Laying out a guest list for your big day might seem like a no-brainer at first. You might be thinking, “I’m just gonna invite my close friends and family and call it a day”. Maybe you’re even thinking you don’t have that many close friends and so the process will be quick, easy, and painless. But, when you finally put your pen to the paper to start making your guest list, you'll find that the initial 50 people you planned on inviting has rapidly transformed into 200.
Yes, your guest list for your big day is a big deal. Your wedding guests determine your general plans (food, tables, party favors), the type of wedding you can have, whether or not you can choose your dream venue, and yes - most importantly - it will determine your budget.
So, I’ve broken it down for you into ten easy steps which might not make the process completely painless but will save you from a significant number of headaches.
1. Start with the basics: how many and who!
As much as you might want to, avoid picking your venue first. This is definitely where your mind goes as soon as you start the planning process (who wouldn’t want to immediately check out potential spots for their future wedding?...). But as much as you can, avoid going 100% into planning your venue. First, sit down with a pen and paper and brainstorm about your guest count and guest list. How many people would be too small of a wedding? How many people would be too big of a wedding? Does this ideal number of guests seem reasonable in terms of your budget (remember every head costs $$$). While you’re considering the guest count, make a rough list of your guests. Remember, this doesn’t have to be final, but listing everyone out will allow you to start considering who you really want there and how the numbers can add up faster than expected.
2. Keep in mind small weddings are much more affordable.
If you're on a strict budget, definitely keep this in mind. Imagine that in the end, you invite 200 guests. Right now that may seem like a lot, but that number could be around your actual headcount. Now (taking food for example) if every plate costs $30, then suddenly the bill for food alone is $6,000. Let’s imagine that you reduce the guest count to $75. Suddenly your food bill is only $2,250. That’s a drastic difference - just for the food alone! If you’re trying to stick to a budget, definitely consider how the guest count is going to influence the total price tag before you send out the invitations.
200 guests x $30/plate = $6,000
75 guests x $30/plate = $2,250
3. Be organized from the start.
When it comes to all aspects of your wedding, it’s going to save you a lot of stress if you commit to being organized from the get-go. This means staying organized through all the major parts of the process. Below are the major To-Do’s. If you can break the day into manageable pieces, you’re golden.
The Guest List
Contracts and Negotiations
Photography, Food, Music, Cake, and More
Decor: Rentals, Flowers, and Favors
Accommodations and travel
The Day Itself
For the guest list itself, staying organized can mean making a spreadsheet. In this spreadsheet, you want to have the name of the guest followed by some information for that specific person: their home address (for the invitation to be sent), whether or not they have RSVP’d yet, the number of people they’re bringing with them, their food choice, and any person-specific notes that might keep the paramedics from having to arrive on the scene (if, per se, they’re allergic to peanuts).
4. Don’t get bullied by relatives.
This is a special day for your family too, so be open to compromise. But in the end, it is up to you (even if someone else is paying). So don’t let yourself get bullied into making cuts or sending invitations out to people who you really really don’t like. Your family should understand the ideal size of the wedding and that not everyone can come. This is the reality you’ve had to face, don’t be afraid to explain to your relatives what you’ve learned so far.