10 Foolproof Steps to Building Your Wedding Guest List

Wedding Guest List
Captured by Kelly Berringer Photo

When you envision your wedding day, who is in the picture with you?

Is it simply you and your fiancé privately exchanging vows? Or is it an image of all of your friends and family gathered together to celebrate alongside you? 

We often ask our clients to close their eyes and picture themselves in the moment where they say “I do” - when we ask them to describe the image, one of the items we pay close attention to is who is in the picture with them. Some clients describe a very intimate setting, while others describe all of their loved ones looking on. This is where your Wedding Guest List begins!

The “who” determines the “how”

What we mean by this is the Guest List (your who), determines how far the budget will go and how we go about the rest of the planning process. As un-romantic as it may sound, each person on your Wedding Guest List essentially represents a dollar amount. Each guest requires a meal, beverages, a seat at a table, a slice of cake, etc. As planners we need to know how many guests your overall budget is being divided amongst. Ultimately, we can only begin planning a wedding once we know who will be attending. 

So, first thing’s first, let’s build your guest list! Here is our 10 Step, foolproof guide to building your Wedding Guest List:

STEP 1: Create Your First Drafts

Before you do anything else on your wedding planning checklist, both you and your partner should sit down SEPARATELY and come up with your own Guest List - not just your side of the list...the entire thing. Include dates, plus ones, kids if you think they should attend (see our blog post on this topic if you’re not sure!), people from out of town...don’t be shy, just create your list without thinking too far into it. 

Step 2: Present Your Lists

Then, sit down TOGETHER to review your lists. Each partner should present their list while the other listens openly without commentary or judgement. 

Step 3: Compare Your Lists

Once both partners have presented their lists - answer the following questions: How many guests did each of us have on our individual lists? Were they similar overall numbers? Or were you on different ends of the spectrum? If one partner had a 30 person guest list while the other partner had a 150 person guest list, this indicates a larger conversation that needs to be had - time to step back and consider as a couple how you’re going to proceed: intimate gathering or full-blown-bash? 

On the other hand, if both partners came up with a similar sized guest list, you are starting on the same page! Great start!

Step 4: Combine Your Lists

Now that you’ve determined the general size of your wedding guest list, create a master Guest List based on the individual lists you created. An easy way to do this is to input both lists on a spreadsheet all in one column. Then, sort the column alphabetically in order to see where you have duplicate names! Hopefully your lists have a lot of the same names - this means you’re in sync! 

Step 5: Delete Duplicates

Once you have your lists sorted alphabetically, you can go ahead and delete the duplicates/the names you both had on your lists. As you delete the duplicate names, go ahead and highlight those names in green. Those are the people that you both included on your list, who you agree on 100%

Step 6: A-List vs B-List

Count how many guests are highlighted green. Then count the remaining names, and highlight them in orange. The green names represent your current guest list or your “A-List” and the orange names represent your “B-List”. It is not as bad as it might sound, no one except you and your partner will see these lists - We like to break it down this way so that you can see the people that you both agree on, versus the people that only one of you thought to include. 

Step 7: Think Big Picture

At this point it we like our clients to step back and think Big Picture. Now that you see your list coming to life, discuss with your partner your ideal number of guests - Keep your budget in mind! Like we mentioned earlier, each of your wedding guests also represents $$$ you will need to spend to have them there celebrating with you! We like to wait until this point to determine a maximum guest count, because sometimes it's hard to estimate how many people you want at your big day until you see it all down on paper!

Step 8: Room to Wiggle -or- Maxed Out 

 If you are comfortable with having 150 guests at your wedding, but only have 100 names highlighted green, you now have room on your list to add names from your B-lists. On the other hand, if you have 100 names highlighted green, but only ideally want to invite 75 guests, then it is time to start cutting down. 

Step 9: Guest List Guidelines

In order to cut guests off the green list or determine which people from the orange list can get moved over to the green list keep our two Guest List Guidelines in mind:

    • Is this person someone I am willing to spend money on to have them present on my wedding day?
    • Will this person play a significant role in OUR life as a married couple moving forward?

This part is HARD! But, it is important to remember that a wedding is not about each and every person that has played a role in your individual pasts, instead it is about your union, and the people that will be a part of your life moving forward together as a married couple! If there is someone that is very important to your partner that you do not personally know or that you had not considered on your list, hear them out and discuss openly why or why not you see them attending your wedding. Refer back to the two questions above to guide your decision. 

Step 10: Sleep On It

Once you’ve compiled your whole list - put it away and sleep on it. Come back a few days later and review it again. Always keep the guest list guidelines discussed above in mind. 

Pro Tips: 

  • Once your wedding guest list is done - it is done! Don’t constantly come back to revisit it. This is something that is easy to over think!  
  • IF you and your fiancé are receiving wedding funds from a loved one, consider creating your desired guest list first, then presenting it to whoever is providing financial assistance. Remind your loved ones that this is your big day and that after a lot of consideration and thought these are the people that you would like to celebrate with. Your loved one may have some suggestions or additions, but remind them that each addition comes at a cost. Be open and positive during these conversations, but always keep the Guest List Guidelines in mind!

If you're still stumped and need more guidance, drop us a line - We're always here to help!


The Envy Team

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