YAY - you're planning a wedding! Are you stressed already just thinking about it? Don't be - this can be a fun process if you do it the right way, and we are here to help with all of those tough parts. We always recommend creating your guest list as the first step, because this helps everything else fall into place. You can't really make any decisions on venue, date, or even budget until you know how many guests to expect at your wedding, but the guest list can prove to be one of the trickiest parts (especially once you get the moms involved). We've compiled some tips and tricks to help make this part of the process a little easier, so you can move on to the fun parts!
Setting It Up
The first thing you'll want to do is make sure you layout your list correctly, so that it works for ALL the various purposes you'll need throughout the planning process. You'd be surprised at how many times you need to sort by a different factor, and if your list isn't setup correctly you'll have countless hours of work to put in to make that possible. So - make sure you create your guest list in Excel, and give every guest (even dates!) their own row. You should separate items as much as possible, so you can sort or filter them later. This means separating first and last name, street address, city, state, etc. I know you often call your guests by their nicknames, but you should keep it a little more formal on your wedding guest list - put their names in the format that you'd like them on your Save the Date and Invite envelopes so you don't have to re-format later. For example, it's more instinctual to type "Aunt Jane and Uncle Tim" but if you want formal names on the envelopes then list them as "Mr. and Mrs. Timothy Castle" instead.
Our Guest List Template is linked below to help you out with this process!
Though we feel strongly that the guest list is one of the first pieces you should nail down for your wedding, there are probably some factors aren't negotiable, so you should definitely take those into account! If you have always dreamed of having your wedding in your grandmother's backyard, then make sure you limit your list to those that can fit comfortably.
Who to Invite
Whoo, this part is the doozy, isn't it? If you knew exactly who to invite, you probably wouldn't need much help with your guest list. The truth is that it's 100% up to you. I like to recommend starting with those that you can't live without - immediate family, wedding party, best friends. It helps to make your list separately from your fiancé, to get two perspectives!
"But they invited me..."
So what? It may sound harsh, but your wedding is your wedding. Things have likely changed since "their" wedding, whoever "they" are. Whether your relationship has changed, or your wedding is simply different than theirs, you definitely shouldn't feel pressured to invite someone to your wedding simply out of obligation. If they invited you due to a family connection or something, then you probably should invite them - just make sure it's for a reason (any reason!) other than the fact that they invited you to their wedding.
The B List
Many couples come to me with an A invitation list and a B invitation list! The B List is typically a group of guests who you may invite a little later, based on how many of the first round guests say no - your new coworker and her boyfriend, your mom's accountant who she loves, etc. Whether or not you decide to include a B list, just make sure you order enough invitations and keep a close eye on your venue's capacity.
A very common question when planning your guest list is "Who gets dates?". Dates can drastically increase your guest count, but on the other hand, having their own dance partners will help your guests have the best time possible! There isn't a tried and true rule here, but there are a few typical guidelines. If someone is married, then their spouse should be invited to your wedding. If someone is traveling more than a few hours, it's customary to give them the opportunity to bring a guest to keep them company as well. For boyfriends and girlfriends, the custom is more fluid. If you and your fiancé have met a guest's date, and they are in a serious relationship, then it is typical to include them in your guest list - however, this is your wedding so you can pick and choose based on what makes you feel comfortable. As a tip, if you're worried about people bringing guests who weren't invited, then you can include a line on your RSVP card that indicates how many people are invited in each party. See our post about RSVP cards for more info on that!
We've all seen the movies - no one can derail a wedding plan more than a mom, whether it's your own mother or your fiancé's. We love our moms, but sometimes they get a little too involved in their children's weddings, so the best way to prevent any issues is to be as up front as possible from the beginning. Let your moms know that their opinions are very important to you, but that your guest list will be up to you and your fiancé. If you'd like, you can always give them an allotted guest count that they can submit to you for final approvals. Limiting them to 1-2 tables worth of friends will give them a good structure and help them not get carried away adding people to the guest list!
Making your guest list can seem daunting, but once you get that step completed, a lot of other decisions about your wedding will fall into place! You can create a more accurate budget, search out the right type of venues, and even start sending out Save the Dates. Download our Guest List Template to keep everything in one place, and always go with your gut on this one - you will be able to tell if someone is right for your wedding!