Close your eyes for a moment and imagine it’s your wedding day.
You’re standing with your partner, looking out into the crowd. Who do you see? You see your grandparents, your best friend from college… But wait—is that your distant cousin thrice removed that you haven’t seen in 4 years and your parents’ neighbor? Hold on… is that a baby babbling the background?
As much as you may wish you could invite everyone you know, lines have to be drawn somewhere and may have to make some hard decisions. But never fear, we have some tips for you on how to make building your guest list as pain-free an experience as possible, and a worksheet to help you organize it all to boot.
The first step is to create your dream guest list. You want to list everyone that you would want to see at your wedding, and the people that you know your family will want to invite. You can even add your imaginary best friend, Chrissy Tiegen, but honestly we hear she’s a bit of a homebody.
The key is to stay organized. You’ll want to list all your potential party people in our handy guest list spreadsheet, so that you’ll be able to sort and filter your guests into A and B lists, for example. This will also make it easy to track who you’ve sent Save the Dates and invitations to. No matter how you decide to track your guest list, our worksheet will help you get started. Use it as-is, or customize it to fit your needs.
Before completely diving in, however, make sure to get your partner involved.. We recommend you label guests into groups, like coworkers, crossfit buddies, college friends, etc. Consider who will be contributing to your wedding into your guest count, like parents or close relatives that are chipping in financially or otherwise. Are there guests they would like to invite? If Aunt Pam is paying for the DJ, she should at least be able to bring a dance partner or two. This is all going to give you a realistic visualization of your starting guest count, and will give you a better idea of how many people you may need to cut. It will also keep the guest count fair between you, your partner, and both your families.
Now that you have your full list of potential guests, discuss some guidelines with your partner for who should actually be invited or not. Maybe the guest must have had a significant impact on your life, or you’re only going to allow plus ones to those who are in long-term relationships. Perhaps budget will be the biggest determining factor for you. Keep in mind that, depending on where you live, the average number of guests at a wedding is around 120 and the average cost per guest is about $150/person.
Pro tip: The more people at your wedding, the less time you’ll be able to spend with each individual guest. Think about it like this: If you want to spend at least 10 minutes talking to a particular person at your wedding reception, they deserve to be there.
Next, split your guests into A List & B List. The “A-List” means sending them an invitation is non-negotiable. Your “B-List” will be reserved for invites if, for whatever reason, not all your A-List members can attend. On average, you should expect about 10% of your A-List to not be able to attend. However, this number can vary based on the location of the wedding and the time of year. If, based on your A-list RSVP trends, you anticipate inviting a good portion of your B-list, don’t wait too long to send those invitations out. It’s totally normal to have a B wedding guest list, but no one wants to know they were on it.
Finally, we recommend letting your guest list sit with you for a while before you decide to move forward with any next steps. Maybe there’s someone you forgot, or your parents remind you about a last minute aunt or uncle. This gives you some buffer time. When you’re ready, you’ll want to collect your A-List’s addresses for save the dates and invites. A great option for this is to collect addresses online by emailing your guests a Google Form, or using a company that specializes in address collecting like Postable and INeedYourAddress.
Preparing your guest list is probably one of the most stressful parts of wedding planning. So when an opportunity arises to ease the task in the slightest, it’s a good idea to use it to the best of your ability. Our Guest List Worksheet will help you stay organized, so you can tackle the rest of your wedding planning with your head held high.