Planning the Wedding Guest List

guest list by _sarchi, on Flickr

Compiling your wedding guest list is one of the toughest tasks of wedding planning. The task of compiling the wedding guest list is often shared between the bride & groom and their parents.

Wedding budgets and venue capacity often put a cap on the number of guests you can invite – resulting in difficult decisions if you have a large family and lots of friends. The decision gets even harder for couples getting married later on in life as friends, siblings and cousins start their own families – increasing the number of people to choose from.

Traditionally, as the bride’s parents paid for the wedding, they had the most say as to who was invited. Weddings were essentially a family gathering with a few close friends. Nowadays, the task of compiling the wedding guest list is often shared between the bride & groom and their parents. Finding a middle ground is essential if you want to avoid family disputes!

If you can’t decide who to invite or don’t know where to start, try the following steps for creating your guest list:

Start writing your guest list at least 6 months before the wedding. (This might be earlier if you need an idea of capacity when deciding your budget and wedding venue.)

Divide the list into three 1) must have 2) like to have and 3) nice to have.

The above steps should be done separately by the bride & groom and their parents. Compare the different lists and mark guests as definite where you are all in agreement. You can then work out how many guests you can invite from the other two categories. If you want to involve as many people as you can, why not invite guests from the ‘nice to have’ list to the evening reception instead. Once you have a definitive guest list – tell your friends and family when you are getting married so that they can save the date. Create a standby list – so you know who to invite if some guests are unable to attend or need to cancel on the day due to illness.

If you’re having trouble deciding who to invite, you might want to consider the following options:

Invite some people to the evening reception – Most venues can accommodate extra guests for the evening so you’ll still be able to invite everyone, but at a fraction of the cost.
Have a child free wedding – If lots of your friends and family have children, you could see your guest list increase significantly unless you adopt a child-free policy.
Only invite immediate family – If you have a large extended family, you might prefer to invite aunts and uncles only.
nofreetime tips
Give both sides of the family equal opportunity to attend, even if one side is much bigger.
Who you invite should not be influenced by who is paying for the wedding. Both sets of parents should be allowed to invite close friends.
Don’t worry about offending those you can’t invite – most people appreciate how much it costs to pay for a wedding so they will understand.
If you can’t invite the extended family – arrange a family day for after the wedding. That way you get to see all the family and can show them all the photos.
If you’re having a child free wedding – make sure this is made clear on the invite. Take a look at our child free wedding wording for help with wording your child-free requests.
If you can’t decide who to invite – change the format of your wedding. Have a small formal wedding breakfast for close friends and family and invite everyone else for the evening. Alternatively, have an informal buffet in the afternoon and invite everyone.

Wedding guests should be invited by the hosts of the wedding. Traditionally, this was the parents of the bride but nowadays, weddings might be hosted by the bride and groom, both sets of parents or by the bride and groom with their parents. The hosts are usually responsible for sending out the invitations and keeping track of replies and dietary requests, unless the task is assigned to someone else.

Wedding invitations should be sent out three months before the wedding with an RSVP date approximately one month later. This will allow time for you to follow up on late replies, invite guests from your standby list (should other guests not be able to attend) and confirm numbers with the venue. Most venues and caterers require confirmed numbers one month before the wedding. Invitations should be worded so that guests know who is inviting them. For wedding invitation examples and ideas, see wedding invitation wording. Wedding invitation etiquette suggests that children over 16 should receive a separate invite, but one invitation per family is sufficient if you want to save on invitation costs.

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