The Ins And Outs Of Deciding Your Wedding Guest List

To invite or not to invite, that is the stress-inducing wedding question. Whether you're the type who only needs 10 of your closest loved ones or the type who invites everyone from childhood playmates to the postman, hashing out the details of your guest list can be labor intensive. It can also cause friction and anxiety, as everyone may have thoughts on who to invite. "In my opinion, the most stressful parts of the wedding are the guest list and the budget," wedding planner Jacin Fitzgerald tells Elite Daily. "The two go hand-in-hand. The higher the guest list, the higher the cost."

According to research from LendingTree subsidiary ValuePenguin, the average per-guest cost at a wedding in the U.S. is $307. So managing your guest list can certainly have a major impact on your bottom line — which may be vital if you're a budget-conscious bride. Of course, if money is no object, feel free to invite as many people as you want.

Either way, how important is it to manage your guest list closely? No matter the scope of your wedding, building an appropriate guest list is key to pulling off an event that is meaningful and memorable in all the right ways. Here's how to figure out an appropriately sized guest list for your wedding, and fill it with people who will make the day truly special.

How to determine the size of your guest list

There are three central considerations when trying to decide on guest numbers: venue size, reception budget, and overall vibe (via Today). First off, how many people can physically attend the ceremony and reception venues you've selected? Find out official capacity limits or it'll be extremely awkward if you invite 200 people when only 150 are allowed in the space.

Next, calculate how much money you have for guest amenities like plated meals, alcohol, or wedding favors. Most likely, you can only afford to invite a certain number of people without breaking the bank. Be realistic — according to a 2022 survey by Zola, 69% of couples end up spending more money on their wedding than they originally planned. Underestimating the cost per guest or letting your invite list become bloated will impact your budget.

Finally, consider what atmosphere you envision for your wedding. Want an intimate environment where you can spend quality time with each guest? Then less is more. "Trimming the guest list is an easy way to keep your wedding within budget. Plus, when you look back on your special day, you'll be able to honestly say that you spent it with the people who matter most to you in the world," wedding planner Karen Huber tells Forbes. On the other hand, if you love the idea of a sprawling, whirlwind party, you have more room to invite casual friends, cousins, or coworkers to help celebrate your big day.

Who to invite to your wedding

Navigating the social pressure of wedding invites can be a minefield. So how can you clearly decide who makes the cut? First of all, don't feel obligated to invite someone just because you're related by blood, you work together, or you were invited to their wedding (via Inside Weddings). Your wedding is about the people you really want to spend time with. If you've already determined how many guests your wedding will accommodate, start fleshing out your invitation list with these crucial guests first.

Another important question is whether children are welcome (via Dummies). If so, account for each kiddo on your guest list. It's also common practice to allow single guests a plus one. If you're following this custom, add an extra seat for each singleton on your list. But if you're not allowing plus ones, make this very clear on the invitation.

After accounting for must-have guests and any kids or plus-ones, how many spaces are left? Work with your partner to divvy out additional invites. Finally, be prepared to answer any questions from friends and acquaintances who don't end up on your list. Speaking to Newsweek, wedding planner Christina Baxter suggests saying something like, "Unfortunately, we're limited in the number of people that we can have at the wedding and we have to go through our list. It's a hard choice, and of course, if we could have more people you would be on the list. I hope you understand."