Guest list primer: questions you must ask when making your guest list

Essential guest list questions from @offbeatbride
Star Wars guest book from MDB Weddings

Ultimately, nothing decides how large your guest list can be more than your venue. But within those physical boundaries, you'll still have lots of questions to answer to form your guest list. Let's get down to basics and see what questions you'll want to ask yourselves to get to your final list.

What's your vision?

Are you agreed with your partner on an intimate close friends-only gathering, a huge outdoor bash with kegs and dancing, or maybe a 200-guest black-tie affair at a hotel? Agree on a dream and let that guide your numbers.

Who are your must-haves?

No matter if they are family or friends, who are the people you cannot imagine getting married without? Those are the first people to add to the list. That way when it comes to brass tacks of skimming the list, you know who gets priority.

Who are your hell-nos?

These are the ones who just don't make the list for whatever reason you decide: +1s, children, exes, estranged family, etc. Speak up during this phase of the planning so that you'll be on the same page with your partner during the inevitable cutting process.

What can you actually afford?

Be realistic about your budget. Even if you're having an economical potluck in the backyard, you'll still have to budget for things like rentals, flatware, favors, etc. Extra people can totally add to your bottom line, so match your budget to the size of your list carefully. If you need help estimating RSVPs, check this out.

To whom are you beholden?

This question often comes down to who is helping you pay for the wedding. These people will probably want to have some say in the guest list, so be aware of that before dividing up the list. If you're paying for it yourselves, you'll have a little more leeway, but still be mindful of those whose opinions are important to you.

How will you divide the invitations?

Once you've made your most basic decisions, it's time to divide and conquer the list itself. You'll want to decide how many spots you'll give to your partner's family, your family, and your shared friends. This is entirely up to you, as you may end up keeping the bulk of the list to yourselves. If you're totally not sure, an easy way is to split the list evenly between the two families, or a third to yours, a third to your partner's, and a third to your shared friends.

What's next?

What issues are you dealing with when forming your guest list?

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  1. Our problem seems to be the opposite of many … we don't have enough people to invite! Our minimum for the venue is 100 people, and ideally we'd like to have 75ish. We're across the country from our family which means that most extended family members likely won't make the trip. Our parents aren't here and we're a little older, so there aren't family friends to invite. We've not kept up with large groups of friends from college, and our friend group here is awesome, but fairly compact.

    We're at about 45 right now and either need to find more friends (coworkers and classmates?) or embrace a really cozy wedding!

    3 agree
    • Nothing wrong with that! We're having a really small wedding (45, tops!). And am having to deal with not inviting certain family members (on both sides) to the wedding. Families, eh!

    • You're not alone! We were lucky to find a venue that specialises in small weddings, max 80 people, but we'll still end up far below that at around 60. I wish we had more people to invite, I like the idea of around 75 people too, but we just don't. I've drawn the line at inviting old friends from interstate and overseas (I've only lived in my current city for about 5 years) because I don't keep up with them outside of social media, but as a result we have a really small, mostly family crowd invited.
      I worry about what people will think of our tiny wedding but am trying to put that worry out of my head and to embrace our little party for what it is. A few people have told me that they wish they had more time to spend with their guests at their own weddings, so that's a positive for us, we will have a good opportunity to spend time with the people who are there.

      1 agrees
      • That's actually a really good way to think about it. We really like all the people we're inviting, so we'll just get to hang out with them more!

        2 agree
    • Same here. I have a grand total of two friends, both of whom are mutual friends anyway and I'm not close with my extended family at all but I guess they'll end up being invited. My partner has a few more people to invite but it still leaves us with a maximum of 30 guests, most of which are obligation-invites. I didn't think wedding planning was going to make me feel so lonely! It's a shame.

      1 agrees
  2. A few years back one of my best friends got married. I was invited and was told my de-facto partner of 7 years was not. The reason I was told by the bride was money (which is fine), the reason I was told by a bridesmaid was that they didn't like my partner (sorta ok) and a friend told me if was because we weren't married (not cool). Now we are engaged and I am struggling with inviting them. I feel that I should as it is the right thing to do but I also want to invite her and not invite her husband so she can see what it felt like for me. There is also the fact that he is a douchebag and not particularly nice to me. What should I do, please help!

    1 agrees

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