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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Evans

How do I Decide on the Guest List?

How do I narrow down the guest list? First, decide on the number of guests you can afford to have at your wedding. Where is your reception and what is the cost per plate per person? I am going to use $30/person because it is a fairly typical entree/dessert cost. If your budget for food is $3,000 then you should invite 100 guests; however, if your budget is $7,500 for food then you can plan to invite 250 people to your wedding. Keep in mind, the bigger the guest list, the higher the costs for other aspects of your wedding day as well. I am going to use a 200 person guest list for the rest of this example.

The Lake Club in Ohio outdoor wedding ceremony

Second, decide who your closest family members are; this typically includes grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Here is an example of the Bride's family (do the same for the groom):

Brides Family Example

4-Immediate Family: Mom, Dad, Brother, Sister (If your parents are divorced then add +1's)

4-Grandparents: Grandma, Grandpa (x2)

4-Maternal Aunts & Uncles: 2 Aunts, 2 Uncles

6-Maternal Cousins: 6 Cousins

6-Paternal Aunts & Uncles: 3 Aunts, 3 Uncles

8-Paternal Cousins: 8 Cousins

2-Nieces/Nephews: 2

10 - Great Aunts/Uncles

Most of you have much larger families so a safe estimate would be 50 family members on the groom's side and 50 on the bride's side (100 total).

Third, who are those family friends whom have invested much of their lives helping to raise you and watch you grow? Do you have a church family of other parents who are like second parents to you? I know i do. Reserve 24 total spots for those individuals (10 on each side).

Fourth, decide on your friends list. Start by listing the friends that spend the most time with you BOTH as a couple. These friends will most likely be in your bridal party so lets have 6 bridesmaids and 6 groomsmen (12 total BFF's). Who are the friends you binge watch Netflix with, meet after work to get your nails done, call because you just CAN NOT adult today, or have been planning your wedding day with since you were five years old? You know who they are; those friends are your people. Add them to the guest list then expand on the friends that maybe live out of town but you reconnect instantly those 2 or 3 times a year that you have an opportunity to get together. Reserve 16 spots on the groom's list and 16 spots on the bride's list (32 total).

How do I decide on plus one's? This is a question wedding planning couples get stuck on a lot. How many extra plates do you have after everyone is accounted for? Give those first remaining spots to any divorced family members and relatives with significant others (14 total). For your friends' plus ones, give them to the people whose company you enjoy and the ones that know you the best (18 total).

Bride walking down the stairs of the aisle with her dad at The Lake Club in Ohio

Summary for a 200 person guest list:

  • 100 - Family Members

  • 24 - Family Friends

  • 12- Bridal Party BFF's

  • 32 - Friends

  • 14 - Plus one's for family members

  • 18 - Plus one's for friends

Finalizing the guest list should not be a stressful task. Often the stress of wedding day planning is a result of other individual's expectations (who are not the bride or groom). This outline was designed to help you get through this task as effortlessly as possible. Just remember, the people surrounding you on your wedding day should be the ones who support, encourage, energize, and empower you.

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