Narrow Down Your Wedding Guest List Like A Pro

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Have you started making your wedding guest list yet? Better yet, have you started trying to narrow down your wedding guest list?

At first, making your guest list is so fun. Then, reality sets in and you realize you can’t invite everyone to watch you say “I do.” But don’t fear, today we are going to dive into narrowing down your guest list with practical tips and tricks to make your burden a little lighter.

Trust me girl, I’ve been there. When I was making my guest list, I had such a hard time determining who to keep and who to cut. Who got a plus one and who didn’t. After hours of debating I finally found a method that worked, and it saved my sanity. This is that method!

First, you need a wedding guest list to narrow down.

To start trimming, we need something to trim. Start with a list of EVERYONE you would ever want to attend (or, let’s be honest, feel obligated to invite to) your wedding.

This is in some ways considered your “Dream guest list”, minus those random relatives your future mother in law told you to invite. Don’t be scared if this list is overwhelmingly long, we’re going to start trimming.

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Organizing your guest list

Now, if you’re tech savvy you may have already done this, but put those names in an excel sheet. One name per cell in a column. You could even get fancy and make different columns for your friends, his friends, your family, his family, etc.

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If you aren’t using excel, no worries! Write your guest list out on white printer paper, then Grab some highlighters and they will work for what we’re about to do. Also, grab your fiance, you will need him for part of this.

Find your max

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To start, you need to have guest list max / the max amount of people that can attend your wedding. This number is usually provided by your venue or is determined by your budget. The more people attending your wedding, the more expensive it will be, especially if you are serving a meal, dessert, and alcohol. Caterers usually price food per plate / head.

Once you have that max number, count how many names you have on your big dream list. The difference in these two numbers will determine how much trimming you need to do.

Practical tips for trimming

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This is the key part of how to narrow down your wedding guest list.

If you have a large difference in those two numbers, here is a good rule for deciding who to keep. If you or your fiance have not spoken with them in the last year, cross them off the list. It sounds harsh, but if you have not spoken with them in the last 12 months you are probably not that close with them. If you don’t need to trim as many names, you can increase that time span to 2, maybe even 3 years.

Another rule is more introspective. Go through the names and ask yourself, “could I imagine my wedding day without this person?”. Have your fiance do the same thing. This is a little harder especially if you are having a very small wedding, but when it comes down to it there are people who would truly make a difference if they were or were not in attendance.

Clearing your guest list with family

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Pro tip: If your families are involved with paying for the wedding in any capacity, it is respectful to clear the guest list with them before moving forward.

Your mom may be upset if you decide to take her college best friend off the guest list, and if she’s paying for the catering and venue she may not be phased by paying a little extra to keep her on.

3 numbers to focus on

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Now that you have your guest list close to your “venue number” or max capacity, let’s talk about 3 numbers that are involved with your guest list.

The number of people to invite to your wedding, how many will RSVP yes, and how many will actually show up. This is another thing that “trims” your guest list in a way, because there may be people you are inviting out of courtesy that you know won’t show up, and there will be a percentage of people that RSVP yes and don’t show up.

Now it’s time to break out those highlighters if you’re making your guest list with pen and paper, or get ready to highlight your cells.

Pick 3 colors. I chose yellow, red, and green. You’re going to highlights names based on if you think they will attend. Green means you think they’ll definitely come, yellow is a maybe, and red is a definite no.

After you highlight names based on those rules, tally up how many you have of each color.

Add up the green and yellow columns. This number should be close to or just below your max capacity. If it’s far below, you have some room to invite more people. If it’s far above, you need to trim some more. 

Your final guest count

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Another factor that I mentioned earlier is the people who will RSVP yes then not show up. At my wedding, we had 140ish RSVP yes and 121 came. It’s different for every wedding, but you can count on at least a few people not attending due to being sick or other events coming up.

After considering that a few people won’t come for various reason even though they RSVP yes, you have your estimated attendance of your wedding.

Yay, you did it girl!! I don’t know about you, but I’m proud of you for taking another thing off that wedding to do list. You just finished narrowing down your wedding guest list!

I hope you enjoyed this blog post + podcast! To get more wedding planning tips and advice, head over to our blog home page!

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