While it might seem straightforward at first, anyone who’s written a wedding guest list will tell you it’s far from easy. You can’t invite Peter without Paul, you can’t sit Auntie Jean with Uncle John, and you certainly can’t forget about all those distant relatives you haven’t seen in years but sill feel obligated to invite. As the list grows longer, so do the complexities, considerations, and budget!
But it doesn’t have to be doom and gloom. In fact, writing your wedding guest list is a great chance to reflect on all the special memories you’ve shared throughout the years. When you’re ready to put pen to paper, Bridebook has your back.
Check out this guide to who you should invite, who you shouldn’t, and even a checklist to make sure you’ve covered all your bases. Plus, we’ll show you a free tool to help make guest list planning a breeze! Ready to get started? Let’s dive in!
A wedding guest list is a list of all the people you intend to invite to your wedding. It is a crucial part of wedding planning as it helps you determine factors like venue size, catering needs, and overall budget.
Your wedding guest list will also set the tone for the big day. For example, is it an intimate event, a family-only affair, or a roaring celebration with everyone you love? Your wedding guest list plays a significant role in shaping the atmosphere and experience of your special day, making it a crucial element to get right.
The most important thing to remember is that this is your wedding, and you can invite whoever you want. Don’t feel obliged to invite people you barely know or don’t genuinely care about just to please others. Your wedding day is a celebration of your love story, and the guest list should reflect the people who have played a meaningful role in shaping that narrative. Surround yourself with those who bring joy, love, and support to your life, and your wedding day will truly reflect the happiness you share as a couple.
Follow your heart, trust your instincts, and create a guest list that feels authentic to you as a couple.
If you’re looking for more specific guidelines, consider inviting the below people.
Family is the cornerstone of your wedding guest list. You should invite your immediate family as standard. This includes your parents, step-parents, siblings, step-siblings, and grandparents. Consider inviting your cousins, aunts, uncles, and other close relatives if there’s space.
If you aren’t close to your family or there are strained relationships, you should invite your chosen family to support you on your big day. These include your closest friends, support network, or whoever raised you, like foster or adoptive parents.
Distant relatives include those who may not be as closely connected to your everyday life but still hold a familial tie. For example, great aunts and uncles, second or third cousins, or relatives you rarely see. If you have space, it’s nice to invite them, but don’t feel too guilty if your budget is tight.
It’s lovely to have friends at your wedding where possible. Friends provide moral support, calm your nerves, and can help bring the party on your big day. Try to stick to long-term friends or anyone you’ve shared a special bond with. There’s nothing worse than looking back at wedding pictures and seeing a sea of faces you’ve fallen out with!
You can invite colleagues if you’d like. While some may have crossed the barrier into your long-term friend group, for the most part, they’ll be casual acquaintances. If you’re adamant you’d like them there, consider inviting them to the evening reception only. That way, you can include them in the celebration without overwhelming your guest list or budget.
Again, most neighbours are casual acquaintances with whom you exchange Christmas cards and the occasional hello. However, if you’re especially close with some of your neighbours, consider inviting them to the reception. Again, inviting them to the wedding day will up your budget and venue capacity, so offering invitations to just the reception may be a more practical option.
You don’t have to invite anyone to your wedding you don’t want to.
You don’t have to invite anyone to your wedding you don’t want to.
It’s your special day and your guest list — you have every right to choose who you want to share this special occasion with. Whether it’s distant relatives you barely know, old friends you’ve drifted apart from, or acquaintances you’re not particularly close with, you have the final say on who receives an invitation.
If you’re looking for explicit guidance on who you can leave out, keep reading.
Plus-ones are companions your guests can bring to your wedding. They are usually extended to guests who won’t know anyone else at the wedding or are in a committed relationship. They provide guests with a familiar face and someone to chat with throughout the day.
However, extending a plus-one to multiple guests can get expensive. If you’re concerned about cost or headcount, consider holding a socialising event before the wedding so all your invited guests can get to know each other. Alternatively, you could invite anyone you’d usually extend a plus-one to on your hen or stag do. This will break the ice and limit the need for plus-ones in the first place.
