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How To Make A Killer Wedding Guest List | Jeffrey House Photography

How To Make A Wedding Guest List

By Jeffrey House Photography


For every 5 guests you can leave off the guest list, it will save you a minimum of $1,000!

I'm not proposing that you cut people from your guest list just for the sake of saving money, but consider this thought for a moment.  

The average guest at an Albany, NY wedding will cost you between $205-$250!

And most brides admit, if they could do it all over again, they would have a smaller wedding.

In this article, we are going to discover how to make a wedding guest list and learn how to avoid making some common mistakes.



Why Is A Guest List So Important?

The guest list is critical because it can have a huge impact on your budget and the wedding venue you ultimately choose.  

As we just mentioned, the average guest will cost between $205-$250.  Just imagine if you could reduce your guest list from 200 to 175.  At $205 per person you would save approximately $5,000!!

However, don't forget about the money you will be saving on other details too - less guests means less invitations, place cards, thank you cards, favors, number of tables, centerpieces, etc.  This could easily save you additional money.  

What about the wedding venue?  How does the guest list impact the wedding venue you choose?  

If you're having an "in-season" wedding, most wedding venues have specific booking requirements.  In order to book the venue, they may require you to have a minimum guest count (i.e. 150 guests) or they may require a minimum financial investment (i.e. $15,000).  

What if they require 150 guests, but you only have 100?  If your heart is set on this particular venue, you can either invite 50 more guests or pay for 50 people that won't be in attendance.  

Your other option, of course, is to consider other wedding venues.  



Who Goes On The Guest List?

This might seem like a silly question, but there might be some situations that you weren't aware of or you've overlooked.  Let's take a closer look at who goes on the guest list.

You and your spouse of course.  

The bridal party.

Immediate family members (mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers)


Extended family members (aunts, uncles, and cousins)

Family friends (this usually includes friends of parents)




Break It Down

The first step in creating a guest list is to break it up into categories.  Start by creating two categories:

  1. Must Invite
  2. Possible Invite

The "possible invite" will include people you'd like to invite if possible.  Under the possible invite list, make a separate section for those people that take top priority.


The Parent Trap

Before adding any names to the guest list, be sure to sit down with both sets of parents to get their input.  This can be a sticky situation as many parents often have their own agenda when it comes to the guest list.  

Parents often want to include people you wouldn't ordinarily ask.  However, you feel obligated and pressured to invite them.  Some couples have told their parents they can't include anyone on the guest list they haven't seen in the past 6 months.  

Traditionally speaking, each set of parents is allowed to invite 50% of the guests.  If your parents are paying for the wedding, you make need to make a few concessions when it comes to the invites.  However, if you're paying for the wedding, you can stray from tradition and implement the rule of thirds.  The rule of thirds allows each set of parents to invite a third of the total guest list.  

If you're struggling to agree on the guest list you can certainly employ some other tactics to diffuse the situation.  One - tell them you need to keep the total invites to a number you feel appropriate in order to remain within your budget.  Second - tell them you have to limit the total number of guests otherwise you will have switch venues, which will result in a lost deposit.  

If you're not successful with these approaches - worst case scenario - you will need to decide how much you want to stand your ground.  



Who Should And Shouldn't Be Invited?

It's now time to make a few last decisions before actually adding invites to the guest list, and these can be difficult decisions for many couples.

No Children Policy (including teens up to 18)

Many couples include a "no children" policy, however, this topic often causes them a lot of stress.  While many of your guests will appreciate this policy, there is always a few couples offended by it.  They can't imagine their children not being part of the day.  

Many couples prefer to exclude children because it eliminates distractions, especially during the ceremony.  You don't have to worry about crying, tantrums or misbehaved children.

Not having children at the wedding provides financial benefits too as it will scale back on the guest list.  

If you're in favor of this policy, expect a little criticism, but that's okay.  Rarely can you make everyone happy and a wedding is an adult event.

If you plan on not having children, experts recommend you don't say "no children" on the invitation.  Instead, make a note on the RSVP card that states, "adult wedding" or "how many adults will be attending?"

What About The +1?

The average age of couples getting married is late 20's; therefore, it's not uncommon for many of their friends to be single.  So, the question becomes - should you allow them to bring a date?

As a general rule, married couples and unmarried couples living together are allowed the "plus 1."

If you want to allow a guest dating, but not living someone to bring a date, you can place an age restriction on it.  For example, if you're just dating and over 21, it's okay to bring a date.  

However, your 16 year old niece will be unable to bring her high school sweetheart.  




This can be another difficult situation for many couples.  Many feel that if they invite one co-worker they have to invite them all.  And should you also invite your boss?

If you work in a small office and you're socially active outside of work, it's probably a good idea to invite the group.  However, if you work in a large office, it's perfectly fine to only  invite those co-workers you spend time with outside the office.  

What about your boss?  It largely depends on  your rapport.  If you don't engage socially, then it's not necessary to invite him/her.  

The Tough Calls


Many couples want to know if it's okay to not invite friends.  This can be challenging because shortly after you get engaged your friends will be talking about how excited they are for your wedding - assuming they will be invited.  

But what if you don't plan on inviting them or don't want to?

You don't have to burst their bubble at that very moment, but at some point you will have to explain to them that you're unable to invite them.


Feeling Obligated

Feelings of obligation is what leads many couples to having a guest list that's too large.  

Many brides share this same situation - "last year my friend invited me to her wedding, so how I do not invite her to mine?"

While it's wonderful she invited you to her wedding, there's not a code or rule that says you need to return the invitation.  Your friend may have had a larger budget, less guests in the first place or she may be one of those brides regretting not having a smaller wedding.  

It's important to understand you're not obligated to invite everyone that knows you.  Everyone has different reasons and priorities for their guest list.  Be true to yourself and what's best for your wedding.


How To Handle The "No's"

Unfortunately, you can't invite everyone to your wedding - your wedding budget just won't allow for it.  You have to set some boundaries and exclude people from the guest list.  

So, what's the best way to handle these situations?

There are many ways to soften the blow.  Be honest.  Let them know how much you appreciate their excitement, support, and desire to be there but your budget only allows for a certain number of guests.

If the person is being overly persistent, then you may need to embellish a little.  Let them know  your parents and/or in-laws are inviting more people than expected which requires you to cut back on your personal invites.  

Most people understand weddings are expensive and while they might be a little disappointed, ultimately they will understand.  


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