Couple laughing in field at Chester Fields

Are you trying to work out how to put together a wedding guest list that keeps everyone happy? Our guide will help you navigate the tricky politics of wedding planning and ensure your loved ones are where they need to be on your big day.

Your wedding guest list should be one of the first jobs you check off. But, unfortunately, putting together a guest list is often put off. They are often seen as complicated and offering all the family fun of Monopoly without the fun! But it doesn’t have to be that way.

In truth, making a list of the people you and your partner want at your wedding should be simple: Write down a list of everyone you want at your wedding day, and send the invites. Sounds simple right?

In reality, things are, unfortunately, more complex.

But worry not; we are here to help and help guide you through planning your wedding guest list, and we have even put together a wedding guest flow chart to help guide you through who should be invited.

Below, we have included everything you need to know about building your wedding guest list from beginning to end. We have covered everything from who to invite and who to say ‘sorry you’re not invited’ to. We have also included plenty of tips and tricks to keep everyone happy along the way

8 Steps To Creating Your Wedding Guest List

Rowton Hall

Creating your guest list might initially seem fun. After all, what could go wrong in thinking about who you want to share your day with? But when phrases like ‘she’ll be upset if I don’t ask him’ and ‘we went to their wedding’ start creeping in, the conversation can quickly descend into chaos.

However, knowing your numbers early on can be a big help. Whether this is choosing a venue or staying within budget [catering can be one of the most significant single expenses at your wedding].

If this sounds all too familiar right now, don’t panic! You are not alone, and almost every other couple has faced the same dilemma. If you don’t know where to start, then read on:

Sitting down with your partner and close family members can help put together an initial wish list of guests. Remember, things may change as you move through your wedding planning, including this list.

1. Start BIG and List Everyone

Sometimes it helps to start small; other times, it helps to start big. So when it comes to planning your wedding guest list, start BIG. List everyone you would even consider inviting to your wedding. At this point, money and space are not part of planning. Just list EVERYONE! Choose whatever works for you – spreadsheet, pen and paper, whichever makes sense to you.

Start with the obvious groups, immediate family, close friends and work out. Then, include colleagues, schoolmates, distant and really distant relatives and so on. Finally, work your way out to those you occasionally bump into, their partners, their childer, and EVERYONE! Once you have finished, this is your master list and what you will trim down.

2. List Your Main, Must-Have Guests

You can call this group anything you want; The Must Haves, The A-List, or Main Guest. Whatever you call them, this is the group you simply wouldn’t get married without them there. You will instantly know who they are. However, you have created your master list; you now want to highlight these people. No matter what happens to the rest of the list, this group will stay firmly part of the day, with no exceptions! Space and budget will affect the rest of the list and determine if they get a daytime or evening invite.

3. How Many Guest Can You Realistically Afford

Choosing your venue and finalising your wedding guest list go hand in hand. You can only decide on the wedding venue if you know your guest numbers.

You might still need to fix your exact wedding venue, but you might have an idea of the type of wedding you want. Do you want a festive feel, a cosy barn, a big country house or maybe even a beach wedding? Of course, the style of the wedding you desire will have an impact on the maximum number of guests you can invite. Can your budget stretch that far?

If you dream of a small intimate wedding or eloping to another country, then your must-have guest may be the correct answer, and that’s OK. But, remember, this is your day and your choice. When planning a small wedding, it is easier to start setting expectations early. Speak to friends and family who might think they’re getting an invite and explain that your wedding will be intimate. This is undoubtedly easier to present early and before expectations are raised rather than after outfits have started being bought.

Avoid feeling guilty if you can’t budget for EVERYONE on your master list. Remember that every guest is an extra seat, meal, favour and slice of cake you need to pay for. Honestly, most of your friends and family will be more than understanding about the need to limit numbers. Suppose you need more wedding planning. In that case, you can always arrange a separate get-together/party after the wedding for everyone who wants to celebrate with you.

4. Consider Your Parents’ Input

Parental involvement in wedding planning has definitely decreased over the years. Long gone are the days when the bride’s parents were expected to pick up the total cost of the wedding. However, while parental involvement may have decreased, they may still wish to have some say in who is invited, especially if they are contributing. The final decision on who attends your wedding is down to you. Still, to avoid unnecessary conflict, loop mum and dad in early and definitely before you consider posting your save-the-date cards.

As with most planning conversations, it is always best to be upfront. First, sit down with your partner and develop a list you agree on. Then, once you know who is and isn’t invited, share the plan with the parents. Invite input and discuss any objections they may have calmly. You can resolve any conflicts quickly, which is much easier at this stage than after the invites are sent.

