How To Prepare Your Wedding Guest List

Hi Good People.

It may seem like a paradox, but choosing the people you want to share your big day with can be one of the hardest aspects of planning a wedding. Here’s our guide to compiling your guest list and ensuring those you invite have a great time.


Unless you have an unlimited budget, you can’t invite everyone you want to your wedding or Event. And if one or both of you have a large family or a wide circle of friends, you’ll have to make some tough calls. In the initial planning stages, sit down with your fiancé /fiancee and discuss approximate numbers to ensure your expectations are roughly the same and to establish what sort of reception venue you’ll need. Make a list of everyone you would like to invite and divide them into three categories – definite, probables and possibles – so you can clearly see where you should make cuts if you need to. Remember that you have family expectations, financial issues and practical considerations to contend with when deciding who will and won’t make the shortlist.

So, which comes first: the venue or the guest list? It’s really up to you, but the two are integrally linked and will ultimately be governed by your budget. If you have your heart set on a particular venue, find out what the seating capacity is and get an idea of catering costs per head, then work your guest list around that. Alternatively, draw up a realistic guest list and find a venue to suit your numbers.

To begin with, you’ll need to invite your immediate families, close extended family and good friends you couldn’t imagine getting married without. You should also invite the spouses of those in the wedding party. You could consider inviting the officiant and his/her spouse, and the parents of the ring bearer and flower girls, too. After that, it’s your call. Focus on people who are relevant to your life now, and who you believe will still be important to you in the future.

Your wedding day is sure to be special not only for you, but for your parents also. If they are contributing financially to the event, it’s only fair to let them have some input into the guest list. Many of the people they invite will be family or close friends who have known you since childhood. To avoid any dramas, clarify the extent of your families’ involvement in the guest-list process at an early stage. Tell your parents the maximum number of guests you feel comfortable with and how many people the venue holds, then give them your list and let them add to it. If your parents are pushing for particular people to attend, and you have enough space at the reception venue, why not let them invite extra guests provided they pay for them. A little compromise goes a long way in keeping everyone happy.

If your numbers are out of control, remember that you are not obliged to invite work colleagues. If you are inviting just a few workmates, ask them to be discreet to avoid ill feeling on the part of uninvited colleagues. Be honest, too, about your friendships. If you haven’t seen or spoken to someone in years, they probably shouldn’t be on your list. You don’t have to invite couples you’re not close to any more just because you went to their weddings.

Beware of inviting overseas guests or distant relatives who you presume won’t be able to attend – they may just decide to come. Instead, send a wedding announcement to share the news of your marriage.

Dealing with difficult situations

The Ex Question or Factor

Putting your ex-partners on the guest list is a matter of personal choice, but it must be a decision you and your fiancé/fiancee are both happy with. If your fiancé/fiancee is uncomfortable with the idea of an ex attending, there’s only one option – don’t invite them.

The Little People.

Whether or not to invite children is another difficult issue. Some couples couldn’t imagine a wedding without kids. For them, it’s the ultimate family occasion. However, not all couples share this view and choose to subtly let their friends with children know that it’s an adults-only affair. After all, kids can be unpredictable and noisy, and it may not be wise to have tired three-year-olds at your evening reception. Consequently, some of your friends may take offence and choose not to come, and while this is a shame, it’s your day, and they need to respect that.

Another solution is to invite children to the ceremony only. Ask the ushers to seat the kids and their parents near the back or on the end of an aisle so they can exit quickly if they need to.

Feuding Parents.

Sadly, you may have to cope with threats and demands from parents who are divorced and refuse to attend the wedding if your other parent is going to be there. Talk to each of them separately and present your position. Explain that you love them and want them to be at the wedding, but that you also love your other parent and would like them to attend too. Tell them that putting aside their differences for just one day would make you really happy.

Where your parents’ marriage ended recently, acrimoniously and/or because of a third party, consider asking that parent not to bring along their new partner out of respect for the other’s feelings. The last thing you want is an ugly scene or to be forced to take sides.

…And partner.

You may want to avoid these two words on wedding invitations to single friends or those who recently started seeing someone you haven’t met. Unless your unattached friend won’t know anyone else on the day, invite them to come solo and save that extra spot at the reception for someone you really want to be there.

If a single friend asks if they can bring a date, you’re entitled to say no. Kindly tell them seating at the reception is limited and you can’t accommodate any extra guests.

Being a Good Host

  • Don’t leave guests waiting for hours while you have your photos taken. It’s tiring for elderly guests, and the excitement of the ceremony can quickly evaporate as everyone awaits your return. If you do need to leave for photos, ensure your guests have something to eat and drink, as well as entertainment. A photo board is a fun distraction and conversation piece, while music (live or pre-recorded) will help set the mood.
  • A cash bar might seem like a good idea, especially if you’re on a budget – but your guests may not agree. At the very least, offer a glass of bubbles or juice on arrival, and make non-alcoholic drinks free of charge.
  • Large tables and high, elaborate centerpieces make conversation difficult. Smaller, round tables allow everyone to join in.
  • Consider your guests when drawing up seating arrangements. Seat those with common interests, professions or family situations together. Partners of those in the wedding party will appreciate being seated as close as possible to their other half – especially if they don’t know anyone else at the wedding.
  • It’s easy to forget the names of those at your table.
  • Put names on both sides of place-name holders so guests across the table can read them.
  • Ask guests to advise you of any dietary considerations – diabetic, vegan, food allergies –
  • so you can provide suitable options on the menu.
  • If you’re inviting younger guests, you could arrange with your caterers for children’s meals to be served.
  • Speeches that drag on too long can be boring for guests – especially when there are lots of in-jokes or references to events the guests know nothing about. Limit the number of speeches and make sure they’re kept brief.
  • Not all your guests will want to dance. Provide a quiet seating area where they can sit, chat and relax.
  • Take care of out-of-town guests by offering to arrange accommodation and rental cars.

Provide maps of important routes, tourist information (where applicable) and good dining spots, and ensure they have transport to and from the airport and wedding venues.

Photo Credit: James Photography 

Decor’: Lush Events 

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