Skip to main content

How to Build Your Wedding Guest List

It is safe to say that one of the biggest pain points of the planning process is the wedding guest list. However, you should start establishing your headcount ASAP.

Tang Photography

Just engaged? Congrats! It is safe to say that one of the biggest pain points of the planning process is building your wedding guest list. However, you should start establishing your headcount as early as possible as this will help allocate your wedding budget, select your wedding venue(s) and choose a number of other wedding vendors. From drafting your list to prioritizing your guests, we've got some tips and tricks for you.

Here's how to build your wedding guest list.

How to start a wedding guest list

Start a wedding guest list spreadsheet (or grab pieces of paper and a pen) to write all the names of those loved ones, near and far, you would love to have at the wedding. Do not worry, this is just a draft! Here is how to break it down into three different categories:

The “A” List

This includes immediate family and your best friends from childhood through college or university.

The “B” List

This includes your parent’s friends and co-workers.

The “C” List

This includes removed relatives you have not seen recently like Aunt Rose, remember her?

Once you have a draft of all the possible wedding guests, you need to make a decision on your ideal guest count and the associated cost to ensure you are within your wedding budget. If your family members are helping to pay for the wedding, then they usually get a say.

Geneviève Sasseville Photographie

Wedding guest list etiquette

There are a few other sticky situations to keep in mind when it comes to wedding guest list etiquette. Are you going to allow guests to bring a plus-one or allow guests to bring children? This is a personal preference you should make with your fiancé(e). Make it together! Consider if you really, really want a bridesmaid or groomsmen to bring a plus-one that they have only been dating for a week. Is he/she really a special significant other worth spending precious pennies on? Or consider if you really, really want a child at the ceremony or reception. Think: they could start to cry. Or worse, steal the spotlight with their cuteness! If that is the case, it might be a good excuse to say goodbye to them on the guest list. Go with your gut. If you do not want to hurt feelings, then compromise.

There may be more moments where you will have conflicts like when the word is spread by mouth. It is important to set standards immediately. Do not let dear old mom or dad or your future in-laws try to accidentally invite an attendee you have never met before your big day.

Wedding guest RSVP rate

Once you’ve signed, sealed, and delivered your invitations, you can expect wedding RSVP cards to return in the mail. Regrets are on average 20 to 30 percent, so keep this in mind when establishing your guest count. This usually depends on the distance needed to travel. Pro tip: to make it easier for out-of-town guests to attend, it would not hurt for you to include the block of hotel rooms in an insert too. Provide a link to your wedding website that will direct them to the discount code.

Last but not least, you should use WeddingWire’s FREE guest list tool to stay organized!