The Ultimate Guide to Creating a Wedding Guest List

Top tips, smart advice and helpful guidance when it comes to creating your wedding guest list.

For some couples, creating a wedding guest list may come as a bit of a challenge where as for others, hosting a small and intimate wedding with only a handful of guests, where no major guest list planning involved, sounds like a dream come true. 

Nowadays, the average wedding in the UK has around 120 guests, which means that the majority of wedding planning couples will need to sit down with an excel spreadsheet (or a pen and paper if they are feeling traditional) and choose who they are going to invite to their wedding. The ability to invite everyone you know is a rare luxury and most of us end up having to draw the line somewhere. This article has been designed to help you get on track with creating the perfect wedding guest list, give advice on what to do once you’ve created it, and give you top tips on how to deal with your wedding regrets.

Creating Your Wedding Guest List 

Traditionally, a wedding was an opportunity for two families to come together with the closest of family friends to celebrate the union of the young couple. Venue hunting began with the ceremony location and the reception venue was generally the closest ‘acceptable’ hotel to that. The guest list was the responsibility of the bride’s parents (since they were paying for everything) but they would allow a quota for the in-laws who would be naturally underrepresented if geography were a factor. 

However, times have changed. Very often there may be a contribution to the costs of the wedding from one or both sets of parents but in many cases, we’re seeing that the major decisions are being made by the bride and groom themselves. They will be balancing budgets, working within logistical constraints and attempting to pull together the style, size and atmosphere of the day of their dreams. 

When it comes to planning the wedding guest list, the two basic constraints when it comes to numbers are of course capacity (at the venue/s) and budget. The third issue is your preference in terms of style and ambiance and this may even trump those initial considerations! 

Fairness ‘for all’ when it comes to planning a wedding guest list can be a challenge. The ‘side’ with the large family may well be inviting only the siblings and their offspring, whereas the smaller family may well get down to second and third cousins if the split is 50/50. Of course if the allocation is based on ‘closeness’ the ‘fairness’ will be questioned from an entirely different perspective. Bear in mind that parents may still be clinging to the tradition that the guest list is more about their friends than yours.

Who Should I Add to My Wedding Guest List? 

Before you start adding everyone you’ve ever known to your wedding guest list, take in to consideration the minimum and maximum number of guests that you’re allowed at your wedding venue. You’ll also need to think about your wedding budget at this point too, especially if you’ve received a wedding quote for a certain amount of guests. 

Below is a general list of people that you could invite to celebrate with you on your special day. Whether you choose to invite them to the day part of your wedding or just the evening reception is up to you…

Immediate family

Start with your parents, grandparents, siblings, their partners and their children. Then move down a step to add your aunts, uncles and cousins that you see regularly. 

Distant family

If you’ve got family that you do tend to keep in touch with and would like at your wedding, be sure to add them to the list. How far through the extended family do you go before friends start becoming more important than a family connection? As always, ultimately it’s up to you and will be particular to your specific circumstances. In general, we’d always advise early communication and resolution of any disagreements in pursuit of a (relatively) stress-free wedding planning journey. 

Friends  

Start with your closest friends and then think about friends you speak to regularly, friends from your school years, university or college, neighbours that you are friends with or friends that you feel could be a great addition to your wedding guest list. 

Work colleagues 

Depending on how long you’ve worked for the company, you may want to invite your work colleagues or even your boss to your wedding. You may have some work colleagues that are closer than others who you may want to invite to the day. This can be a tricky decision, but if you work in a relatively small office environment and feel as if you can’t invite some colleagues without inviting others, why not invite them all to the evening reception? 

Plus Ones

Adding a plus one to your single friends invitations can increase your overall wedding guest list numbers. Feel free to be ruthless, or you could adopt the phrase that they use over in America: No ring? No bring! Meaning that your friends who aren’t engaged or married shouldn’t expect to receive an invitation with a plus one. If you’re looking for a way to reduce your guest numbers, then this could be a smart option. 

Family Friends/Friends of Parents 

Every family has them, so its worth discussing with both sets of parents who, if appropriate, it would be worth jotting down on your day or evening wedding guest list. 

Children

Choosing whether or not to invite children to your wedding can be a stressful decision. They will obviously add to your guest numbers and in some family circumstances you may have no option. Discuss whether or not you’ll be inviting children to your wedding between you, and early on in the process of creating your wedding guest list, as this could change the dynamics of your day. 

How to Deal with Wedding Guest List Regrets

Its rare to send out a wedding invitation and receive a 100% acceptance response. So with this in mind, we’ve listed some top tips on what you should think about while you’re creating your initial wedding guest list.  

  • Generally you should be able to work on a 10% ‘regrets’ element.
  • Make sure that you know the capacities for the ceremony, the meal and the evening event. If you receive regrets, deduct them from your list and see if you can fill their place with additional guests if you’re down on your minimum numbers.  
  • Take in to consideration that guests with a newborn baby or small children may not be able to attend. 
  • Expect to receive responses via email, phone, card or text; try to keep on track. 
  • Realistically invitations sent by airmail will generate a larger refusal rate but do not assume this.
  • A and B Lists are a fairly recent phenomenon. Recognise that B-listers know that they didn’t make the cut for the full day’s celebration so their commitment may ultimately be less. Sadly the possibility of no-shows cannot be ruled out.
  • The reserve list (if you get ‘regrets’ and want to fill the spaces) is quite difficult to manage too. In such instances it is best to be honest.
  • To avoid a huge list of wedding regrets, perhaps send out 'save the date' cards well in advance so that people can put your wedding date on their calendars early. 

Creating a Wedding Guest List: Top Tips 

Tip 1:

Don’t verbally invite guests who aren’t on your original list – this may cause disappointment and/or embarrassment at a later date.

Tip 2:

Try and keep it fair when it comes to guest numbers for each of your families. 

Tip 3:

Don’t forget to include children in your guest list numbers, if you’re inviting them. If you’re not, be sure to mention this on your invitations. 

Tip 4:

The bride and groom count as guest number too, so don’t leave yourselves off the list when it comes to your final figure.

Tip 5:

Check to see if your chosen wedding venue has a ‘minimum number’ of guests when it comes to your chosen package. Keep this in mind throughout your planning.