Even if you’re not engaged, I’m sure the thought of a wedding guest list has been on your mind at one point or another. How do you know who to invite?
The answer might feel simple at first, like family & close friends, but as you make the list and see the numbers go up and up, you might wonder – where do you draw the line??
Here’s the thing: if you’ve talked over your priorities and know that having a large guest list is one of yours, that’s wonderful. The advice I’m giving will help you, but it’ll definitely be most helpful for people who want a smaller guest count.
That doesn’t mean making it so that you can have a heart to heart with everyone at your wedding (there really isn’t time for that unless it’s REALLY small!!), but it does mean landing on a number that doesn’t feel overwhelming – both to your heart and your budget.
So, if you want to know how to make your wedding guest list, read on.
Make the “everyone” list:
Sit down and write your separate lists of everyone you could possibly want to invite. Don’t hold back yet – you’ll get to narrow it down soon after this – but this step allows you to feel the freedom to write anyone & everyone’s name down without thinking about numbers yet.
When you’re each done, compare lists and cross off repeats. If that number is one you’re happy with, you’re done! If not, or if there are people from either list you’re not too jazzed about inviting, this next part is for you.
Ask this one question of everyone on the list:
Can we call this person to ask for help right now?
Even if you haven’t seen them or talked in a while, even if you have to find their current phone number through someone else: can you call them and ask for help?
Your guests are witnesses on your wedding day. By being a witness, their presence says that they will stand by your marriage in good times and bad times, just like you’re promising you’ll do for your spouse.
They will be there for you to laugh and cry with, whether it’s around your dinner table, in your pew at church, or on the phone from across the country. These people are for you, they support you, and they will speak life into your marriage.
If you ever needed them, you know they would be there for you.
So, when considering who to invite to your wedding, is every person on that list you made someone you could ask for help right now?
This might mean that a someone you’ve known a long time but have only kept tabs on via social media doesn’t make the list, while a new friend you’ve connected with on a deeper level does. It might mean your new co-workers only get an invite to the ceremony, while that mentor that gave you your first real chance because they believed in you when you were first starting in the workforce gets a plus one.
If keeping your guest list small is important to you – whether that’s for the budget or just ease of socializing with less people reasons – then using this question will help, even when deciding about third cousins. The rule of thumb is this:
If you don’t see them, don’t talk to them, AND don’t feel comfortable calling them up for help, why would you want them at your wedding?
If you still want to narrow down your list:
- Look at your phone history. Who have you actually talked to in the last six months?
- Plan a wedding weekend. Look into booking a large house or a few cabins somewhere, offer to fly your priest out to say your wedding mass, and keep the guest count to your closest people / the max number that can stay in that place!
- Invite people to the dance and not the dinner. This can be a big budget help and the 20-somethings crowd, who go to wedding after wedding after wedding every summer, will totally understand!
- Compromise. If it’s a question of budget, can you adjust your budget knowing how many people you want to invite? If it’s a question of keeping things small, can you accept a few more people than you first thought?
- And, on the other hand, consult your venue if you’ve already chosen it. Your guest count limit is the true limit and not able to be compromised!
- Remember that some people will RSVP as not attending, so it’s not like your entire guest list is your final head count.
One more thing to consider:
Inviting your parents’ friends.
I recommend asking each set of parents if there are a handful of people they’d like to invite. Give each side a table to fill of the friends they do life with. It’s always nice for parents to have friends to celebrate with, too, especially if you know they’re close.
A little note: if you’re getting financial help from parents (or anyone!) to help pay for the wedding, make sure you have a clear conversation around what the expectations are when using that money for the wedding, especially when it comes to the guest list. Keep in mind that a wedding is one of your first acts of “leaving your family & cleaving to your spouse” so it really is about what you want, not what anyone else wants. It can be hard to put a cap on who’s there celebrating with you in person on your wedding day, but it’s okay to draw the line at the place you’re happy with, even if someone else has something to say about it! I’ll be praying for you as you navigate this big piece of planning! <3
PS. You might also be interested in my free download: 10 Common Wedding Planning Mistakes & How to Avoid Them. You can get it by signing up HERE!