How to Create a Wedding Guest List

Woman with wedding invitation at home, closeup

Creating a wedding guest list can be a complex task because it involves balancing many different factors including your budget, venue capacity, and personal relationships. You and your future spouse likely know a lot more people than you realize, and it can be tricky to cut your guest list down to a reasonable and affordable number without stirring up any tension. Luckily, there are a few techniques you can use to choose the number of people in your life you want to be present at this big event, sans drama. 

Who to Invite to Your Wedding 

Creating your wedding guest list and deciding on a venue go hand in hand. Even if you don’t have an exact location tied down, you probably have a sense of what your dream day will look like: a destination beach wedding, a rustic barn or traditional church, a small and intimate gathering, a massive guest list or somewhere in the middle. A “large” wedding typically has over 150 attendees, while the average guest list for a wedding in 2021 was 72. Once you have a rough rough number, it’s best to make a list of everyone you’d consider inviting. 

If resources were infinite, compile a list of every single person you’d invite to your big day. It’s easier to start big, and then whittle down your guest list. Start with immediate family, bridal party, and close friends, then work outwards, including colleagues, distant relatives, neighbors, etc. This is your master list, the next step is to start trimming it down. Separate out your top tier guests, the non-negotiables, the “A-list” people you simply wouldn’t get married without them being present. After that group, everyone else gets an invite if space and budget allows.

Traditionally, parents get a say on who’s invited to a wedding, especially if they’re helping pay for it. Ultimately, the guest list is your decision, but it might make sense to loop them in before finalizing your list. Once you have your working list, it’s time to consider how many guests you can realistically afford and accommodate, and this is where it can get tough. Try not to feel guilty as you pare down the list, this is your special day and there are other opportunities for folks to celebrate with you aside from the main event.  

name card on a wedding table setting

How to Create a Manageable Wedding Guest List 

By the time you’ve finished your master guest list and separated out your must-haves, you should have your venue booked and know exactly how many folks you can accommodate. Etiquette dictates you should send your wedding invitations at least eight weeks in advance, or ten if your ceremony requires travel; staggering your invites is a great strategy to begin with- send your A-listers invites first, then as RSVP’s start rolling in, you’ll likely receive some no’s, which will open up space for a second round of invites.  

If you’re struggling to trim down your guest list, there are two considerations to ponder, children and plus ones. A potentially easy way to minimize your guest list is to make your wedding for adults only. Remember this is your special day, so if you want a child-free wedding, go for it, parents can kick up their heels and enjoy a kid-free night. Just be consistent with an age cutoff and know that decision will likely leave you without a flower girl, page boy or any other wedding role usually reserved for children. 

Plus ones also play a big role in how many guests you have capacity to invite to your wedding. Decide where you’ll draw your line, maybe only invite those who are married, engaged, or have been in a relationship for over a year, and maybe refrain from offering a plus one to guests who are single or in new relationships, especially with someone you’ve never spent time with. Just stick with whatever rule you choose, and don’t invite guests out of guilt or pressure. 

Creating a wedding guest list can be a balancing act, but with thoughtful planning and effective communication, you can create a list that reflects your desires and priorities while respecting your limitations. If you’re planning a wedding in Pennsylvania, consider Historic Acres of Hershey. We have event spaces with capacities to accommodate groups of all sizes. Contact us to learn more about our event spaces or to book a tour of our property.