How to devise the perfect wedding guest list.

One of the biggest challenges any couple faces when planning their wedding is coming up with the guest list. Who do you invite? Who can you get away with not inviting? Who will be most offended if they don’t get an invite? Who is likely to fight with whom?

Those are just some of the inevitable questions you’re going to come up with while trying to figure yours out. We have collected some great tips for designing your guest list that have been tried and tested by us and some of the couples who get married with us. Use the knowledge well!

Keep quiet

The first and most important piece of advice we have for you is to keep quiet about the engagement. The first rule of engagement is you don’t talk about the wedding. Not until you’re ready to anyway.

Sure you’re going to want everyone to share the joy but you should keep that on a need to know basis until you’re ready. Tell the immediate family who will definitely be invited to the wedding, but ask them to keep quiet until you’re organised.

Usually, the first thing anyone asks when you tell them about the engagement or show them the ring is “when is the wedding?” If you don’t know, haven’t planned the wedding or the budget, or just don’t want to invite the people you’re seeing, you need to be prepared for that.

Keeping quiet until you have a good idea about the wedding itself is the best way of managing expectations.

Plan well

Most good wedding venues can provide you with a breakdown of costs per head to help you budget. If you’re unsure of how many people you want to invite, we suggest starting there. While bringing everything down to money isn’t the most romantic thought in the world, it is the most practical.

If you know how much it will cost to host each guest you can budget accordingly. This will help immensely with your planning.

Be fair

Once you know how many guests you can realistically afford, you can begin dividing them up. Depending on family circumstances, it’s best to split the guest list 50/50. That way you get equal share of the guest list, families can’t argue about favouritism and you have a ready excuse for family members you don’t want to invite.

Telling them you don’t want them there because you have seen or heard from then in a decade won’t go down too well. Telling them there isn’t room as you had to divide limited places between two, three or four families is something nobody can argue with.

Be logical

Wedding guest lists are notoriously tricky, which is why they take so long and create so much fuss. It may help to set criteria before actually building the list. For example, if you haven’t seen someone in a year, they could be cut, if they don’t get on with close family members they could be cut. You get the idea.

By applying this rule across the board and across both sides of the aisle there can be no question of favouritism.

Be strong

If you’re lucky, your respective families will accept your wedding plans without question. In reality, that’s exceptionally unlikely to happen. There will inevitably be questions and requests to invite so and so and you will need to be prepared for this and be strong about your reply.

Remember, no matter who is paying, it’s your wedding day. Therefore you get to choose who comes and who cannot. Play the fairness card, tell people you’re sharing guests equally, or tell them the wedding venue simply doesn’t have room for more, it’s up to you. But stick to your guns and your budget.

Be specific

When it comes time to send out invites, be specific. Name names on the invite and don’t go down the route of the “plus one.” While in the majority of cases this doesn’t create problems, it is a possible obstacle that you could do without.

Putting “plus one” or “and guest” could open all sorts of cans of worms. That could include exes, people you don’t like or someone completely unsuitable for your wedding day. Avoid all that by naming names and sticking to it.

Have a B-list

It is usual to have anything up to a 20% non-attendance rate for one reason or another. We all lead busy lives now and have lots of draws on our time. That means having standby guests to make up the numbers. Just remember to never tell that guest that they were ever a standby!

Be correct

When it’s finally time to send invites, check spelling, check that person is still alive, married, or with the other person, check their address and ensure you have everything just right. It takes a little time and a little digging, but it prevents missed invitations, family feuds and all those other wedding traditions we like to avoid!


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