How to Get Started on Your Wedding Guest List

Wedding guests seated at a reception. Photo by Athena Kalindi Photography

Heather Featherston

January 4, 2022

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Creating a guest list can be one of the most stressful parts of planning a wedding. Ask any newly-engaged couple, and you’ll quickly learn that no one really has fun creating the guest list for their wedding.
The process can be challenging, especially when differing opinions come up. This often happens, particularly during the first round of edits. You might be surprised by how many people make your first draft—from family, friends, co-workers, and family friends—but making cuts is necessary. Between pressure from your parents, budget concerns, and a simple wish not to avoid hurting anyone’s feelings, creating that list could quickly get you feeling down.
However, with a few smart strategies, you can navigate challenges, select your guests, and ultimately create an on-budget wedding packed with your favorite people in the world. Here are 7 tips for creating your wedding guest list:

1. Keep Your Mind on Your Budget

The wedding budget is usually the number one factor that will determine how many people you can invite. It will influence everything from how much food, drinks, linens, and favors you can afford to the size and location of your wedding venue. Make sure to crunch some numbers, while keeping in mind that the average couple spends around $300 per guest. Decide roughly how much you’d like to spend per guest. Ask yourselves: would you rather keep your costs low so you can invite more people, or spend more per person and have a smaller wedding?

2. Begin Your List

Try starting simple by jotting down everyone and anyone and everyone you might want to invite to your wedding. This might include co-workers, distant family, friends, neighbors, and even acquaintances. Next, start organizing your list into tiers: Tier 1 includes people who must be invited. Tier 2 is for people you’d really like to invite. Tier 3 people are ones you’re not as concerned about.

3. Create Rules

Next, create some ground rules about how you’ll make cuts. This allows you to avoid arguments with your fiancé, because he might want to invite college buddies he hasn’t seen in 10 years while you’d rather focus on close, current friendships. Or, you may wish to invite all of your second cousins, while he doesn’t see them as a priority. So that you can simplify the process, create some cutting rules.
For example, some couples choose to cut people they haven’t seen in five years or to cut those they wouldn’t feel comfortable inviting to their home for a dinner party. Others decide to cut friends who live in another country. Another aspect to consider is your friend’s wedding: if they didn’t invite you to their wedding or if you’re only inviting them because they invited you to their wedding, consider cutting.

4. Ask for Advice

It used to be that the mother of the bride managed the guest list. Clearly, most couples have since taken over that task. However, but it’s still a good idea to let your parents weigh in, especially if they’re helping to pay for your wedding. How do you avoid conflict with your parents about your guest list?
Remain clear about your guest list goals: let them know the size of the wedding you’re envisioning. This will have an impact on not just the cost of the wedding, but its overall look and feel. And think about letting them know about some of your cutting rules. Let your parents know politely if you’re uncomfortable with them inviting people you haven’t seen since you were a child, or who you’ve never met. This is your day, and so it should follow your wishes.
The bride dances with her smallest wedding guests on her guest list. Photo by Athena Kalindi Photography

5. Kids?

If you have a child-friendly wedding, it’ll impact not just the feel of the event, but also your budget. You might find your guest count gets significantly higher if you invite kids, especially if any of your friends and family members have children. Or, you could really cut back on your bottom line if you make it a kid-free event.
Either way, this is a personal decision and often one that’s difficult to make. If you decide on an adults-only wedding, stay firm in your decision. Be ready to explain your decisions to parents with sympathy, but know that it’s totally acceptable (and common!) to leave kids off of your wedding guest list entirely.

6. Use Caution With a B-list

Some couples stagger their wedding invitations. Tier 1 goes out first, and then based on guests’ replies, they might send out another group of invitations to select members of the Tier 2 list. This method lets you stay very close to your chosen guest list count, and ensure that you can invite as many people as your budget and venue allow. But the tricky part is if people find out they weren’t your first choice: hurt feelings are almost inevitable. You can avoid this by making sure that you keep your main friends and family members in the same circles when mailing invites. You could also set your Tier 1 RSVP deadline early, so B-List invitations can be mailed as you get your “regretfully declines.”

7. Don’t Stress

Creating your guest list probably isn’t as fun as sampling cake or picking out flowers, but it’s an essential part of your wedding planning process. That said, keep calm and carry on. If you need to, take a step back, and strive to keep conversations about your guest list calm and civil. And remember, you’re casting the characters who will help you celebrate the most important day of your life. Seeing them come together is guaranteed to be an incredible experience!

We’d love to help you plan your wedding day, your way, at Rough & Ready Vineyards!

Have you been looking for picturesque wedding venues in Northern California that are affordable and flexible with packages, vendors, and bar requirements? Maybe you want a relaxed and easy weekend, so you can enjoy every memorable moment with everything in one location. Learn more by choosing an option below:

Heather Featherston

Written by Heather Featherston

Heather, an Event Manager for the Rough & Ready Vineyards, oversees the day-to-day operations. She takes satisfaction in seeing everyone happy and is always grateful for the opportunity to make this happen. Heather enjoys meeting with brides-to-be in order to gather the details needed to ensure their wedding day is perfect! “Every wedding and reception at the Rough & Ready Vineyards is so beautiful,” she says. “I love being able to see people enjoy the amazing venue we have created here!”

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