How to Choose Your Wedding Guest List

Wondering how to choose your wedding guest list? It’s one the hardest and emotional decisions to make when planning your wedding, right!? Where do you start? Where do you stop? How do you decide if someone makes the cut or not? Whether you’re planning a small, intimate garden wedding or a huge party, the guest list affects almost every other decision.

One of the first steps to choosing your guest list is to assess your budget. Once you know your budget, you’ll need to decide whether a larger guest list or more elaborate wedding is your priority. The more guests that attend your wedding, the less you’ll have to spend on each person and other areas of your wedding. Food and rentals like chairs, tables, and lines quickly add up and take up a large portion of your overall budget.

If you oft for a smaller guest list you’ll have more money to spend per person. This means that you might be able to afford extras like a special dessert bar and large floral centerpieces, ect. If your priority is to invite all of your friends and throw a huge party, you might cut out some of the extras. This could look like cutting down the menu options and keeping your decor more simple.

Mauve Wedding Invitation Suite

Writing Out Your Guest List

Once you’ve decided on your priorities, it’s time to get down to the actual list. After considering your budget, start with the total number of guests you’re able to host. According to Totally Inspired, a general percentage of 75-85 percent of invited guests will actually be able to attend your wedding. This number obviously drops quite a bit for out of town guests and even more so for destination weddings. This gives you a little wiggle room and means you’ll be able to invite slightly more gues

Start with you and your fiance’s immediate family and close extended family and friends. Next work out towards more distant family, friends, and coworkers. It’s a good idea to treat both sides of the family equally to prevent ill will. For instance, if you’re inviting your first cousins on your mom’s side, it’s best to avoid picking and choosing which ones make the list. To keep things fair, you’ll want to consider inviting the rest of your and your fiance’s first cousins as well. Exceptions to this rule are things like very large extended family in which case it’s simply not possible to invite everyone. Do your best to keep things even but in the end you’ll have to trust that people will understand if you’re unable to invite everyone.

Wedding reception iced coffee bar

Dealing with Strained Relationships

I wish this wasn’t even something I had to talk about and that is simply didn’t exist. When it comes to strained relationships or family you don’t expect to come because of lifestyle changes, my take is that it’s better to send an invitation and leave the ball in their court. Because we live in a fallen world where hurt people hurt people, big gatherings like this can bring up unideal situations and emotions. Most people do their best to set aside their grievances out of their love for you and your special day. But for those who don’t, try to have your heart in a place where you have let go of grudges and can see hurting hearts behind hateful exteriors.

In extreme situations, it is also totally ok to assign someone to keep an eye out for potential disruption and have them kindly ask the individual to stop or politely leave. The day is about a celebration of marriage, not a platform to “hang someone else’s laundry out to dry.” This allows you to relax and know that you’re won’t be responsible to keep the peace on your wedding day.

I recommend choosing your guest list or at least having an approximate number before touring venues to prevent falling in love with a venue that’s simply too small. If you have your guest count and you’re ready to choose your venue, check out this post, How to Choose Your Wedding Venue.

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How to Choose Your Wedding Guest List | Karen Elise Photography
How to Choose Your Wedding Guest List | Karen Elise Photography

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