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The Stickiest Step

One of the most difficult steps for couples in their wedding planning process is the guest list. This task seems simple at first, but the farther along in it you get the more you realize how truly problematic it can be. Let me start by assuring you that this is incredibly NORMAL.

Simple outdoor wedding with white linens and string lights

If you are struggling with who to invite or not invite, you are experiencing something perfectly typical of most wedding couples. Let me share the guest list process I recommend to my clients.

General Tips

  • Start early! Even if you don’t have the guest list finalized until right before Save the Dates go out, begin creating your list as early on in the process as possible. This will give you time to remember all the people you know you want there, and it will help you remember why it’s okay if certain people aren’t there.

  • Talk about it. Talk to your families and each other about who you cannot do you big day without. Phrasing the question in this way is likely to prompt more thoughtful decision making when it comes to selecting guests.

  • Remember that it’s not all about the big day. Even if you can’t invite everyone, remember that your marriage is about so much more than just your wedding day. Yes, it’s a big day, and you want the people you love to be there. However, what is more important, is how they show up for you and your future spouse throughout your married life! Not inviting someone to the wedding does not mean they cannot walk alongside you from that point on.

The Process

White rose petal lined aisle with greenery accent on white chairs.

(1) Start by simply brain-dumping the people that come to your mind first. These will usually be the ones you cannot get married without.

(2) Divide those people into categories.

I recommend:

- Partner 1’s Family

- Partner 1’s Friends

- Partner 1’s family friends

(these are the people

partner 1’s parent(s) would

like to invite)

- Partner 2’s Family

- Partner 2’s Friends

- Partner 2’s family friends (these are the people partner 1’s parent(s) would like

to invite)

- Misc. (sometimes you have people that don’t really fit into any of these


*If you have a guest count limit (as many couples do), I recommend creating a numbered list divided into sections.

(3) As you start to near your guest count limit, add a separate list for those you would invite if you have room. You might end up switching some guests between this list and your final guest list.

*Remember, the rule of thumb is that only 75% of invited guests are likely to attend. This means you can invite 25% more people than you’re planning to have at your wedding. If you’re wary of too many people RVSP’ing “yes,” then you are welcome to stick to your limit.

(4) If you’re finding that you know for sure you want to invite everyone on your list, and you wish you had more space, a helpful tip is to go through your list and highlight guests who are likely not to attend. For example, you know that your Aunt Robin won’t be able to fly in from Spain, but you want to invite her! Highlight her and consider inviting someone who is likely to attend to take her spot. You do run the risk of increasing your guests in attendance, but you have to decide if having that other person there is worth the risk of your Aunt Robin suddenly saying “yes!” as well.

Elegant white ceremony chairs with flower girl basket filled with white rose petals.

(5) As the deadline nears for you to make your decision, set aside several different time periods to review your list. I recommend asking yourself these questions when determining whether to keep someone on the list:

  • Think about how you would feel if that person isn’t at your wedding. Are you devastated? Couldn’t care less?

  • Most weddings have a cost per guest. Think about that amount (can vary, but usually between $30-$75/person). Do you want to spend that much money to have that person there?

*Use your answers to these questions to help guide you as you narrow down your list.

(5) Know that you won’t always feel exactly sure about your final guest list. If you do, that’s amazing! For many, the satisfaction doesn’t come until the event is happening, and you’re surrounded by those you love.

Wedding guests enjoying a drink and selfie before the ceremony!

(6) Say, “here goes!” and send out your Save the Dates.

There is no fool-proof or magical way to complete your guest list and feel completely at peace about it. Loving and caring about people makes things more difficult, and I am glad you feel like there are so many friends and family you could invite. Remember, this day is about you and your future spouse celebrating your new commitment to one another. That’s what truly matters!


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