Day 3: Starting Your Guest List

A guest list is like the framework of your whole wedding. So many things depend on your guest count- your venue’s capacity, how much you spend on food, what kind of meals you can serve, how many tables you’ll have, how many centerpieces you’ll need… I can keep going if you want me to. 😉 I tell couples this ALL the time- the more guests you have, the more money you have to spend. It’s not a question of whether or not you’re DYing to save money or going with the cheapest vendors you can find… the fact of the matter is that a guest = money.

In turn, the number of guests you have at your wedding affects everything you do while planning, but creating the list can seem like an incredibly difficult task to start. I am here to help!


Getting Your Guest List Started

Putting together a guest list is an odd mix of logic, philosophy, and family dynamics. Before you jump in, here are some questions to talk through with your partner and your loved ones:

  • What are your goals? 
  • What are your goals for your wedding? 
  • Tiny and intimate? Huge and intimate? A celebration of community? 
  • How many people are coming? Realistically, for each of you, roughly how many people do you have to invite? 
  • How many people will each of your parents want to invite?
  • Is there a guest list limit? Will you be setting limits on how many guests your parents can invite? (Related: Are your parents paying for the wedding? How much of the wedding are they paying for?)
  • Will you be including plus ones for single guests? 
  • Will you be including kids? 
  • How many of your guests are local? 
  • How many of your guests will be traveling for the wedding?

Start Gathering Your Guest List

Wedding guests will come from all aspects and times of your life. Here is a system to pull your lifetime of friends and family into one guest list.

Here are some categories:

  • Family – List them ALL, down the second cousins you see only at the family reunion.
  • Close Friends – These are the people you see or speak to on a regular basis, or are significant in your life.
  • Professional  Friends – Coworkers, clients-turned-friends, mentors, or other people who are significant to your professional life.
  • Signification Relationships – The people who remain significant in your life, and can include friends from childhood, college, sports organizations, or any other group in your life that was meaningful.

Get More Detailed

Begin by compiling guest lists from you, your fiancé and both families. Take notes on the number of people associated with each name, including spouses, significant others, and children (if you are considering a child-friendly affair).This will give you an idea of how many guests to plan and budget for. 

“This is most likely going to be a work in progress for a little while. Don’t expect to sit down for an hour and finish it right away. Since the guest list may include other people’s input, it could take you a little while to get it totally set. And even then, as you progress in your planning and start getting RSVPs, it will of course change then too. .”

Guest enjoy the wedding reception

Day 3:  Conclusion – Stay Organized

As you’re starting the process of creating a guest list, you also want to start a spreadsheet (and hey: we have a free wedding guest list spreadsheet right here! Just make a quick copy for yourself). Your guest list spreadsheet should contain all of the obvious facts, but it’s also a great place to collect as much information as you can. Think of this as your one-stop shop for all information wedding-guest related. You’ll want your guest list spreadsheet to include a variety of information, including the following:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Email and phone number
  • A number for each invitee (You’ll include this as a tiny pencil mark on their RSVP cards, for when people forget to include their names)
  • Likelihood of attendance (i.e. Yes, you’re inviting your great aunt who lives across the country, but we both know she’s not going to come)
  • Dietary restrictions and food choices
  • Anything else you might need to track (Guest hotel accommodations? Dates of arrival? What you need to know will vary depending on your wedding.)

If you have any questions or need some guidance with your wedding planning.  Please contact us below.

Happy Planning,


Day 3:
Start Your Guest List

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    Marsha VanArk, Wedding Planner at Distinctly Yours Wedding & Events