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5 Things You Need to Know About Your Wedding Guest List

Your wedding guest list should be filled with people that hold a meaningful place in your and your partner’s life, but there are 5 things you’ll definitely want to know as you start putting it together.


  1. Prioritizing your guest list ahead of time will save you from stress later on.


It’s common for couples to get so caught up in the happiness of an upcoming wedding that they get a little carried away while adding names to the list of everyone to be invited. Before you get too far in your brainstorming, you should take a moment to set up a guest list spreadsheet or notebook with a section for your non-negotiable guests to invite and a section for everyone else.

Immediate family and your closest friends will make it onto the non-negotiable list, but acquaintances and your favorite coworkers can hang out on the secondary list until you know your budget and wedding venue capacity. You may not have to cut anyone, but wedding planning is notorious for unexpected issues and changes so anything you can do to prepare for that will give you an advantage over setbacks.


  1. Your wedding attendance rate may not be as high as you expect.


You likely already expect some of your guests to be unavailable, and it’s important to keep in mind how that will affect your ceremony and reception. According to Debi Buckley at TotallyPromotional.com, you can expect about 15-25%¹ of your guests to decline their invitations (or not respond at all). Of course, that varies based on how far away your guests are. It’s safe to say that you will typically have lower guest attendance if your wedding location is out of town, or even lower if you’re having a destination wedding.

However, if you avoid leaving your guests wondering how to RSVP, but instead make it easy to do online, guests will find it easier to respond in a timely manner and that helps you plan more accurately leading up to your event and gives you the opportunity to make adjustments to the setup of your space accordingly. You want your wedding to be just right, so extra ceremony rows or a bunch of unoccupied tables cluttering your reception space aren’t exactly in the plan.


  1. Your parents will likely want to have some say in the guest list.


In most cases, the parents are going to have some names they want added to your guest list that aren’t necessarily as important to you. Keep in mind that, while ultimately the decision is yours, compromising in a reasonable way can help you avoid a lot of stress and family tension.

If your parents are helping pay for the wedding, then it’s completely reasonable for them to invite a few guests that you wouldn’t have otherwise. However, if you are the ones funding your own event it’s okay to be firmer in your decisions by limiting them to a certain number of people or specific people. After all, each guest added to the list comes with extra expense in multiple areas of your wedding budget.


  1. Not everybody needs a plus one.


Giving every guest a plus one would put a huge strain on your budget and seriously bloat your venue space. According to Esther Lee at The Knot, the average wedding size in the US is 131 guests, and the average cost of a wedding in Iowa is $22,600². Some guests don’t think of the associated costs of adding “just one more person” to the list, and telling them no can be awkward.

Printing names on your RSVP cards or limiting the name boxes for your online RSVP can help avoid the situation. If the situation arises anyway, you can politely explain that your budget is already set and seats spoken for. So who should, or shouldn’t, get a plus one line on their RSVP card? 

Who should get a plus one:

  • Married couples.
  • Engaged couples.
  • Couples that live together and/or are in a long term relationship.
  • Everyone in the wedding party.
  • Close friends who are single and not likely to know your other guests.

Who shouldn’t get a plus one:

  • Single guests that will know other guests.
  • Single people that you aren’t very close with (these are usually the guests you invite to keep parents happy).


  1. You aren’t required to invite anyone.


A lot of people are going to have opinions about who you should or shouldn’t invite, but the decision is ultimately yours and your partner’s. Of course, you should still look at each decision on a case by case basis and weigh your options. Say your mother in law has an old friend that you’ve never met and your partner hasn’t seen for years.

You won’t notice their absence if you choose not to invite them, but you may also start unnecessary drama with your mother in law because that person is important to her. However, if you’re on a strict budget and giving that seat to the friend means you have to remove someone you wanted to invite, it’s okay to explain that to your mother in law and politely decline her request. Compromise and consideration will help you avoid fights, but you can still be firm with your decisions.

Ultimately, every person you invite to your wedding is there for one reason; to share in the celebration of your love. Whoever makes it on to your guest list will contribute to your memories and enjoyment of your once in a lifetime event.


¹ https://www.totallypromotional.com/blog/wedding-guests-calculating/

² https://www.theknot.com/content/average-wedding-cost

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