March 18, 2019

How to Make Your Wedding Guest List

I think this is single handedly one of the hardest parts to planning a wedding! Will I hurt their feelings if I don’t invite them? Do they expect an invite? Will my parents get upset if I don’t invite them? I need extra room, this person will understand, right?

I’m about to answer ALL THE THINGS that make up going into a guest list so buckle your seat belts and get out your pens + paper (for those of us who still use those).



Traditional? Big Catholic wedding? Small backyard? Elopement? Intimate? The number that your venue will hold because you love your venue? Biggest bash of the year? This will determine how many guests you can or should invite to begin with. Picking out your venue will determine how many guests your venue can hold.


I was IN LOVE with the venue my husband and I booked for my wedding. It was was a split level, old, victorian house that was practically already decorated. The perfect mix of vintage with traditional. The only issue was we were having the ceremony upstairs and there was a limit (around 75 people) but we wanted to celebrate with more close friends and family. What we did was had 2 separate invites, a ceremony one and a reception one. We invited mostly family and very close friends to the ceremony and when it was time for the reception and we had room downstairs more people showed up and celebrated!


This one can be tough to navigate. Respectfully, this is your wedding. The life you and your (almost) husband are creating together. It will be okay if cousin Judy twice removed isn’t on the guest list. I know, I know. Your parents may have a hard time worrying about what others think when they aren’t invited or making sure no one is left behind but at the end of the day you won’t forget the most important people.
BUT – If your parents are financially helping out with the wedding, I may throw them a bone and let them invite a couple people they find really important. They just want to show off how proud they are of you. They love ya for goodness sakes!

#4. TO DO OR NOT TO DO: +1’s ?

Like I said before, my venue had limited numbers and I totally forgot plus ones were a thing! I remember inviting people who ended up coming with their friends and siblings I’d never met and us accidentally exceeding the number of people that were allowed in.. If you don’t have room for plus ones it may not hurt to let people know not to show up with rando uninvited strangers — because they may if you don’t say something!


If you have a family like mine, I am the oldest and have plenty of young family members, kids are a plenty. I had this debate, do I let them take up a seat during the ceremony where they’ll most likely get super bored or cause a distraction for their parents? Or do I just have all the kids invited and just leave it?
I opted to set up a kids table downstairs where we had two of our youth group students supervise them, coloring playing with little toys (Target $1-$3 is a lifesaver). This made more room for grown ups who really want to be there and helped entertain the kids who didn’t!


The easiest way I found to start a guest list is to start with you or your boo’s side of the family starting with them, their parents, siblings, spouses, aunts, uncles, grandparents and working your way from there! This way you start with the most important people first and you don’t forget them! Doing this on each side of the family. Next, I’d ask your fiancé to write their own list of who they want on your special day. This is a big deal to them too and they want to have their biggest fans around to help celebrate. You can also ask your mom or future MIL to write lists of people they think are important! I suggest only doing this if you don’t easily get stressed or swayed by peoples opinions. Sometimes adding too many people into the planning process can make it more stressful than not so it depends on you!

#7. TEST IT!

Starting with each person who isn’t an obvious given, answering these questions may help narrow down your list and help you feel more comfortable with your decisions of invite vs. no invite.

Question #1: Have you spoken to them in the past 12 months?
Question #2: Do you have a close/family connection?
Question #3: Do your parents insist they come?
Question #4: Do you spend time with them socially, outside of work?
Question #5: Will they make your wedding more fun?
Question #6: Could you imagine your wedding day without them?

I hope this helps you plan out your guest list and makes things just a bit easier.
If this helped you let me know what your favorite step was below in the comments!


  1. […] venue, food, drinks, seating and invitations. (If you’re stuck on who to invite check out my How to Make Your Wedding Guest List […]

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I'm Alex McCrary. Wedding + destination photographer based in Iowa. Helping every day couples get cozy and own their normal while bringing connection to the midwest + beyond.