Your Guide to a Guest List You Won't Regret

Keep everything under control by following these suggestions.

After getting engaged, one of the first things you should do is figure out at least a rough estimation of the guest list.

Photo: Maitha Lunde

After getting engaged, one of the first things you should do is figure out at least a rough estimation of the guest list. The venue is the first thing you should book, and you’ll need to know how many people you want to invite before making that decision, as it can affect your options.

jewish bride and group walking up the aisle during recessional of outdoor wedding
Photo by Sam & Sola Lee Photography; Planning & Design by Callista & Company

Unfortunately, creating your guest list is also often the most contentious stage of the planning process and can regularly lead to resentment and hurt feelings. You have probably heard friends and family who were wed before you complain about how much their parents tried to add to the guest list – and if they’re paying for the wedding, it can feel unavoidable! We find the best way to combat issues involving the guest list is by setting some ground rules before getting started. Below are our tips for creating a guest list that you won’t regret. 

- Split spots on the guest list evenly between both sets of parents, even if one side is paying. If you are covering the wedding yourself, it's fine for the couple getting married to have a bigger portion of the guest list.
- List everybody you would possibly consider inviting, then mark them with levels like A, B, and C. Depending on your venue and budget, you may only be able to invite those ranked A, or you may have the freedom to add more people. Do this before actually sending out invitations. Sending the invites in stages is a very risky move.
- Keep in mind that you must invite the spouses or live-in significant others of each guest.
- It is nice to let all bridal party members have a plus one, regardless of their relationship status. Otherwise, your plus-one rules should be consistent to everyone.
- Make a decision early about whether kids are invited, and consider having an age cutoff.
- Include everyone from the same group, i.e. all first cousins, every aunt and uncle, etc. Exceptions can be made if some live in a different country and you've never met, or haven't met since you were children. You and your sweetheart can have different rules on each side, depending on the closeness and size of your family.
- If you invite your coworkers, invite your entire department, or don't invite anyone. Alternately, stick to inviting people you regularly see outside of work, not just office happy hours!
- Don’t invite people who you haven't talked to in over a year, as well as those you only see at other friends' events. If you wouldn't hang out with them one-on-one, you don't need to invite them to your wedding.

For more advice, discover what to decide in the first few days of wedding planning, find out how to balance your guests' needs with your own and learn how to address invitations for unmarried couples

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