How to Plan Your Wedding Guest List {Wedding Planning Series}


How to plan your wedding guest list // Pic: Miranda Laine PhotographyImage credit: Miranda Laine // As seen on

Ooh! In this week’s dose of advice from our Wedding Planning Series, we’re here as your helping hand in planning your wedding guest list. The general wedding etiquette for creating a guest list can be negotiable depending on each couple’s unique situation. 

To help you from becoming overwhelmed by the planning of your wedding guest list, we provide key tips to guide you through the typical wedding guest list woes with a few tricks thrown in to help you handle some of the guest list nasties. Be sure to always remember that your venue and budget plays a key role in determining your final wedding guest list.

1. Wedding Guest List Basics

If your budget is limited and the venue that you were able to secure can only accommodate a certain amount of guests, then you will have to consider the following when compiling your wedding guest list:

  • Wedding Venue Size: Either the number of guests that you’d like to invite to your wedding determines your choice of wedding venue or your choice of wedding venue dictates how many guests you’ll be able to invite to your wedding. Consider the costs of a smaller venue versus a larger one to help you decide on the perfect venue to accommodate your list of guests.
  • Wedding Vibe: The type of wedding that you both want, whether it be big, small, outdoors, fancy, informal or at a special destination,
  • Who Foots the Bill: This will help a great deal in deciding who all will be allowed to have a say in the guest list. Sometimes the couple or the parents may be footing the entire bill, and other times, it may be a combined effort between the parents and the couple. Overall, the couple should be honoured with the final say as it is their wedding, but input from the parents should also be considered as they too are looking forward to celebrating their child’s big day.
  • Budget per guest: Your budget for your wedding will determine how much you can afford to spend per guest for the type of wedding that you’d like, which will indicate the number of guests that you can invite. Bear in mind that each additional guest will require a place setting, decor and meal at the reception, as well as printed goods such as invitations, menus and programs.
  • A list guests and B list guests: Create a list of all the people whom you have to, want to and absolutely cannot have miss your wedding! The number of people on your A-List should be more-or-less 10 percent over the limitations of your budget and venue capacity, as it is likely that you will receive at least this amount of declines. Of course you will find that there will be many people whom you’d also enjoy having at your wedding, but that you will be unable to add to your primary list. This is where a second list, your B-List, comes in handy. Create a second list of people whom you’d like to invite should those on your A-List be unable to attend. Begin inviting guests from the top of your B-List once you start receiving declines from your A-List. Sometimes, you may find yourself extending invitations up until the last week before your wedding. In this case, personally call to invite your guests apologising for the short notice.

Takeaway Tip: You won’t be able to please everyone, all of the time, including yourself and your fiancé, so decide where you will make your cuts guided by your wedding budget and venue.

2. Things that Double or Reduce Guest Lists

Including plus-ones and children on your wedding guest list are two main aspects that can cause your guest list to grow and get out of control. Fortunately, as much as they can be a disaster, they are also where you can find opportunities to cut your guest list down. Here we share just how to do that:

Plus Ones

You will have to consider the extent to which you will allow plus-ones for those of your wedding guests that are invited individually. Having no reservations when it comes to allowing your guests to bring along plus-ones may result in you having a wedding with several people you meeting for the first time on your wedding day. As much as you want each of your guests to enjoy themselves, you have to also consider your budget, the size of your wedding venue and other guests whom you’d prefer to invite.

  • Consider plus-ones with your budget and venue - You may feel that any guest over a certain age is allowed to bring along a plus-one or all guests get a plus one, even if they are single. If your budget and venue allows, first extend a plus-one invitation to those single guests who have been in a long-term relationship. Then if possible, single members of your bridal party or close loved ones should also be offered the option of inviting a plus-one. If your guest list is limited, consider how you feel about having plus-ones at your wedding whom you’ve never met or don’t know that well.
  • Should I allow interchangeable plus-ones? A tricky situation lies in guests who have recently become single after you have already invited them with their partner. If they have recently become single, can they bring another person (whether you know their plus-one or not) in their old partners place? The decision to allow for interchangeable plus-ones lies with you. If you’d prefer that a specific plus-one attends your wedding with your invited guest, then you should invite them by name. Should your invited wedding guests RSVP with a different plus-one guest to whom you originally invited, then you can deal with each situation as they come along depending on your budget, venue and the comparative importance of guests already listed on your B-List.

