5 Easy Tips for Creating Your Wedding Guest List

As Thanksgiving quickly approaches (it’s going to be 2023 before you know it!), I wanted to share 5 easy tips for creating your wedding guest list on the blog today. I know as you meet with your family and friends over the holiday season, you are going to have people sharing their opinions. You might even find people who assume they’ll be invited! While navigating these situations can be tricky (check out this Martha Stewart post for some tips!), it’s a lot easier when you feel confident about WHO you’ve included in your guest list. So let me try and help make creating your wedding guest list a little easier today!

In case we haven’t met yet (you should probably know whose advice you are taking), I’m Brittany. I’ve been a Detroit wedding photographer for a few years now and if you are looking for a fine art wedding style with a light and airy finish – I’m your person (so glad we met!). You can learn more about the experience you can expect working with me here or skip ahead to confirm I have your date available by contacting me here.

wedding place card display

1. Start with a “Master List” of Absolutely Everyone

In this list, everyone gets a plus one 😉 . When you start, we aren’t thinking about budget or what’s practical. Listing everyone is the easiest way to ensure you don’t forget anyone. I know it can be hard to start listing “everyone” so I’ve started with a couple of categories for you to consider:

  • Immediate & Extended Family
  • Long-time Family Friends
  • Friends from School/University
  • Friends from Work (past and present!)
  • Couple friends
  • Friends from church/clubs/

And unless you are having an adult-only wedding, don’t forget the children!

bride kisses ring bearer

2. Highlight your “Must Have” People

This can take a list of 500 people down to 75 people really quickly! Both you and your partner should now narrow down your lists and highlight the absolute MOST important people. The kind of people where if they couldn’t attend, you’d change the date. It doesn’t matter if your “must have” list is 20 people or 100 people, knowing your bottom line guest count is a great place to start before you start really finalizing your wedding budget and booking your wedding venue.

wedding party photos

3. Ask your Parents For Their List

You don’t need to invite everyone your parent asks you to (unless maybe they are paying – but we will table that convo for another day!). With that in mind though, it’s much easier to know who they have in mind BEFORE you start to narrow down your guest list. Oftentimes, they might bring up family friends you hadn’t considered but you may want there! While I don’t think you need to add these people to your “must have” list, they certainly don’t hurt to be on your master list. It’s much easier to add them to the maybe list NOW rather than later.

bride and groom first dance

4. Consider Your Wedding Budget

According to the 2019 Wedding Report from Wedding Wire, the average cost per guest is $215. I know you might be thinking “but the catering is only $X”, but that’s truly just the beginning. For each guest, you need:

  • one seat for the wedding ceremony and one seat for the reception
  • 1/8th of a centerpiece and table rental/decor
  • one tablescape with a charger plate, cutlery, napkin, glassware
  • and so much more!

For the luxury wedding inspiration, you find on Pinterest? Your cost might be upwards of $500-$2000/guest (for example, if your budget is $50,000 and you have 100 guests, your cost per guest is $500 even if you don’t spend $500 on every guest). While I love a big wedding (the more the merrier!), consider that for every 5 guests you cut, you could save considerable cash (or uplevel the experience for your attending guests!).

creating a guest list is one of the first steps to planning a Detroit wedding at top Michigan wedding venue

5. Look at Your Wedding Venue Limitations

If you don’t have a wedding venue yet, I would compile all the information above and create a (small) range for your total guest count. I’m talking “between 130-150” not “between 80-250”. A SMALL range. Then, you can start to look at wedding venues. Until you have your wedding venue booked, you don’t need to go crazy making cuts to your hypothetical guest list. Plus, as it said in the Martha Stewart article linked above, you might just want to blame the venue for anyone who gets cut from the list!

bride dancing on the dance floor

A couple more thoughts about creating your wedding guest list.

Once you have your wedding venue chosen (and your wedding budget locked in), you should have a pretty good idea of where your guest count needs to be. From there, you and your partner can go through the list once or twice more. Although creating your wedding guest list may be the most glamorous task, it’s worth doing together.

Last tip? Ignore all of the “shoulds”. I should have a smaller guest list to save money. It’s totally up to you – but I love a big wedding and if that’s what you’ve dreamed about, don’t feel guilty about making a larger guest list a priority. I should invite all of my colleagues if I invite two of them. Absolutely not – invite who you want!

I should give my single friends a plus one because what if they meet someone? Okay, this is a tricky one. My biggest piece of advice is to choose one blanket rule and apply it to everyone. If a couple of single friends get a plus one, everyone probably should. If the line is you’ve met them both, or they are living together, use that rule across the board. I usually don’t enforce “wedding rules” but this one will make your life easier.

groom dances with groomsmen

Celebrate! You are done creating your wedding guest list!

I hope this helps you create a wedding guest list you feel GOOD about! If you are recently engaged and looking for some more tips to get you through the first steps of wedding planning, make sure to head to this post here. And of COURSE, if you are looking for a Detroit wedding photographer, I hope you’ll connect with me directly here. I would love to learn more about your wedding day (big or small!) and talk about how I can document your wedding day.


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