How to create a wedding guest list: tips for a stress-free guest list
by Karly Anderson

Let’s talk wedding guests, shall we?

Compiling your wedding guest list isn’t exactly as fun as picking out flowers or tasting 50 variations of chocolate cake. I’m not going to lie to you – working with both sets of families and narrowing down who and who shouldn’t be invited to participate in your big day can, at times, be a bit stressful. However, your wedding guest list can be compiled in an organized and fair manner.

So, before you get pushed into inviting your third cousin twice removed over your childhood best friend, use these tips to take a proactive approach to managing the guest list.



If you accept money from third parties, such as your parents and in-laws, and put vendor deposits down prior to discussing how the guest list will be divvyed up, you pretty much are forfeiting your opinion and control over who and how many people are to be invited to your wedding. Even if you and your significant other are planning on paying for the wedding yourselves, it’s always a good idea to sit down and talk to both sets of families about expectations for the guest list so there are no surprises later on. Plus, this is an easy way to keep the families involved. A traditional rule of thumb is that the couple gets half the guest list, and each set of parents gets a quarter of the guest list.


Make your expectations known up front, and set boundaries early on to avoid emotions running high later on in the planning process. It may be hard to say no since you probably just want to please everybody, but if you don’t care to have your mom’s Jazzercise friends or your father-in-law’s coworkers invited to the wedding, stick to your guns and hold your ground – after all, this is your wedding day.


This is the only part of the wedding planning process where you can throw the budget and venue space out the window. Create your dream wedding list that includes every last person you would absolutely love to have present on the big day. Sure, you most likely will need to cut down the list later on, but this will help give you an idea of the people that must be invited and those who immediately come to mind without a second thought.



Okay, play time is over – it’s time to get back to reality. By this time, you should have your budget figured out and a good idea as to what venue you want to book and it's capacity. Both of these are the most important factors in determining the number of people you comfortably can invite and afford to have at your wedding.


Now that you’ve had a bit of a reality check, you may be worried that you can’t afford to have everybody that you wish to have at your wedding or your venue won’t have enough space if every single person RSVP’s yes.

Well, good news – the likelihood that every person on your guest list will be in attendance on your wedding day is nearly slim to none. You may even already have an idea of a few people that are on your guest list that won’t be able to make it – whether it is a friend from out-of-town or a family member that you simply were asked to invite out of obligation.

This, however, works in your favor as it allows you to send out invites to a few additional people over your target guest number. One method to apply to your guest list is the 80% rule – simply assume that only 80% of your guest list will be present on your big day. A more specific way to determine an estimated amount of guests is to apply the 80/65/25% rule – 80% in-state guests, 65% out-of-state guests, and 25% international guests are estimated to respond with yes RSVP’s.

Although not 100% accurate, these methodologies will at least help aid you, your fiancé and families estimate and assume who and who will not be attending the wedding. For additional help on estimating your guest list, check out this helpful blog post from the Wedding Bee.



Now is the time to get and stay organized – not having a system in-place to track your guest list is where you potentially could run into issues of accidentally inviting more people than you intended, or you and your fiancé may not be on the same page as to who and who isn’t invited. I highly recommend compiling your guest list in an interactive, collaborate manner so the people that you select to participate can make changes and others can review it in real-time. Google Docs or a shared Dropbox file are free and easy tools, and both have mobile apps available so you and others can view and edit the guest list from anywhere. The Knot also offers a guest list manager tool that you later can convert into a seating chart and RSVP tracker.

As you and your fiancé decide on your guest list, just remember what I repeatedly told myself throughout my own wedding guest list planning – those closest and most important to you, whether it be family or friends, will be there for you no matter what!


Karly Anderson is a born and raised Midwest girl currently residing outside Milwaukee, Wis. Her blog, Miss in the Midwest, chronicles her take on beauty, life and style in the Heartland. Catch up with Karly on InstagramFacebook and Twitter