How to Work out Your Wedding Guest List | The 2nd Step in Planning the Wedding You Really Want

Work out your guest list

Hi beautiful, welcome back to paper + lace and a series of planning help with Megan from She Said Yes.

Now that you’ve begun your wedding budget, and you have an idea of the style of wedding you will be planning, you need to work out how many guests will be attending.

Your wedding guest list will be closely related to your wedding budget, and however many people you choose to invite will also have a bearing on the type of venue you pick, and vice versa.

Rather than trying to choose your favourite 70 people and write down all their names, I recommend beginning an excel spreadsheet of all the people you would possibly consider inviting, if budget and capacity were no object. You may wish to do family lists each, and then go through your friend groups together.

Guests / Budget

However many you come up with on this list, do a quick calculation with your budget to work out how much that would allocate, per person, to cover things like food, drink and hireage. This will give you an indication of how much you actually need, and perhaps want, to cut down the list. For an all-inclusive wedding venue with a full-service dinner, you can expect to pay around $100-$200 per guest, excluding wine.

Guests / Venue

If you’ve already begun searching for your wedding venue, you may have a target guest list to work to, and/or if you fall in love with a particular venue even after starting your guest list, you may wish to reduce the guest numbers to fit. We began with a list of over 100 people, but ended up with just 75, to fit the venue we chose.

Guests / Balancing Expectations, Family and Friends

The guest list is often the hardest thing for many couples to tackle, common issues arising being:

+ Having large numbers of extended (or even immediate) family they have to invite

+ One person having a much larger family or friend group than the other

+ Expectations from family about inviting parents’ close friends

+ Expectations from friends to invite significant others (+1’s), their children, or reciprocate an invitation to their wedding


Here’s the thing… the more people you have, the less time you will have with any of them, the more it will cost, and the more you have to organise (stationery, seating plans, hireage, meals, transport). There is a growing trend to instead opt for a small wedding, with even ‘pop-up’ weddings of 30 guests, or even smaller elopements, gaining popularity.

When it comes to the guest list, it can be really tempting to avoid any potential awkwardness by inviting everybody, but if you really don’t want to have a large wedding, there are a couple of alternatives:

+ Have a larger engagement party, and explain to guests that you will be having a very intimate wedding;

+ Have an informal reception a couple of months after your small wedding, and invite others to join you to celebrate there;

+ Do whatever the hell you like and stop feeling guilty, because it’s your wedding, and those that really care about you will understand and respect your decision.

Narrow down your guest list

Once you have a target number that fits your budget, expectations and desires, even if you are having a large wedding, you may need to cut it down. Many couples like to narrow down their list with a few rules, like ‘no ring, no bring’, no workmates, or no children. They may be right for you, but you don’t need rules to work out who you want to share your special day with. It’s not always as easy as excluding all those people.

Instead, I suggest you think about whose company you most enjoy, and who you expect to be part of your lives in the future, and invite them to spend this once-in-a-lifetime day with you.

Back-up plan

Because it’s unlikely that 100% of your invited guests will be able to make it, it is completely acceptable to have a ‘B list’ or back-up list of people to invite if the first ones can’t attend. For this reason, you may even wish to stagger your invites, so that those on the B list aren’t all invited at the same time. Hand the invitations out in person – you save on postage, and it will make you very aware if you no longer catch up with a certain couple.

Invite those coming from overseas as early as possible, to give them the best chance of being able to make it.

Keep on top of your guest list

Like your wedding budget, your guest list isn’t static either, and it’s very useful to have a single place to refer to for the guest names and addresses, RSVPs, any dietary requirements, and then even to go back to after the wedding, to make a note of the gift from each couple, and refer to the address, so that you can send a thoughtful and personal thank you note.

I designed the pages of the little white book to tick all these boxes, as well as designing an excel spreadsheet for organising your guests. It’s available as part of the planning pack with the little white book, or on its own.

Ready for STEP 3?

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