Build your Guest List in 5 Steps
Updated: Jan 17
Deciding who will be part of your wedding day and who won’t get an invite is a hell of its own. You don’t want to be rude or make people feel left out, your parents want the extended family invited for ‘etiquette’, you feel obligated to invite coworkers because you’re spending the next year telling them all the wedding details, and you want to make sure there’s room for your friends.
Let’s break it down and remember, at the end of the day it’s your wedding and this is about who you want there to celebrate your love.
Steps 1: Write down everyone
Seriously, everyone you could possibly want there or may feel obligated to invite. This may take a few days as people pop into your brain, and this is going to be way bigger than the final list so don’t worry. If this is double the amount your venue can hold that’s fine.
Step 2: Put them into sub groups
The childhood & college friends, co-workers, immediate family, extended family, closest friends etc. If someone fits into more than one category put them into the category where they fit best with the rest of the people in that group.
(example: You have a co-worker who you also consider a friend. Would you invite them out with your childhood bestie and want them at a bachelorette? Or do you mostly only talk about work when you hangout?)
Step 3: Set some ground rules
This is where you’ll decide who you are and are not okay inviting. This may also be heavily impacted by your budget. You can enjoy someone’s company but not have the budget to host everyone in that group and that’s okay. You may have multiple qualifiers for each category, and it will allow you to get specific about who you want attending and the kind of wedding you want
(example: Family are required to be over legal drinking age and see you 5+ times a year).
Here are some lines you’ll have to draw in the sand and suggestions for qualifiers:
Are you inviting kids? And what does ‘kids’ mean to you?
- Minors or those under legal drinking age
- Tweens & Teens over 12
- Infants & Toddlers
Are you inviting Partners & plus one's?
- Married Spouses
- Long term partners
- +1 for single guests
How Far do Family Invites extend?
- Only those you see several times a year
- All the Aunts, Uncles & Cousins on both sides
Are you inviting Co-workers?
- Only those you see outside of work
- All the ones in your immediate circle (unit, cubicle, team etc)
- Your boss and management
How far do old friends go?
- Ones you still see a handful of times a year
- Old friends you only engage with on social media
- You were invited to their wedding years ago
Step 4: Filter sub groups through criteria
Take each guest through the criteria that fits their subgroup, this should make their fate in regards to your wedding rather simple. You may decide to make case by case allowances, be aware of why you are making the exceptions. Is it a friend you haven’t seen recently because they have a newborn or a co-worker who was on leave etc?
If the exception is because you feel obligated to or because other family may be upset I would rethink inviting them.
Step 5: Stick to your guns
It’s your wedding and ultimately you get final say in who is and is not invited.
As for how to word it, you can choose to be honest about the criteria and that you didn’t feel they were essential to your day; or you can choose to make someone else the bad guy by using one of the following phrases:
"The venue has a guest limit that we’ve already reached."
"We unfortunately don’t have the budget to invite more guests." (warning: they may offer to pay the way).
"We wanted a more intimate day."
Here are some guidelines for subgroup criteria and etiquette/best practices. As always, feel free to disregard these if they don’t suit you.
Immediate family – should be invited along with any spouse or long-term partner. If you have a not so nice parent or a family member that causes drama don’t invite them and have security ready.
Extended family – If you see them frequently (Holidays or visits totally 5+ annually) they should be invited. Inviting partners is up to you, and may depend on cost, space or if you like them. If you don’t like one spouse/partner good etiquette would be to not invite any of them.
Co-workers – If you see them outside of work frequently they may fit better into the close friend’s category. If you have several co-workers you’d like to invite in your immediate department (more than half), best to invite all of them so there’s no odd man out. You are not required to invite their partners or give +1’s as they know each other already and can hang out together.
Old Friends – If you were super close in college, but only like each other’s social media posts now, they won’t be offended they didn’t get an invite.
Plus ones – Often spouses and long term partners are invited and named on invites. If you are inviting several cousins, co-workers, friends etc that already know each other well they can socialize together instead of having a +1 each if you don’t have the room or budget for a bigger guest list. If you have single guests travelling for your wedding, giving them a +1 will make their trip more enjoyable and is a nice gesture for someone who is making a big effort to come celebrate you.