Takeaway Tip: To keep the size of your wedding guest list down, we suggest that unless your guest is not familiar or won’t be seated with someone that they have met before and know well enough to enjoy themselves, then you should make the exception of allowing them to bring along a plus-one. For those invited guests that are single or have recently become single, but are friendly or related to other guests, plus-ones should not be extended, unless your budget and venue size allows for it.


Unless the children are immediate family or friends, including the children of your invited guests can add considerably to the overall number of guests and your costs.

  • How to plan your guest list {Wedding Planning Series}Consider the extra costs - Bear in mind, that each child will count towards your per head fee if a seat will included for them in the seating plan. Even if you intend to have a playroom, tables or a separate kiddies menu, firstly, this will count as an additional cost, and secondly, their parents may prefer to have their kids sit at the same table as them.
  • Decide what the age limit for kids will be - Perhaps you don’t mind having teenagers at your wedding or you would prefer to have an 18 years and older only event. Whatever your preference, it is up to you to decide whether you’d like to use an age limit for guest list.
  • Consider the time your wedding will be held - Daytime weddings are more kid-friendly, whereas evening receptions are generally regarded as an adult affair, as this is usually near kiddies bedtimes.
(Above) Shot by: Dani Fine Photography

Takeaway Tip: If you choose not to accommodate children at your wedding for whatever reason, don’t cave in and allow your invited guests to change your mind. Making exceptions for certain guests and not for others may only backfire in the end.

3. Nasties: Handling Tricky Guest List Situations

There are a few tricky situations that you may encounter when creating your wedding guest list. Each family comes with its own set of, how shall we put it, interesting dynamics, that requires some careful consideration and a thoughtful approach. Here are a few of the common tricky guest list situations that you may find yourself in with tips on how to navigate family politics when drafting your guest list:

  • Divorced parents with or without new partners that get along - The decision to have your parents on your guest list is usually a no-brainer. However, when your parents are divorced and may or may not have new partners, planning a wedding gets that much more trickier as so many traditions involve honouring the couple’s parents together. A Practical Wedding suggests that you think carefully about whom to invite so that all sides of your families are relatively equal and evenly represented. It’s important to let your parents know your expectations of your wedding. Give some thought as to how you would like to include each of them (and their new partners) depending on the role that each of them has played in your lives.
  • OK, I invite my divorced parents, but what about their partners that don’t get along? If your parents are divorced and either or both are remarried or have new partners that you don’t get along with or who don’t get along with each other, then deciding who to invite and who’s feelings to spare can be a touchy subject. The mere thought of having your divorced parents present at your wedding, especially if they are feuding, can be stressful enough. To remedy the situation, discuss your guest list with your parents in advance so they’re given some time to get used to the idea that they will be seeing each other. Although it’s best to allow your parents to invite whomever they’d like as their plus-one, you can go as far as to ask that their plus-ones are excluded from family photos.
  • Drop or keep extended family, long-lost friends and acquaintances?- Figuring out where and how to draw the line at extended family and friends whom you haven’t seen in ages and acquaintances from social circles and work can be quite tricky. It all comes down to a process of elimination from the most important people in your life currently to those whom you only see now and again and are not quite close to. A good way to make the cut is to exclude those whom you don’t spend time with socially. It all depends whether you see yourself spending your future with them. Some couples solve the problem by only inviting people that they have seen over a certain period, be it six months, 12 months or two years.
  • Estranged family - It can be a sensitive topic – do you invite estranged family members whom you fell out with or have no present relationship with? This decision lies entirely with you. Of course mending broken family ties can be a good thing. However, you will need to decide if you want your estranged family to be a part of celebrating one of the most important days of your life and the future that lies thereafter.
  • What about people who assume that they’re invited? It is possible that someone whom you had no intention of inviting will ask you about your wedding plans and when the big day is. Resist the feelings of pressure to invite them and explain that you have a limited venue size and budget. Also, don’t feel obliged to reciprocate an invitation to someone who has invited you to their wedding before, unless you want to invite them.

Takeaway Tip: Try to save a seat for those old friends whom you’ve had for life and can easily pick up with no matter how long it’s been. If you wedding ceremony is a separate event that is conveniently located and will be hosted at a different location to your reception, then here is where you could invite a few more guests that you wedding reception won’t be able to accommodate.

There are so many guest list situations that you may not be able to anticipate, but  do try your best to handle it gracefully. Remember, it’s your party so invite who you want to, who you connect with and who will add joy to your special day.

If you’ve missed last weeks advice feature that shares expert insight into choosing your wedding stationary, check out Selecting Your Wedding Stationery {Wedding Planning Series} to learn more.

Refer to our entire Wedding Planning Series here!

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