5. Treat Family Fairly

It is incredible how quickly and easily feelings can become bruised, especially among families. For example, while you may not have seen someone for several years, invite their siblings, whom you talk to, and suddenly they’re left out! Likewise, if your partner’s grandparents are invited, but yours aren’t, someone is likely to be offended. You get the idea! There are few foolproof ways to navigate this political headache, but trying to treat each side of the family fairly means at least most people will understand. While those left out are still likely to be disappointed. It is much easier to be told, ” sorry we didn’t have space to invite cousins,” than “sorry we didn’t have space to invite you!”

6. Stagger You Wedding Invites

Once you have finalised your list, it can be tempting to get everything sent out and put this “fun” planning stage behind you. But by staggering your wedding invites and taking more time chasing your RSVPs, you may be able to invite a few more guests.

It is unlikely everyone you invite will be able to attend. No one is snubbing your day; sometimes, life gets in the way.

Once the first lot of invites go out, case up the RSVPs as soon as possible. Then, once numbers have been confirmed, go back to your master list with your partner, see who else can be added, and so on.

None of us wants to feel like we were a second choice to be invited. However, staggering your invites means you can add people to your list without them even realising they had been missed.

Traditional wedding etiquette dictates that invites should be sent out at least eight weeks in advance. However, you may increase this if lots of guests will be travelling.

Stuck on ideas for wedding stationery? Hitched has a great selection, many available with free samples that can be personalised to fit your day.

7. Chase, Chase, Chase

While planning your wedding, it is easy to feel like the day is the centre of your universe. Your friends and loved ones ate obviously going to be as excited about your day as you are, right? Well, yes and no! While your friends, family and loved ones will undoubtedly be excited about your plans, it is unlikely to be as important to them as it is to you. At no time will this be more evident than waiting for RSVPs to return. It can be incredibly frustrating to spend hours, and days planning the perfect guest list, writing out invites and sending them only to get NOTHING back. If you are endlessly waiting for RSVPs to return, feel free to get in touch with your guests and ask them to confirm one way or the other.

8. Remember To Maintain Perspective

Choosing who to include and who not to include on your wedding list can feel incredibly stressful. Trying to keep everyone happy while juggling a finite budget can feel almost impossible. Sometimes, however, it can help to look at things from a different point of view. For example, remember a time you didn’t get an invite to someone else’s wedding; how did you feel? How long did those feelings last? While you may have been disappointed, it’s unlikely to have registered as one of life’s most significant events. Any feelings one way or the other likely passed in a day or two, and it’s unlikely you have given it much thought since. Any potential guest who you cant invite will feel precisely the same.

A wedding is just one day, and those that genuinely care about you will still be there long after the post-wedding hangovers have subsided, invited or not.

When it is all getting too much, take a deep breath, step back, and remember it will be OK!

Who Should Be On Your Wedding Guest List?

Obviously, there is no one size fits all answer to who should be invited. The size of the venue and your wedding budget will determine how many people you can invite and who will be on your guest list. However, there are guests that you should include as a rule of thumb. Your immediate family members (parents, grandparents, siblings, uncles, aunties and cousins). These would then be followed by close friends and their partners. If space permits, you can consider more distant relatives, friends you would love to welcome but haven’t seen in a while, co-workers and family members/friend’s children.

Things to Consider For A Large Wedding Guest List?

According to the Hitched National Wedding Survey, the average-size wedding guest list in 2021 was 72. However, the Royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton was slightly larger at over 1,900 guests. For those without Royal connections, a wedding guest over 150 is typically considered large.

Small Wedding Guest Lists – 5 Tips

1. Limit The Number Of Plus-Ones

An easy and straightforward way to keep control of your guest list is by limiting the number of plus-ones you allow your guest to bring along. Restricting plus-ones to only those in long-term relationships with partners you have met can significantly impact your numbers.

2. Limit The Number Of Children

If you have a large family, restricting the number of children you allow your guests to bring can significantly impact your overall guest count. Broaching the subject with guests can often feel awkward. However, we have put together 6 Tips for planning child free weddings

3. Close Friends & Family Only

Inviting only close friends and family can make your wedding really intimate. So keep your list to parents, siblings, grandparents and just a handful of close friends.

4. Keep You Guest List Private

Keeping your wedding plans private may go against everything you want to do. But the more people that hear who is (and who isn’t) invited, the more pressure you will feel to increase your numbers. Keeping your guest list between you and your partner will help prevent external pressure from those who want to be invited but haven’t been included. If you share the list with others, make sure they know that the list is final and you keep it intimate.

