Create Your Wedding Guest List in 6 Simple Steps

 September 14, 2022

Even if you’ve hired the best wedding planner in the area, and feel confident that all the planning details will go smoothly, you still need to come up with a guest list. Between you and your fiancé, you’ll need to decide an appropriate list of guests, which is not the easiest task. There are lots of factors to consider before choosing your guest list. Factoring-in important details like your budget and venue location will help determine how many, and which guests you can invite. 


In order to make this simpler on yourself and avoid getting overwhelmed, follow these easy steps that will help you create your perfect, ideal guest list. 


Step One: Determine your Venue location & Budget

Wedding Venue and location, guest list


This is one of the initial steps in planning your wedding so if you’re at the guest list phase, you should already have decided on at least a location (city or state), along with an overall budget. This influences your guest list by adding a maximum guest count, giving you a starting point. Knowing how many guests you can afford to accommodate is another important factor. Oftentimes your caterer will need a general head count, so it’s important to have a rough guest estimate ahead of time.


If you know you’re having a smaller backyard wedding, you know that you’ll probably need a smaller guest count than you would for a huge ceremony hall. If you have an extensive budget with a large area for guests, you can have a longer invite list so long as you aren’t at venue capacity. Keep your budget in mind and stay realistic. 


Step Two: Prioritize close loved ones & consider travel requirements


Travel requirements for guest list



Begin with family, that’s not in the bridal party, because you don’t want to have to add your uncle at the last minute when you’ve already run out of room. Next, take into consideration family members that have longer travel restrictions and discuss with them early on whether or not they’ll be making the trip for your big day. You can reach out in advance and give them tentative dates, if you haven’t finalized one yet, and get a feel for whether or not they will be in attendance. 


Step Three: Set a ‘’Plus-One’’ policy 


Wedding guest list


Though this may seem over the top, if you have a fixed budget and headcount, you’ll need to make sure that you’ve notified single guests about your policy on ‘plus-ones’. It’s polite to offer the exception for plus-one dates so long as your venue and budget can accommodate them. Make it known in the invitation whether or not you have room for extra guests. You can account for them using an RSVP system, and estimating any others. 


Step Four: Create an A Guest List and B Guest List


Wedding guest list


Your next step is to finalize your guest list into two separate categories, A and B list. The A list is for guests who are for sure getting an invitation, and the B list is for secondary guests that you can invite once you’ve received A list RSVPs. Having a main and secondary list is helpful because you can ensure that you’ll have an accurate count. 


Step Five: Assign a Guest List Manager & color code


Color code guest list


If you don’t have a wedding planner handling your guest list for you, assign someone to the task who is organized and willing to help. Start them with a google excel sheet where they can add the entire guest list, separating A and B. You can use this sheet to fill in your guests address, track RSVPs and Thank you notes, and fill in dietary any requests. Go crazy and color coordinate this excel sheet to keep things extra organized. Having all of your guest information in one place will be extremely helpful for not only you and your planner, but also for your caterer and venue who need these details. 


Step Six: Calculate your guest estimate

calculate estimated headcount


Before you’ve received your guests RSVPs, you can estimate how many guests will attend by using the following equation: 


  • (Number of out-of-town guests x 0.55) + (Number of local guests x 0.85) = Total estimate


You will need to include spouses and children in those numbers as well to keep things accurate! A good rule of thumb is to plan on 85%of local guests attending and 55% for out-of-town guests. 




At this point you should now have an estimate of guests attending your wedding, a tracking sheet for RSVPs, gifts, and thank you notes, and a secondary guest list for openings. See that wasn’t too stressful! Breaking this daunting task down into smaller steps will help you accomplish your guest list in no time. Don’t stress yourself out over it, and remember to slow down and enjoy the process as much as possible. With your guest list out of the way, you can focus more on the fun details. Happy planning!