Getting Started with Your Guest List


If you are reading this, you are likely recently first things first, congratulations on your upcoming wedding! Whether you’ve been engaged for a few weeks or only a few hours, people are probably already asking you if you’ve set a date yet. Before you start making concrete plans, it’s important to compile at least a rough draft of your guest list.

You don’t want to start touring venues that only accommodate 100 to later realize that the number you actually need to invite is quite a bit larger. Jake and I both have pretty big families, my dad is the oldest of 7, and I’ve got lots of cousins on both sides. Jake’s family is equally large, and so by the time we compiled a list of  just our immediate relatives and close friends we were almost at 300. That may sound like a lot, but you might be surprised at how large your list is when everything is said and done! 

If you’re lucky enough to have a sibling that’s already been married, grab their guest list as a starting point and work from there. Jake and I were the first in both of our immediate families to get married so we had to start pretty much from scratch. We asked our parents to each put together their lists, made a list of our friends and coworkers, and compiled the three lists.

Formatting Your Guest List

The easiest way to format your guest list is with a spreadsheet, I like Google Docs because you have the ability to share it with anyone who might need to view or edit it. Click here for my guest list starter spreadsheet, be sure to make a copy so you can edit it for yourself!

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The spreadsheet has separate columns for Name, Address Line 1, Address Line 2, Number Invited, and Number Attending. As you add your guests, group the rows by families rather than individuals. List all of the names as you’d want them to appear on your wedding invitations - this will save you a ton of time down the road! Another helpful hint: the number of rows in your spreadsheet is the number of invitations you’ll need.

Type the total number of people in each family (including any kids you’ll be inviting) in the number attending column. Be sure to also include “and guest” where appropriate and add one to the value in number invited column to account for those people. Using the Sum function in Excel or Google Docs, you can have your spreadsheet automatically calculate the number of guests invited and attending, so there’s no need to separate out each person. At this stage, your number attending column will be empty, but you’ll have it ready to start tracking RSVPs as they come in!

Ask for Input

Earlier on, I mentioned that we asked our parents to compile their lists. I recommend you extend that courtesy to everyone that has a special interest in your wedding, I like to refer to these people as stakeholders, which yes I realize is kind of a business-y term but go with me here. If someone is investing a significant amount of their time and/or money in your wedding, they get to be involved in the decisions.

It’s very rare for all wedding decisions to be made entirely by the couple. The big decisions are often influenced by parents, close friends, or sometimes grandparents. While it’s important to stay true to what you have envisioned for your wedding day, the sooner you acknowledge and consider the input of all your stakeholders, the more conflict you will avoid down the road.

Communication is key here. When you ask them to come up with a list of people they would like to invite, be sure they understand that you are creating a first draft and may need to prioritize the list to match your budget and vision for the overall size of your wedding. Be prepared to have conversations with them if their list is too long. Though it may seem silly that they want to invite someone to your wedding that you’ve never even met, remember that this day is likely just as important to them as it is to you...maybe more.

They’ve been dreaming about the day their son or daughter gets married since long before you have, so if there’s room to invite their close friends...let them! Be respectful, and go through the list to understand why each person is on there. If they are important and would appreciate sharing in your special day, send them an invitation. If we’re talking about a fourth cousin who we haven’t seen in ten years, gently suggest they be taken off the list.

While it’s important to honor the input of your parents, your engagement is also a good time to begin considering you and your future spouse as a new separate family. As you prepare to have these conversations, be sure that you and your fiance are on the same page and provide a united front in a respectful way.

Ok, that’s enough advice for now, get to work on creating your guest lists. I’m not going to lie, it’s one of the more difficult wedding planning tasks...but you’ve got this!