5. Stand Your Ground

Once you have your list, stick to it. It is easy to feel pulled into feeling like you need to invite every old friend or distant cousin simply because you were invited to their day. Remember, your wedding day is your day, and there are no rules about who to ask. Especially if you are planning a small wedding, make your list and stick to it. Estranged family members and old friends and unlikely to be offended if there no asked, so don’t feel obliged to send an invite.

Who Can You Really Cut From Your Wedding Guest List (5 Easy Groups)

1. Other People’s Children

If you have children of your own, cutting them from your guest list may raise a few eyebrows. Other than your own, however, there are no hard and fast rules about Children at weddings. Some people love having children at weddings, others don’t, so make the decision that works for you. However, for most children, there are few things less exciting than being made to sit through a ceremony where they don’t understand what’s happening.

So what do you need to consider if you want a child-free wedding?

As a guide, 10% to 20% of your guest will decline your wedding invite. Of course, this percentage will be higher if you don’t allow children.

The number of no-shows to your wedding is likely to be higher. No-shows are guests that RSVP “Yes,” but then don’t show up on the day. Juggling any plans as a parent is inexorably more complicated before you need to start planning childcare etc.

Parents tend to be very protective of their offspring, so it can be incredibly easy to cause offence without meaning to.

Our guide to child-free weddings can help avoid some of the pitfalls 6 Tips for planning child free weddings

2. People You Don’t Really Know

Plus, ones can typically be one of the most controversial elements of any wedding guest list. Remember, you don’t need to invite everyone, especially people you don’t know! If a guest is in a new relationship or their partner is someone other than someone you have spent time with, feel free to exclude them from your guest list. Like everything else with your wedding guest list, decide where you will draw the line and stick to it. This may be only married or engaged couples, those in long-term relationships. The decision is yours. Simply try to keep things fair. You may bend the rules a little for friends who are travelling and unlikely to know many people at your wedding. Here having a plus one can help them feel more comfortable.

3. People Who Invited You to Their Wedding

Now, if this is a close friend or family member, you may invite them anyway. Still, if not, there is no need for a like-for-like invitation. This is especially true if you attended their wedding some years ago, but your friendship has cooled, and you have drifted apart. Circumstance change and people central to our lives one day don’t always stay that way; if they were getting married now, would you still be invited? As a general rule of thumb, anyone you haven’t spoken to in the last 12 months can be moved quickly down your list.

If you haven’t spoken in 12 months, are you as you remember, and is there anyone else you would be happier to cut rather than them? If you are not 100% certain, try reaching out to catch up before you announce your plans and the invites start circulating. If they seem difficult to pin down and can’t spare you 5 minutes for a coffee, they will unlikely be offended when the invite doesn’t arrive.

4. Co-Workers

We do form some close bonds with the people we work with. People we have worked with for a long time and genuinely enjoy spending time outside of work with can be as close a friend as those we meet anywhere else. There is nothing wrong with inviting these friends to your wedding. They would likely ask you to theirs. However, simply sharing your workspace or lunch breaks with someone doesn’t mean they should receive or will expect an invite.

If you want to include a group from work but don’t want them eating all expensive canapés, have them in your evening invites.

5. Anyone Invited Out of Guilt

Unsurprisingly your wedding is supposed to be one of the happiest days of your life. However, feeling pressured or guilted into anything by other people’s opinions or emotions can seriously affect this! So remember, this is your wedding, no one else!

Your wedding day will go by quicker than you can imagine, and most couples find they barely have enough time to take to everyone they want to. The last thing you need on your wedding day is extra people, who are only there because you have been made to feel bad. It is best to be kind but upfront and stand your ground. It may not be the most straightforward conversation, but you will be glad you did.

How to Make a Simple Wedding Guest List

Once you have written down all your names and started putting them into some type of priority, you should start getting more organised. MS Excel (or similar) can be an easy and simple tool for organising and tracking your wedding invites. Start by creating columns such as;

  • Guest Name
  • Address
  • Phone Number
  • RSVP Status
  • Number Of Guests
  • Dietary Requirements
  • Other Details

Once you get started and are dealing with RSVPs, quickly seeing your number will be a big help. If you don’t fancy creating your own list, plenty of great free tools are available online to help, some of the best we have listed below.

Hitched wedding guest list app

Hitched Wedding website.

Wedding Guest List Flow Chart

If you are still struggling to decide who to invite and work out how best to get your list to suit your venue and budget. We have created a handy flow chart, a quick and easy way to decide if someone makes the cut. It is a simple way to ensure everyone is treated fairly and that any names removed are done with sensitivity and tact.

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