If you’re a future groom involved in the wedding planning process, chances are you’ve already realized it’s going to take a lot more effort than buying a ring, renting a tux and saying “I do.” And if you haven’t come to this sobering conclusion yet, trust me, you soon will! But, of all the pre-wedding planning “details” you and your bride will need to decide on in the coming weeks, creating a potential guest list and deciding who makes the final cut, will be of the utmost importance.

The trick is to try and form a guest list that: includes everyone you want to share your special day with; stays within your budget; doesn’t alienate the people who don’t get invited; and creates a fun and carefree atmosphere that you can be comfortable in. With this is mind, there are several key factors to consider as you and your bride go about forming your wedding day guest list.

Size dictates everything. Remember, the size of your guest list will actually help determine many of your subsequent planning decisions. The area and layout of your ceremony and reception venues, the extent of your catering order and, most importantly, your overall operating budget, cannot be determined without first knowing how many people you’re inviting. Because of this, creating your guest list can be both exciting, and agonizing!

“Don’t forget to include your boss on the guest list. Even if he’s not your favorite person in the world, you might be helping your future career by including him.”
– Chris Easter, editor-in-chief of GroomsAdvice.com and author of “Be The Man”

Beginning the process. Some couples will start by sitting down and compiling what’s called an “everybody list,” in which all of their collective friends, family members, neighbors, co-workers and aquaintances are included on a massive list. This can be a good first step. But as you might imagine, the numbers can get pretty high. If money is no object, your work is done. However, if you’re working on a tight budget and/or paying for this blessed affair by yourself, you’re going to need to trim some fat from the list.

Only invite the VIPs. Your wedding is supposed to be the happiest day of your life, so it’s natural to want to share this feeling by inviting everybody you know. But when it comes right down to it, this probably won’t be possible. One way to keep your guest list low and maintain your budget is to only invite the most important people in your life. Immediate family members and close friends are easy decisions. But do you really need to invite those friends who you only communicate with on Facebook? Or how about your old football coach who you haven’t seen in 10 years? Or the infield from your championship little league team? Probably not! Limiting your guest list to only the most important people, currently in your life, will go a long way in deciding who makes the final cut.


Beware of “package invites.” Another way that your guest list can quickly become inflated is by the inclusion of too many “package invites.” A “package invite” is an invitation to an individual, which then necessitates the inclusion of one or more additional guests to your list. For example, you might really want to invite your cousin Jimmy, who you used to go to summer camp with. But if you invite Jimmy, will he want to bring a date? And will his two siblings, who are also your cousins, want to come? And how about their spouses or dates? Because if you’re inviting all three cousins, and their dates, you’ll definitely need to invite your cousin’s parents, who also happen to be your aunt and uncle! Just like that, a single guest can become a party of eight, and cause your budget to skyrocket. So be sure to check your math with every addition.

Don’t offend the family. It’s important for you and fiancée to come to an early agreement about how many family members will be invited from each side, and then maintain that balance. You shouldn’t feel obligated to invite family members who you rarely see, or who you aren’t particularly close with—no matter how much pressure your parents put on you. But if your Great Aunt Thelma doesn’t get an invitation, and then later finds out that your future wife invited all 20 of her first cousins, there are going to be some hurt feelings. So be prepared for that.

Atmosphere is everything. Don’t underestimate the importance of using your guest list to create a fun and carefree atmosphere at your wedding. To this end you’ll want to make sure that the age range and personality of the guests you invite reflects the type of atmosphere you want to create. For instance, if you’re going for more of a youthful, party vibe at the reception, you’ll want to invite guests who will be willing, and able, to mix and mingle. On the other hand, if your desire is for a quiet, low-key family orientated affair, you probably won’t want to invite your rowdy fraternity brothers. Most importantly, your guest list should not include anyone that you aren’t completely comfortable sharing your big day with. If there’s a chance one of your potential guests could make the bride or groom feel uncomfortable in any way, they shouldn’t be invited. Period!

Don’t worry, be happy! Though it may seem hard to avoid, creating your guest list shouldn’t be a source of conflict. The next few months are supposed to be some of the happiest times of your life, so try to enjoy the process as much as you can. In the end, it won’t really matter who is, and who isn’t, at your wedding — you’ll still be just as married!

— J. Morgan