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Wedding Guest List Tips: How to Plan a Guest List

Where do you start when you’re planning a wedding? Making your wedding guest list is a great place to begin. When you celebrate your wedding, you’ll want your friends and family there to support you and celebrate with you.

How To Make a Wedding Guest List

Planning a wedding can be a daunting task, so a wedding guest list can be difficult to create. But with careful planning, there will be room for all your loved ones to attend your special day. With these tips on what to consider when forming your wedding guest list, you’ll know how to make an amazing one in no time.

How Many People to Invite

Are you planning a small wedding or a large wedding? What is considered a small wedding? What is considered a big wedding? There’s a lot of variation in wedding sizes, so choose what best fits your ideal wedding.

According to Martha Stewart Weddings, small weddings have 50 people or fewer, medium-sized weddings have 50-150 guests and large weddings have more than 150 guests.

big wedding

A lot of this has to do with personal preference. You might want a more intimate wedding or your could throw a huge party for your friends and family. Whether you have a small or large wedding changes the tone and feel, so do what feels most comfortable for you.

How many people to invite is ultimately up to you, but your budget is an important thing to keep in mind when planning your wedding guest list. There is typically a price per person when you consider your venue, food, drinks, favors, and more. The more wedding guests you invite, the more expensive your big day. If you have a large budget, you might be able to expand your guest list. Your budget will affect your venue, which will also affect how many guests you’ll be able to invite.

What is the Average Size for a Wedding?

The average wedding falls into the medium-sized category. The Knot estimates that the average wedding size is around 136 people. Even though this is the average number of wedding guests, there are plenty of weddings that exceed this number. Even around the U.S., wedding size varies.

In recent years, the average wedding size has been slowly declining. If small or mid-sized weddings aren’t what you have in mind, you can still have a long guest list. Don’t let trends play too much of a role in your own wedding planning.

How Many Wedding Guests Will Come?

Keep in mind that not everyone who gets an invitation will actually be able to make it to the ceremony, and this can be a tricky number to estimate. Martha Stewart Weddings says that usually no more than 75% of those invited respond “yes.”

Still, it can be risky to send out extra invites and rely on the fact that there will be some people who can’t come. It becomes more complicated if more people say yes that you expect, so when planning the guest list, make a conservative estimate. You can always send a few more invitations out later as well – simply keep track of who RSVPs “no” and replace them with someone lower on the list.

Who to Invite to the Wedding

The easy part is deciding who you want to invite to your wedding. Your list might exceed the number at the venue or number you’ve set, but you can always take some names off the list later. Planning the wedding guest list is something that takes time, and you should communicate clearly with your partner about who you want attending.

When you’re creating your wedding guest list, make sure to include:

  • Your immediate family. This includes your parents, siblings, and grandparents.
  • Your extended family. Your extended family includes your aunts, uncles, cousins, and other relatives. Not every single family member needs to be invited to your wedding, so some relatives you aren’t in close contact with might not make the list. However, you’ll want many family members with you on your wedding day.
  • Your close friends. It can be tempting to put all your friends on your list, but make sure to include the friends you speak to regularly! This might be your childhood friends or friends from college. They’ll certainly want to attend your wedding to see you on your big day.

These are some of the people who you’ve been close to your entire life, and these are the people you really want with you to celebrate your wedding day.

How to Cut People Off the List

Unfortunately, you probably won’t be able to invite everyone you would like to your wedding. At some point, there needs to be a limit to your guest list. If you need to take people off your wedding guest list, here are some places to start:

    • Children. It’s fine not to have children at your wedding. One of the easiest ways to cut down your guest list is by only including adults on your guest list.
    • Friends you haven’t seen in years. If you haven’t seen or talked to certain friends in years, it’s okay to leave them off the guest list. It might be tempting to invite distant friends, but if you haven’t contacted them in a while, it might be best to leave them off your guest list.
    • Coworkers. When thinking about who to invite to your wedding, another personal choice is whether to invite friends from work and coworkers. For some people, coworkers can be close personal friends, so in this case, include them on your guest list! Otherwise, you can plan a small celebration or get-together for the office.
    • Friends of parents. There may be names on your wedding list that you or your partner don’t recognize. Maybe one of your parents snuck in a few of their friends onto your guest list. If there’s no more space, explain the situation to your parents and take them off the list. If your parents are paying for the wedding, you may have to allow them some influence on the guest list. 
    • Plus ones. In order to keep your guest list shorter, consider limiting the invitations you include a plus one with.

Although it can be hard to leave someone off your guest list, remember that your wedding day is about celebrating with the people you love.

When you’re creating your guest list, consider labelling guests by priority A, B, C, and so on. Your family and closest friends would make the A list, while those further outside your immediate circle like co-workers make the B list, and so on. That way, you can list out everyone you want to attend and then make cuts by priority level.

guest list

Another strategy is to make only an A list and a B list. Your A list is who you send the invitations to first, and then you can dip into the B list if guests from the A list cannot attend.

What if Someone Asks You Why They Didn’t Get an Invitation?

If someone expected a wedding invitation and didn’t receive one, this can become an awkward situation. When this is handled delicately, you can avoid any wedding drama surrounding your guest list. Explain that you would love to have them there, but you had to cut your guest list because of space or budget reasons.

If you are planning a small wedding with only family, be honest about it. You can thank your friend, coworker or family member for their support and express that you would be happy to see them after the wedding.

Wedding Guest List Templates and Tools 

There are many online tools and apps you can use to plan your wedding, and plenty of them help you tackle your guest list. There are many perks to using a wedding guest list template, and one of the big benefits is keeping all your guests’ information in one place.

Wedding Wire has a guest list tool, and once you’re done, it even makes sending out invitations and RVSPs a simple task. It even has options to include information like meal options.

The Knot also has its own managing system for guest lists. The Knot also has plenty of other tools to make wedding planning easy, so this is a great option if you already have an account.

Even Microsoft Office has templates for wedding guest lists. While this is a more basic option, if you just need a sheet to track basic information about each guest, like their name, address and party size, this could be the best choice. Microsoft Office doesn’t have the capability to send out invitations after you’ve finished your guest list.


Planning a wedding guest list is a highly personal and individualized experience, but there are plenty of tools that can help you. If you start planning early, this does not have to be a stressful experience.

Although you may have to make some difficult decisions about who isn’t able to attend your wedding, remember to include your family and friends on your guest list for the perfect wedding day! While it can be awkward to cut people from your guest list, remember that at the end of the day it’s your big day and you should celebrate with those who are most important to you.  

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