It’s been a week or two since you rocked that shiny ring and got engaged to the love of your life. After only a short time of becoming a fiancé(e) and living on cloud nine, the big decisions for your big day brought you down to earth. Now, the whole world is asking you about the big day, and your family and friends want to know if they’re invited to the nuptials. So, you must decide who to invite to your wedding. However, building a wedding guest list is one of the most complex parts of planning your big day.
The number of your guests defines the size of your wedding, the costs of your ceremony and the venue you choose. Hence, it impacts nearly every other subsequent planning detail. So, finalising your wedding headcount is one of your utmost priorities. Although it may sound like just writing down a list of names, it is much trickier than you’d think.
Where to begin making your wedding guest list? This post will help you decide who to invite to your wedding party and will tell you how to build a wedding guest list without any headaches. All you need to do is take a deep breath and take the following steps.
1. Decide How Many People You Want to Invite to Your Wedding
Before you start making your guest list, you must determine how long that list will be. Large weddings typically have over 150 guests, while smaller intimate weddings host fewer than 50 people. There’s no right number that works for every couple. However, the number of invitees depends on budget, personal preferences, and wedding styles. So, considering these three parameters, let’s figure out how many wedding guests you should invite to your big day.
What type of day do you want? Is it an intimate dinner in one of your parents’ backyards? A destination wedding with your immediate family and friends? Or, maybe you’re dreaming of a large hometown wedding that includes everyone important to you.
Every couple has its own interests and style. Before anything else, sit with your partner to come up with the ideal wedding you both desire. Your type of marriage can considerably determine the number of your guests and make you one step closer to solving how much to spend and who to invite to your wedding.
Wedding expenses are usually calculated on a per-person basis. So, your budget is a key decisive factor in figuring out your headcount.
Work out how much you can afford or are willing to spend on the wedding day. Tally up your and your partner’s savings, estimate the amount you can set aside from income, talk to your parents for a contribution and set a realistic wedding budget you can stick to.
Conduct quick research to estimate your per-head price for your preferred type of wedding. Use this rate to create your approximate guest count and make a realistic figure of how many guests you expect to have.
Most venues can host a certain number of guests and have headcount minimums and maximums. As a result, you can’t decide on a venue without having a vision of the number of guests at your event.
If you have a particular venue in mind from the get-go, you just need to create your guest list to fit the space’s capacity. Otherwise, you must know what type of location you want and what wedding venues you can consider. Will it be on the beach? Or in a luxurious hotel? A country house? A local restaurant or a greenhouse?
Find out how many guests your dream setting can hold and limit the number of your headcount to fit your venue.
2. Set the Ground Rules
Before you create a wedding guest list, sit down with your fiance and make up your mind about some factors that can affect your big day and the number of guests you can invite.
Set some general rules, from whether to invite the little ones to who can bring a plus-one and whether you will have a last-minute B-List. Stick to these rules and make no exceptions. These fixed boundaries help streamline the guest-list-writing stage, prevent hurt feelings and ensure your big day runs smoothly.
Especially in large families, limiting the number of children your guests can bring makes a big difference to your overall guest count. Some couples decide to have an adults-only wedding to keep numbers down, or they just don’t like having many children present on their big day.
Etiquette allows you to invite guests over a certain age and ask your guests not to bring the little ones to the party. Whatever you decide, be sure to think about it carefully and establish guidelines early.
Just remember to set an all-or-nothing rule for allowing children to your wedding, and don’t make any exceptions for the children of your immediate family. You can just make an exception for newborn and breastfeeding babies.
In case you decide not to invite children, give lots of notice to parents and inform people in advance by using proper no-children wedding invitation wording.
You should also give some of your guests a plus-one to have somebody accompany them to the party. Many people expect or even ask you to get a plus-one.
You might allow plus-ones for all the guests of your wedding party, or maybe you don’t let any plus-ones at all. You may want to give a plus-one to anyone who’s married, engaged, living together, in a long-term relationship or those who don’t know anyone else at the party.
Deciding early on how to manage plus-ones will save you from many future headaches. So, decide early about it before getting down to writing names.
3. Write Down Your Guest List
Deciding on the headcount and who to invite to your wedding will primarily affect your choice of venue and help you allocate your budget effectively. So, ticking off your invitations on your To-Do list in time will help you have more time to focus on other details of your wedding ceremony and handle your planning tasks more carefully.
Usually, 80 to 85 per cent of invited guests RSVP “yes” and attend a wedding. As a result, some couples consider inviting approximately 10% more guests than their target number to fill the free spots. Another group of couples think this method is risky and decide to take the B-List approach. This group will have two rounds of invites and send out invitations from their B-List within a reasonable time frame when guests from their A-List decline the RSVP.
Your list A is your main guest list and includes your non-negotiables. This means anyone you simply can’t imagine getting married without. Write down everyone who you really want to be with you on your wedding day, including your
- Immediate family members (parents, siblings, children)
- Nieces and nephews
- Closest friends
- Extended family (closest first aunts and uncles, first cousins)
In addition, this list should include all your wedding party members, such as your bridesmaids, groomsmen, maid of honour, best man, flower girls, ring bearers, ushers, and others, plus everyone invited to the bridal shower and bachelor/bachelorette party.
This is your subordinate list and consists of the guests you’d like to invite if your budget or venue allows you. The names on this list will receive an invite to your wedding only if your guests on the A-List can’t make it to your party.
In case your list A invitees decline your invitation in the RSVP, go for the second round of invitations. Invite your list B to your wedding to fill the free spots. Just remember to stay within the number of people you’ve budgeted for and send the next round of invites early enough with a new RSVP deadline not to give your guests the impression they were on the second list.
Your B-Lst usually includes your
- Extended family (great aunts and uncles, second cousins)
- Your wider circle of friends (family friends, childhood friends, travel fellows, social media pals, neighbours)
- Your closest co-workers
- Your parents’ guests
Extended family invitations are tricky. This isn’t a great deal for small families but can complicate the invitation list writing process if you have a large extended family. Remember that it may seem unfair to split your aunts and uncles or cousins and invite only the ones you’re closer to. Etiquette dictates inviting all or none of your first aunts, uncles or cousins to avoid hurting their feelings.
4. Send Out the Invites
Now that your final lists are ready, you just need to schedule sending out the invitations. Typically, you must send your wedding invitations at least eight weeks in advance. However, you must mail your A-List invitations even earlier if you have a B-List. Send your A-List invites 12 weeks before the wedding to have plenty of time to receive the RSVPs and go for the second round of invites (about eight weeks before your wedding).
You must be surrounded by people who love and support you on your wedding day. So, you don’t have to invite people to your big day just out of guilt or because you don’t know how to tell them that they’re not invited to the wedding. People are usually more understanding than you’d think, understand the budget constraints, and won’t expect you to ask them unless they’re really close to you.
Your wedding day ought to be the happiest event of your life. So, careful planning in advance will go a long way in avoiding many awkward moments and unnecessary friction down the road. Just focus on the day of your dreams and ensure that your loved ones are sitting tightly on your guest lists. Let go of the rest.