If you already have a venue in mind, check with them about capacity. If it’s a destination wedding, you might also need to consider accommodations. Think about the sort of wedding you want – is it a big blowout with hundreds of people, a medium sized bash, or an intimate affair with just your nearest and dearest?

Private/Destination – with immediate family and a few of your closest friends, under 50.
Intimate – a small affair with around 50-75.
Bash – average with around 150.
Blowout – a large event with 200+

Many of the costs for a wedding are determined by the head, so figure out how many “heads” you can afford.

Write down everyone you can possibly think of that you might want at your wedding, if numbers and budget weren’t an issue. Go through your contacts, think back to the friends you have from different times in your life, including colleagues and distant relatives. This will ensure that you don’t forget anyone. Later, if you suddenly start wavering over an acquaintance, go back and consult this list. If someone wasn’t on it, they definitely shouldn’t make the final cut.

This is where you need to firm up the following:

  • Will you have children at the wedding? Yes, include all children, only children over a certain age or just those in the wedding party?
  • Who gets a plus one? I’d recommend including partners where the couple is married, engaged or in an otherwise long-term relationship, but depending on your age and your friends’ circumstances, you might set a different rule.
  • Are exes invited? The etiquette is generally: hell no, but of course you may have a drama-free relationship with an ex, especially if children are involved. I’d advise giving your bride or groom-to-be a veto here; basically, if they’re uncomfortable, don’t invite them.

BE CONSISTENT. Whatever your rules are, there is a lot less room for hurt feelings if you apply them across the board.

Both you and your fiancé will want to invite important family and friends. On top of that both sets of parents will have their ideas on who should be invited. One way to fairly decide would be to divide the list up. Start by dividing the list into groups: immediate family, extended family, close friends, co-workers. Then, place each group in order of priority. For example, it may be more important to you to invite close friends than extended family.

Once your priorities are established and you have set some rules, divide the guest count among each family/group. For example,

1/3 bride guests | 1/3 groom guests | 1/3 mutual friends
1/4 bride guests | 1/4 groom guests | 1/4 bride’s parents’ guests | 1/4 groom’s parents’
1/2 bride & groom guests | 1/4 bride’s parents’ guests | 1/4 groom’s parents’ guests

You may be able to eliminate whole categories (for example, if you make a blanket rule of ‘no coworkers’, that’s a whole group cut, and they’re sure to understand if you say you’re keeping it to friends and family only). If not, remember the group priorities.

Then when it comes to the crunch on individuals, ask yourself:
Have I spent time with them in the last year?
For coworkers, have you ever spent time together outside of work?
Has your fiancé ever met this person?
Would or did this person invite you to their own wedding?
Would your wedding be the same without them?
Are they likely to be in your lives going forward?

I have a set of worksheets that will help you work through this process (download link below).

Now that you have your guest list you are ready to fill in the information for mailing your invitations.

Make sure you are clear who is invited when addressing your guest envelopes. If you are inviting the whole family then address to the “The Smith family”, if only the adults then be sure to name each, “Mr and Mrs John Smith and Ms Sarah Smith”.

You may decide to reserve a # per family. If that is the case you will need to add a line to your response cards that says something like, “We have reserved #___ for your family” or “ ___ of 5 will attend”.

Assign each response card a number and lightly pencil it in on the back, just in case someone forgets to write in their names. Make sure you also record that # on your spreadsheet (RSVP# column provided in free download).

Keep a waiting list (B-list) – so that as soon as you receive regrets you can send out invites to your top wait listers. Which is why it’s always a good idea to order at least 20-25 extra invitations.

COLLECT AND TRACK RESPONSES:   Guest List Spreadsheet 

DOWNLOAD:  Guest List Worksheets      |      ALSO AVAILABLE: Wedding Planning Check lists and Worksheets

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