Tips for Drafting your Wedding Guest List

Yesterday the fiancé and I ticked an important item off our wedding to-do list: we made a first draft of our guest list. The wedding itself isn’t for a year and a half so we have a while to plan it, but we know venues book up fast and guests make summer plans early, so we’re trying to decide the Three Big W’s as soon as we can: When, Where and with Whom.


We have a pretty good idea of the When, as we have miraculously found a Saturday in Summer 2015 which falls exactly on the two-year anniversary of our engagement and is part of a long bank holiday weekend in France. We are also pretty sure we have the Where: we’ve found a stunning restaurant right on the beach which doubles up as a hotel with plenty of rooms. Now for the Whom… From my experience, here are my tips for drafting your wedding guest list!

My 12 Tips for Drafting Your Wedding Guest List

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1. Start with a target number in mind. That may be the maximum number your dream venue allows, a number you’ve decided on as a couple or a number that fits with the budget you’ve set yourself. Always start with a limit or you’ll find yourself making an endless list. If you find yourself at that number with plenty more people in mind, you may need to rethink your venue and/or budget.


2. Try to decide on a clear rule as a couple about who does or doesn’t make the cut. Maybe the rule is “Have we seen them in the last two years?” or “Did they invite us to their wedding?” or “Will we be saddened by their absence?” or the eternal “Will it start a family feud if I don’t invite them?”. Whatever it is, decide on your rule as a couple and stick to it (although there are always exceptions).


3. You also need to decide on rules regarding +1’s. My advice is: +1’s are a must for anyone who is married or in a long-term relationship, or anyone who is single and won’t know many people at the wedding. Single people who will be among friends may not need one!


4. Keep the guest list as even as possible on the groom and the bride’s side, especially if you/your parents are splitting the cost evenly. To do this, you may want to use a “You write down five guests, I write down five guests” technique.


5. Assign a certain percentage of the guest list to both sets of parents. They’ll probably have family friends or relatives they’ll want to invite that you hadn’t thought of. This is especially important if they’re footing the bill!


6. List your guests by tiers: for example “Wedding party”, “Must-have Family”, “Must-have Friends”, “Optional Family” and “Optional Friends”. This may sound harsh, but that way if you go over your desired number, you’ll know where to start cutting first. It’s also easier to cut entire groups out (like “Friends from my football club”) than stand-alone people to avoid hurting feelings.


7. Have it double-checked by your parents and even other relatives. You may have forgotten someone or misspelled a name!


8. Very important: make your list on Excel. It may be tempting to grab the nearest piece of paper and write down names as they come to you, but an Excel spreadsheet will be so much easier to modify and share. You’ll be happy to have the filter, sort and sum functions!


9. On your spreadsheet, don’t forget the +1′s! Have an extra column to count them (or +2’s and +3’s if they have children!) and add the sum of that column to your total.


10. Color-code your spreadsheet according to: Bride guests, Groom guests and Tiers. You also need “Total” cells for the bride’s list, the groom’s list, common friends, each tier, +1’s and the entire list. Having a clear breakdown will come in handy when cutting/adding people and during budget talks!


11. At the end, multiply your grand total by 80%: that’s the average turn-out rate for weddings, so you can get an idea of how many guests will actually attend.


12. You can also have a back-up list of guests to invite if too many guests on your first list send their regrets. Don’t wait until the last minute to invite them though!


Stay tuned for more wedding planning posts!

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