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How to Create a Wedding Guest List in 6 Easy Steps

So you’ve started planning your wedding and you’re getting down into the details – the wedding guest list! This is a super exciting time. Drawing up the guest list is one of those moments when all of the wedding prep starts to feel real! But how do you start creating it? 

Your wedding guest list is really important, but it doesn’t have to be stressful to put it together. I’ve broken it down into 6 simple steps to help you create your list and start sending out your save-the-dates!

How to Create a Wedding Guest List in 6 Easy Steps

You can tweak these steps to work for you and what’s important to your wedding guest list, but they are the perfect place to start.

Step One: Decide if You’re Inviting Everyone to the Reception

Right away, it’s helpful to figure out if you are going to host everyone for the whole wedding day, or if you’re going to break up the day into different events. Most people will invite guests to the whole day, but you might consider having a longer wedding guest list for your ceremony and post-ceremony drinks, and then a more intimate guest list for your dinner and dancing.

Guests standing and talking at reception/cocktail hour at an outdoor wedding venue and a wedding guest list hanging from a tree branch designed by  Fine Day Press
Elizabeth & Lucas’ Austin, Texas wedding, planned by Wild Sky Events. Photo by Caroline Lima. Seating Chart by Fine Day Press.

If you choose to have multiple wedding guest lists, then you’ll just go through this process a few more times. I’d suggest that you start with your core wedding guest list with everyone invited to the whole day, and then decide who else you want to invite to your ceremony.

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Step Two: Land On a Maximum Number

The key to creating a wedding guest list is to know your maximum number of guests (and then stick to it!) There are a few different ways that you can arrive at that number – budget being one of them – but the easiest and clearest way to settle on a maximum number for your guest list is to take your cues from your venue. Every venue will have a different capacity, so that’s super important when you’re composing your guest list. Choose one of the venue packages and use that as your cap for the number of guests on your list.

A Note on Budget

One aspect of the budget that you can easily underestimate is your stationery. The bigger your wedding guest list, the more you’ll spend on save-the-dates, RSVP cards, and invitations – so keep that in mind as you plan!

Step Three: Figure Out Who Gets a Say

The thing that can make creating a wedding guest list a little bit complicated is that everyone has an opinion. Weddings are family affairs, and parents and grandparents are just as excited for them as you are! But when your mom wants to invite her whole book club or your grandpa just assumes that you’ll be inviting that distant cousin you haven’t seen since you were twelve, things can get awkward.

Bride and groom holding hands in front of the officiant at the altar during the wedding ceremony with their guests looking on
Photo of Thi & Nick’s intimate New Orleans wedding by Freckled Fox Photography

One essential step in creating a wedding guest list is to decide who gets a say in the guest list. If your parents are contributing financially, you might feel that they have a bigger influence on the wedding guest list than if it’s just you and your partner paying for it. One thing’s for sure: everyone will have ideas, but you get to decide who has a say!

Step Four: Divide Up the Total 

Now that you have the maximum number of guests and you know who gets a say in the wedding guest list, you get to divide up the ‘seats’ and give each person a certain number of invites they can send.

For example: say your maximum number of guests is 200. You might decide that you get to decide on 75 guests, your partner gets to decide on 75 guests, and your parents get 25 invites and their parents get 25 invites. Alternatively, you could decide that you and your partner are going to decide on 190 of the guests – but that each of your moms has 5 invites they can give to whoever they want. You get the idea!

Step Five: Start Inward and Work Your Way Out

While you’re deciding who to invite, start inward and work your way out. Don’t go all the way back to the friend who helped your imaginary wedding back in third grade, and don’t start with your coworkers or boss.

The greenhouse-inspired wedding reception venue with plants and greenery surrounding the exquisite table set-ups
Elizabeth & Lucas’ Austin wedding, planned by Wild Sky Events. Photo by Caroline Lima.

Instead, start with close family. Next, the close best friends who really know you in your life now. After, the distant family you want to bring in. Next, the friends from your past who you want to be part of your day. After that, and only then, think about work colleagues or other connections you might want to honor. They say that if you haven’t talked to them in the last year, they probably don’t need to get an invitation to your wedding – that advice seems pretty solid to me!

Step Six: Think About Individuals, Not Groups

This tip piggybacks off of the last one. When you’re creating your wedding guest list, one thing that can cause it to balloon pretty quickly is the whole concept of group connections. This is when I hear things like Well, the five of us lived together back at college and one of them fell off the map but the other four of us still meet up maybe once a year and the only one I really talk to regularly is Jessica but if I invite her and not the other two it’ll feel so personal but both of them are married and I don’t really know their partners so the whole thing feels so awkward – whew – slow down there!

This is your wedding. A party you are throwing for your closest people. You don’t need to invite out of pity or obligation. Remember, for everyone you don’t invite, you’re protecting space for someone you really want to be there! So don’t let guilt or fear of offending people dictate your decisions. Think about guests as individuals and don’t get caught up in inviting whole social groups.

Bonus Step Seven: Send Out Your Save-the-Dates

So – you’ve figured out your number of guests. You’ve divided up your invites, chosen your closest people, and compared your lists to create one whole wedding guest list. You’ve done it! Now all that is left is to send out your save-the-date cards and start logging those RSVPs. Take a look at our collection of unique save-the-dates, and if you’re wondering what to include on the save-the-date cards to send out to your wedding guest list, take a look at our guide!

xo, ashley

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Vendor Credits:

Photographers:Freckled Fox Photography and Caroline Lima Photography
Planner:Wild Sky Events
Menus, signage, programs: Fine Day Press

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