Don’t feel obliged to invite someone to your wedding just because they invited you to theirs. Although it’s nice to repay the favour, don’t feel forced if you’re tight on numbers or you don’t feel a strong bond with them.
Deciding whether you want kids at your wedding is probably one of the first ‘guest list’ conversations you’ll have with your fiance. It’s a decision that depends on your style, vibe, and even the venue you’ve chosen. While some couples embrace the energy and joy that children bring to weddings, others prefer a more grown-up atmosphere without the worry of stepping on tiny toes.
There’s no right or wrong answer to whether you should invite kids to your wedding. On one hand, they’ll bring a lovely energy to the day and add an extra layer of sweetness to the celebration. On the other hand, they increase the headcount and change logistical considerations.
Whatever you decide, it’s important you communicate your choice clearly and respectfully to your guests. Highlight on your wedding invitations whether children are invited, and be prepared to defend your position if necessary.
This is a bit awkward, but not everyone is going to be your cup of tea. Your wedding day is a celebration of love, joy, and meaningful connections —so why invite someone who doesn’t bring any of those vibes into your life?
Sure, there might be societal pressures or familial expectations nudging you to extend an invitation to certain individuals, but remember — this is your day. You deserve to surround yourself with people who uplift, support, and genuinely share in your happiness.
So, if someone on your list makes your stomach churn instead of your heart flutter, leaving them off the guest list is fine. You’re not obligated to include anyone who doesn’t contribute positively to your life or relationship.
Ready to start crafting your guest list? Try following these 8 easy steps to craft the perfect first draft of your wedding guest list.
Your chosen venue is the biggest constraint on your wedding guest list. You’ll need to consider things like:
All these questions will help you determine the maximum number of guests you can invite, and understanding your venue’s layout will help you make informed decisions about your guest list.
Your budget is the second biggest constraint on your guest list. With the average catering cost coming in at £30-£50 a head, you need to be mindful of your budget when creating your wedding guest list.
Decide how much you’re willing and able to spend per guest, considering the catering cost and how it fits into your overall expenses. Once you’ve determined your budget and allocated a portion to catering, calculate how many guests you can afford to invite within that budget.
Once you have a rough estimate of numbers, you can start crafting your guest list. We recommend starting with family. Whether it’s blood, adoptive, step, or chosen, your family should be the first people on your guest list.
Start by listing immediate family members, including parents, step-parents, siblings, step-siblings, and grandparents. Then, consider extending the invitation to extended family members such as aunts, uncles, and cousins. Remember to include both sides of the family to ensure fairness and inclusivity.
Additionally, don’t forget about other important family members, such as godparents, nieces, nephews, and close family friends who feel like family. Including these people can add warmth and meaning to your celebration.
The next step is to consider your close friends. These people have been there for you through thick and thin, so it’s natural you’d want them there on your special day. Start by listing your best friends and moving on to friends from different stages of life. For example, school, university, or close work friends.
Don’t forget about your partner’s close friends as well. This day is about both of you, so it’s important to include their closest friends too. Consider their inner circle of friends and those who have been significant in their life journey. They’re your besties now too, after all!
Once you’ve determined exactly who you want on the big day, it’s time to consider your guests. Is there anyone coming who doesn’t know anyone else, or who might feel shy without personal support? If so, you may want to consider extending a plus-one. This will help them to feel comfortable and included on the big day.
Although it’s important to be firm on only inviting people you want there, it’s polite to loop your parents into the guest list planning.
Start by having a conversation with your parents about their guest list preferences. They may have close friends, relatives, or acquaintances they would like to include in the celebration. Listen to their suggestions and take them into consideration when finalising your guest list.
But, remember – while it’s polite to consider your parents’ guests, you’re not obligated to invite everyone they suggest. For example, there’s no point in inviting someone you’ve never met before!
