One of the biggest hurdles in planning a wedding is deciding who goes on the guest list and how many guests to invite. Creating a guest list, whether you’re thinking of inviting 5 or 500, can be a process fraught with family negotiations. Plus, the number of people you invite has a huge impact on your wedding budget and your choice of wedding ceremony and reception venues. We suggest starting off with a “draft list”. This is the first list you make, which allows you to start visualizing who you want to invite.
It can be difficult to figure out where to start when listing potential invitees. The best way to start is to first pick a total number of guests that you want to attend. Yes, we said attend, not invite. (We’ll talk more about this later.) Make it a logical number – if you know the groom has more than 30 close family members, a total guest count of 75 probably isn’t going to be realistic. Think about the style and feel of your wedding as well. If you know you want a small, intimate ceremony in the tiny chapel you grew up attending, then starting off with a guest list of 300 is going to lead to a lot of heartache later. When deciding on this number, also keep in mind your overall budget. Here are some useful statistics:
- The average spent per wedding in the U.S. in 2015 was $32,641.
- The average number of guests was 140.
- That means the average amount spent per guest was $233.
So, if you have a budget of $25,000, you can easily see that you may not be able to afford to invite 250 – 300 guests. Once you’ve got a nice round number in mind, divide the list into four pieces: a quarter of the list to the bride, a quarter to the groom, a quarter for the bride’s parents, and a quarter for the groom’s parents. If either set of parents is divorced, split their allotment evenly between the father and mother. Make sure the bride works with her parents and the groom with his to ensure all family members make it onto the list.
After everyone has a list of names, ask each person to go through and make a realistic projection of whether or not each guest will attend. This doesn’t mean you need to start emailing or calling people – in all likelihood, you don’t have a date yet! But most people know, for example, that the groom’s Uncle George never comes to family events, or that the bride’s college roommate is deployed overseas and just can’t get that kind of leave. Take a look at the lists and make sure that no one’s portion has been decimated by the probably-won’t-come estimates. Adjust accordingly. And voila! You have your draft guest list for wedding invitations.
Of course, it’s not all about numbers. You – the bride and groom – should have the ultimate decision-making power when it comes to guests. If you don’t want someone at your wedding, do not feel obligated to invite him or her. If you attended someone else’s wedding, you aren’t required to invite them to yours. Close personal friends or your boss from work are fine, but don’t ask the entire office if you would rather they not share in your special day or you are restricted on head count due to venue or budget. Set some ground rules with your parents about who they can include on the list. A good rule of thumb is that either the bride or the groom should have met every person that will be invited. Whatever rules you decide to follow, once they have been established, stand firm! Don’t let yourself be bullied into adding extra guests or people you’ve never heard of once you and your parents have agreed on the boundaries.
photo by Katie Cassidy Photography