kids dancing at the wedding

Wedding guest lists – what you need to know before making one

We all know that weddings can be expensive and it’s not uncommon for the bride and groom to have a tight budget. Keeping this in mind, I’ve compiled some of the most common wedding guest list questions you might have. I hope it helps!

Tips for Creating Your Wedding Guest List

Here’s what I will be covering about making a wedding guest list. 

  • Who should be invited to your wedding, and how many people should you invite?

  • What are some of the most common mistakes when making a wedding guest list?

  • When should I start sending out wedding invitations, and what are some etiquette rules about inviting guests? 

  • What if my budget doesn’t allow me to invite everyone I want at my wedding?

  • What you need to know about wedding RSVPs and wedding invitations

  • What if someone says they can’t come or declines a wedding invitation?  

  • How much money should you spend on wedding gifts for guests?


Who should be invited to your wedding, and how many people should you invite?

It’s an age old question: who should be invited to your wedding? Should it be family and close friends, or is it okay to invite everyone you’ve ever met? What about the children of your guests?

 The answer might not always be straightforward. It might be better to start with an idea of your number of guests first, and  then go from there. The number of guests you invite should depend on the size and shape of your venue as well as how much food and drink will be available at the reception. For example, some venues only hold 100 people while another venue might hold 300. You also need to consider your budget. The more guests you have the more it will cost you for things like food and tables and other rentals. Last, what kind of wedding are you wanting? Do you want it to be a big party or something smaller and more intimate? 

Now that you have a general number, start making a list. Start with the most important people, such as friends and family. Don’t worry about counting, just write. After you’ve gotten everyone that matters most, see how many are on that list. If it’s way below your number, you can continue to add people. If it’s near it or above, you’ll have to start making some changes. 

What are some of the most common mistakes when making a guest list


Mistakes stink, especially when it comes to a wedding. The last thing you want to do is upset someone by not inviting them or doing something else wrong. 

bride praying with family

One mistake is forgetting an acquaintance while compiling your list – maybe one with whom you’ve had only limited contact over time but would enjoy reconnecting at events like these. It could be a childhood friend or someone that you worked with for a long time. 

Another issue can be inviting too many children. Of course, I’m not saying you shouldn’t allow people to bring their kids, but too many kids can cause problems. Kids are full of energy and they will want to be up and going. This could lead to a lot of chaos, plus it will make your guests feel like they have to watch over all of the children. 

kids dancing at the wedding

Besides that, be careful who you don’t invite. Know your relatives and friends and how they will react. Some won’t care at all if they don’t get an invite while others will hold that grudge to the grave. 

When should I start sending out wedding invitations?

The timing window when sending out wedding invites varies depending on how formal the ceremony will be. The earlier in advance you can get them sent off though, generally speaking, the less stressful everyone involved will feel because there are fewer last-minute decisions to make like if they need to take a day off of work or hire a babysitter. 

Most people will send out a Save the Date card 6 months or more before the wedding date. This will tell the general information for the wedding. The formal invitation will get sent out closer to the wedding (roughly 2-3 months) and have the detailed information like ceremony time. 

What if my budget doesn’t allow me to invite everyone I want at my wedding?

Money is almost always the biggest issue when it comes to planning a wedding. Every person you invite will cost you money. Unfortunately, that means you might have to leave some people off of your list. Is there a way to invite more people without destroying your budget?

table with flower and wedding cake

One possible idea is to invite certain people only to the ceremony. This way they can attend without costing you any money. The majority of the money is spent on guests at the reception with meals and drinks. This might seem rude for many people, so be careful about using this option. 

Another option is to find a way to reduce the cost for those extra people. You could ask them to bring something for the wedding like a few cases of beer or some desserts. Again, be careful about this because some might be offended. 

What you need to know about wedding RSVPs 

When you send out your wedding invitations, you will want to know in some way who is coming. This is important so you can have an accurate count for things like seating and dinner. The most common way to RSVP is to include a note in your invitation. They can check off a box (attending or not attending) and mail it back to you. To make it easier, you can choose to have a pre-addressed envelope with a stamp on it, but that’s not completely required. 

bestman and brother hugging groom at wedding ceremony

Another option these days is an online RSVP. If you’ve created a wedding website, you can have people fill out a form there. It’s not as formal, but it will save you some time, money, and effort. 

What if someone says they can’t come or declines an invitation?

Most people will want to come to your wedding, but that doesn’t mean it will happen. Last year, we saw a big drop off in wedding attendance due to Covid. People were either afraid to show up or couldn’t travel. Other issues might be having prior commitments or work. 

If someone says that can’t come, that’s ok. Don’t try to convince them or argue with them about it. Most likely they are sad that they are missing out and have a good reason. This will give you some options. You can either invite more people or use that money for someone else. For example, if your aunt can’t come and she would be bringing a family of 5, you now can invite 5 more people or you might have several hundred dollars to spend. 

How much money should you spend on wedding gifts for guests?

It’s very common to get gifts for your guests. This can be something small or something really big. The price will really depend on your budget, the amount of people coming, and the overall formality of the wedding. I’ve seen people do some really nice wedding gifts for as low as $1 or $2 a piece, and I’ve seen people spend $10 per gift. 

jelly wedding guest gift

The really important thing, in my mind, is that you are trying to do something nice for everyone. Think of something really special to do that fits with your wedding, your personality, and your guests. If you want some good ideas, check out this post about wedding gifts for guests. 


We’ve looked at everything you need to know about who should be invited, how many people are appropriate for your guest list. We’ve covered the most common mistakes in making a wedding guest list and etiquette considerations when sending out invitations. We even talked about what to do if budget constraints prevent you from inviting everyone on your invitation list! If there is anything else I can help with as you plan your big day, please don’t hesitate to contact to reach out. 


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