage nieces or cousins as well. Also, state things clearly on the invitation or better yet, give your guests a call and ask for their understanding.

Unexpected guests

Like it or not, having an uninvited guest, such as a plus-one that a friend forgot to tell you about, is a wedding-day mishap that might actually happen. Make sure to discuss this possibility and the solution with your wedding planner, especially for a seated reception. Prepare a few empty seats and tableware, along with extra space just to be safe.


4. Finalize your guest list

After categorizing and prioritizing your guests, you'll have an approximate number of guests to invite. Compare this number with your venue capacity and budget to see if everything fits together. If it does, simply double-check the list and go on with your wedding planning. If not, you need to start cutting down your guest list.

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Photography: Aneta Mak


Dos and don'ts of cutting down your guest list

Simplifying your guest list is easier said than done. When it comes to two different people who are similarly important to you, how can you decide who to invite over the other? To help you make the right decision, go through our tips below.

1. Do reconsider your extended family and coworkers

This is the fastest way to cut down your number of guests. Reconsider the people you had second thoughts about, and start crossing their names out. If you're unsure about extended family members or business acquaintances, consult your fiancé and family.

2. Don't allow all your single guests to bring plus-ones

If you don't have enough space, be clear about not allowing plus-ones for your unmarried friends. Things can get tricky, however, if your friends have been dating for years and you also know their partners personally. When this happens, be prepared to make exceptions and ask for your other single friends for their understanding.

3. Do be honest to someone who is not invited

It's always possible for someone to bluntly ask you why they weren't invited, simply because they know someone who was. Instead of pretending that you forgot to invite them, state an honest reason such as having limited space, especially when you're throwing an intimate wedding.

4. Don't let other people guilt you

We understand that you don't want people to feel upset because they weren't invited or couldn't bring a plus-one. But, this is your wedding after all; shouldn't it be attended by those that you truly know and care about?

5. Do make your own rules and follow them

Create a simple guideline to filter your guest list, like a one-year or even three-year test. Ask yourself or your fiancé, when was the last time you met or talked to this person? If you've written down a few names purely based on guilt, consider crossing them off the list entirely.

6. Don't let the parents and in-laws wear you down

Set boundaries and ask them to stick with it. When your budget is the main issue, ask for a solution like who is going to pay for the extra costs. We know this won't be easy, but letting one extra guest slip away will end up to more requests down the road.

7. Do use shared online documents

There are many online collaborative systems that you can use for planning the wedding guest list. Try one that suits your needs best, and make sure that it is user-friendly enough to share with your parents as well.

8. Don't allow last-minute add-ons

Even when you're already sending out wedding invitations, there might be some relatives or friends who will ask you for extra invites. Again, stay firm with your final decision and simply tell them that you've made a commitment to your fiancé and parents.

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