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The Most Effective Way To Write Your Wedding Guest List

Nikita Thorne Updated:
4th of April 2023

Writing your wedding guest list should be one of your first wedding planning tasks, as it will have a huge effect on your budget and venue choice. Once you've worked out how many wedding guests you want to invite, you can tweak your wedding plans accordingly! Our 6 step step guide will help you to write your guest list effectively and efficiently...

Wedding guests posing for camera

Step 1 - Talk it out

You need to sit down with your partner and make sure you are on the same page. Are you both planning on having the small intimate wedding or does one of you have the vision of a huge bash? Once you have established this, it will be easier to select your wedding guests.

Step 2 - The Big List

Imagine your wedding in an ideal world. Write down the name of every person you would have at your wedding if there was not a limitation in terms of budget and venue capacity. This big list not only helps give you an idea of how many people you would want and need to invite, but also will act as a way to bring yourselves back down to reality later.

The big list will also help you to know what to look for in a wedding venue. For example, if one of your guests requires disabled access or has a specific dietary requirement, you'll want to ensure this is available at your venue of choice.

Top Tip: You may wish to show this big list to someone you trust, like your maid of honour or your parents. They may remember some key people that you should consider inviting.

Couple with bubble exit at wedding
Nevels Media

Step 3 - Prioritising the Guests

From this big list, you now need to start prioritising those who are attending. It can be slightly overwhelming deciding who to invite but split the list into three categories to determine who should take priority. Your categories should be:

  • A-list - these are the individuals that you can’t imagine your day without. This generally consists of your parents, the wedding party, your children, the people you and your partner are closest to.
  • B-list - people who you would love to attend and fully anticipate you will invite, but it wouldn't ruin the day if they had to cancel at the last minute. In general, this is family and friends. 
  • C-list - these are people who it would be awkward not to invite, or who it would be nice to have there but you wouldn't mind if they couldn't come. Distant relatives, old friends you've lost contact with, work colleagues and plus ones. 

Top Tip: Don't forget to put your own names on the list. We recommend adding your names to the top of the list, this way you will never forget yourselves in your guest numbers!

Step 4 - Finalising the Guest List

Once you have listed these categories, you can work out exactly how many people you can afford to invite based on your venue capacity and catering quotes. If inviting more people is a priority for you both, you may have to look for a larger venue or a more affordable caterer to ensure that you don't go over budget. 

This can be a tough process, but it's crucial to get it sorted early, as it will inform most of your wedding decisions. Set aside an afternoon to hash it out. You'll need to talk to your partner about how you are going to invite difficult relatives and friends, whether you want children at the wedding, and how many work friends you're going to include. 

Remember, each person will have a cost to their head, whether they will be invited to the whole day or just the reception, so it's worth asking yourselves the following questions if you aren't sure about inviting someone:

  • Would we take this person out for a meal and spend this much on them?
  • Would this person be missed if they did not attend (or only attended the reception)?
  • Would anyone on the A-list be offended if they weren't invited?
  • Is there any reason not to invite this person?

Something to consider: If your parents have contributed significantly to the wedding budget, then they may want some say in the list, or to invite some close friends of theirs. Traditionally, the guest list would be made up of a third the groom's parents' guests, a third the bride parents' guests, and a third the couple's guests, but this has mostly changed for modern weddings. 

Outdoor wedding ceremony
Oliver Li

Step 5 - The Invitation Strategy

Once you've split your wedding guest into day and evening categories, it's time to plan your invitation strategy. We recommend sending save the dates to just your day guests. If you send them to evening guests, they may get the wrong idea and keep the entire day free (particularly if it's a week day). One clever trick to send your day invitations slightly earlier than your evening ones - that way, if a day guest RSVPs no, you can upgrade an evening guest with them being none the wiser!

Step 6 - Back to Reality

Ever planned a party and considered inviting someone on a whim at the last moment? If you ever find yourselves about to do this, consult your big list first. Was that person ever on that list? If not, you shouldn't extend an invite. If you have spaces at the last moment and want to fill them, investigate your B and C list again and instead extend the invitation to these people. They were always on your mind and would have been invited in an ideal world.

Sign up for your free Guides for Brides wedding planner to get access to a free guest list tracker!

Nikita Thorne Guides for Brides

About the author

Nikita Thorne

Nikita is a wedding planning expert and newlywed having tied the knot in 2023. She is the host of Guides for Brides - The Wedding Podcast and regularly speaks at wedding industry conferences and national wedding shows to inform and inspire couples who are planning their big days. She keeps on top of the latest wedding trends in design and fashion and loves to see the new innovative ideas from wedding professionals across the country. If you need practical planning advice, Nikita has been through the entire wedding planning process, so is your best contact!

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