Communicate openly and respectfully with your parents about any concerns or limitations you may have regarding the guest list. If you really don’t want someone there – say so. Your mum and dad will understand.
Congratulations! You’ve completed your first draft.
Now it’s time to put it down and walk away for a few weeks. You need to clear your mind from all thoughts about your guest list. Focus on other parts of wedding planning, on household chores, or even practise a bit of self-care.
When you’re ready to come back to your guest list, it’s time to start cutting. It may seem brutal, but cutting down your guest list is necessary to ensure your wedding remains within your budget, venue capacity, and desired atmosphere. While removing names from your list may seem daunting or even heartbreaking, prioritising your closest family and friends will result in a more meaningful celebration.
Cut anyone from your list that you’re no longer close with or that you haven’t spoken to in the last year. We recommend you whittle down friends before you start on family. But you can of course reduce your guest list however you see fit.
Once you’ve finalised your guest list with your wedding venue, you’ll need to communicate your decisions to your guests. Be clear and upfront about who is invited and who isn’t, especially when it comes to plus-ones or children. If you’re facing challenges with your guest list, for example, capacity limitations or budget constraints, be honest with your guests.
Remember, you don’t have to outright tell people that they’re not invited to your wedding. You only need to tell people who might have expected an invite just to give them a heads-up. Think about how you’d like to be told that you’re not invited to a wedding and act accordingly.
Once you’ve told the necessary people, you can start making and sending out your wedding invitations.
You can, but it might be a bit clunky.
At the very least, you’ll need separate columns for each guest’s:
Even if you’re an Excel whiz, you might struggle to create a user-friendly and intuitive spreadsheet to help you track your guest lists. Plus, let’s be honest, who wants to deal with Excel when you could be taste-testing cakes or picking out flowers? Using a dedicated wedding planning tool can streamline the process and save you from the headache of managing a complex spreadsheet.
Instead, try using Bridebook’s free Guest List planner. This tool has everything you need to quickly and easily create a wedding guest list. You can bulk add guests, categorise them by day or evening guests, keep track of your RSVPs, and make use of separate sections for notes, dietary requirements, and what table number they’ll be sitting at. What’s more, Bridebook’s wedding planning tool is completely free! Sign up today and kick-start your wedding planning.
Use this wedding guest checklist to help make sure you’ve invited all the most important people to your big day:
It’s never too early to start making your wedding guest list. Crafting your guest list early means you can begin the process with a clear mind and without feeling rushed. Plus, it will help you budget properly and give you a steer on venue size.
It’s not going to be nice, but when it comes down to it, you need to be prepared to cut your guest list down to a manageable size. Be prepared to make tough decisions about who to include and who to exclude.
Include your partner throughout the process. This will not only speed things up, but also reduce arguments and make sure you’re on the same page when it comes to who should and shouldn’t get an invite. Sit down together and discuss your priorities, such as which family members and friends are must-invites and which ones you can afford to leave off the list. This collaborative approach will help prevent disagreements or misunderstandings later on in the process.
Plus-ones are nice to have, but do your guests really need them? Most people are happy and sociable at a wedding. Even if some of your guests don’t know anyone at the start of the wedding, they certainly will by the end. Ultimately, extending plus-ones to your guests depends on space and budget. Don’t invite people you barely know for the sake of being considerate, especially if your budget is tight.
Writing your wedding guest list is both a science and an art. It’s about finding the right balance between inviting everyone you love and staying within budget. By following the steps outlined in this guide, from prioritising family and close friends to looping your parents into the process, you can create a list that represents your relationship and ensures your big day is just as special as you imagined.
Remember, it’s okay to make tough decisions and trim the list down to a manageable size. Quality over quantity is key when it comes to creating an intimate and meaningful celebration. And don’t forget to communicate your decisions clearly to your guests, ensuring that everyone feels included and informed.
If you want to make managing your guests a breeze, try Bridebook’s free Guest List tool. Sign up today for your free account and plan the wedding of your dreams!