Ah, forming a guest list. Every bride’s favorite part of wedding planning. Deciding who’s in, who’s out, and who might get on the B list you have the space. This is the stuff of dreams, people.
But seriously, it doesn't have to be that hard, and it shouldn't turn into your family's World War III. Before you decide “ugh maybe later” and choose some more enthralling activity, like reading medieval literature, I’m here to help!!
(Psst! Lazy people, CLICK HERE to skip the reading and view a guest list template in blue.)
(Psst! Lazy people, CLICK HERE to skip the reading and view a guest list template in pink.)
Step one: Consider your budget, venue, and priorities
Before we do anything, let’s assess the situation. Chances are, you already have an idea of how many guests you would like to invite. Take a moment to answer the following questions:
How many guests can your ceremony location support? Is there also sufficient parking for the number of guests you want to invite?
How many guests can your reception venue support? Is there also sufficient parking for the number of guests you want to invite?
How many guests can your budget support? Keep in mind the expenses each guest may bring: catering, alcohol, table/chair rentals, invitations (plus postage), menus, programs, thank-you cards (I SAID PLUS POSTAGE! Those 49-cent stamps really add up.)
Step two: Solidify your number
If you haven’t already, you need to solidify the number of guests that can attend your wedding. (Please note, I said CAN attend, not WILL attend, because frankly, some people show unexpectedly and some people just don’t show and I’m sorry but life just isn’t as organized as you are.) Just do it. Write it down: Based on the number of guests my venue(s) and budget can support, the number of guests I can invite to my wedding is ______.
Step three: Get organized
Before you start worrying about whether or not you should invite your great-aunt’s-cousin’s-dog Bertha, just breathe. You’re going to want to simplify this process as much as possible. It will be easiest to gather all this information into one place. Good news: while you were busy working/attending class/saving the world/curing childhood diabetes, I put together a Google sheet you can use. Because I know you’re busy.
Three reasons I honestly believe a Google sheet is the best solution for a guest list (THIS IS NOT AN AD. I'M JUST A REALLY SATISFIED GOOGLE SHEETS USER, PEOPLE):
- Google sheets are saved online. Meaning you can edit and view them from anywhere. And your changes are automatically saved for you!
- YOU CAN SHARE THEM! This is a fantastic collaborative feature. You can give others permission to view or even edit them. That means you, your groom, your mom, and your maid of honor can all access it. And any changes you make are automatically available for everyone to see. Life. Changing.
- You can use your sheet to keep track of stuff throughout the whole wedding process. Not only who you've invited, but who has responded, how many guests you will have, any dietary needs or the food they have requested, which person gave which gift, and whether or not you remembered to send a thank-you note. WOW that's called organization, my friend. Just look at the two options of organizational bliss I have laid out for you:
Click one of the buttons below to view the templates and save a copy for yourself!
*Note to new Google drive users. When you open this document, you will notice the blue icon in the upper left corner that says view only (see the pinkish circle below). This means that I own the document. You cannot edit this document. NO PROBLEM, SISTER. Just keep reading. I'm about to explain how you can make yourself a copy to keep forever and ever.
Click file, then click "Make a Copy" (see the pink circle below.)
A small window will pop up asking you to name the copy. Change the name to whatever you like! Then click okay (see below.)
You're now free to make changes and share your document. (BY THE WAY, if you're not a Google Docs user, you can simply download the template as a Microsoft Excel file. Just click File, then hover over Download As, then click Microsoft Excel.
Now that you have a super-organized document, let's move along...
Step four: Brainstorm. A lot.
Take a moment and record anyone and everyone that immediately comes to mind as a potential wedding guest. I mean anyone. (Honestly if it were up to me, Katy Perry would have attended my wedding, but that is neither here nor there.) This isn’t set in stone. It’s just a start to help empty your brain.
Consider the following groups of people to help you think through all areas of your life:
Your immediate family
Your extended family
High school friends
Friends from work
Your church family or small group
Mentors or teachers
When you’re done brainstorming, ask your groom to go back through the same list and do the same. Obviously, there will be some overlap. (Hopefully you and your man have a friend or two?) Just record all the (unique) names that come to mind.
Step five: Consider The parents... they put up with you during your awkward stage, remember?
Have your parents (and your future in-laws) look at the possibilities list. See if there is anyone that you have forgotten to include. (No joke -- I forgot to write my siblings' names on the guest list. Sometimes it’s the most obvious people that you forget.) If your parents are paying for all, most, or even part of the wedding, it’s appropriate to ask them if there is anyone they would like to invite. My mother wanted a few of her closest friends from work (people I knew and had grown up with) to come as well. You don’t have to agree or disagree yet -- just write them down.
Step six: Consider your goals
Does the original number of guests you hoped to invite somewhat match with the list you have brainstormed? If not, you might be having a small heart attack. You might be thinking:
How can I make all these people happy? How can I fit 37 more chairs into the chapel? Why in the world did I choose to get married in a tiny chapel? Who honestly only has 65 friends?
Before you lose your sanity, sit down with your bff/stud muffin/fiancé and talk. What are your wedding goals? Maybe your goal is to have the most kickin’ dance party/celebration ever. Maybe your goal is to have a formal occasion with your closest family members. Maybe your fam is from out of town and your goal is to introduce your groom to family members from India that might not otherwise have a chance to meet him. Whatever your goal is, discuss it and write it down. Commit to your goal. This is your wedding. Not your mother’s wedding. Not your aunt Edna’s wedding. Not your college sorority sisters’ wedding. At the end of the day, you need to make choices based on your goal. That might mean that some people get offended (sorry, I know I promised that wouldn’t happen in the title of this post, but I can’t promise that your man’s third cousin Gina isn’t a certifiable lunatic with unrealistic expectations for you). But when she writes you an angry text about why you didn’t invite her children, you can kindly tell her “This is a formal affair for just our closest family members. We are getting married in a small chapel-- we really wanted to make sure we found a way to include you, and we hope you are able to make it!” You don’t have to apologize to anyone because it isn’t their wedding.
The bottom line: if you know your goal, you will find that making decisions about who to invite (and who NOT to invite) is a manageable task.
Step seven: Organize and sort your list
Now that you know your end goal and you have brainstormed a ton of ideas, it’s time to sort your list. You can start copying and pasting names onto an “official list” sheet in your document. Don’t worry about the order. Just start with the guests that meet your goal. The people closest to your heart. The people you can’t imagine not hugging in your wedding dress.
There may be some people you realize right away that aren’t right for your list. It could be your work friends, family friends, or distant connections that might not fit your goal. It’s okay to erase them from the list. Guilt free. No questions asked.
Then there might be the gray area in-between. You’d like to invite them if you have the space, but frankly, you might not have the space. You can create a new tab in your spreadsheet of people you really want to include if you find out that your fiance’s third cousin Gina can’t make it after all. (Psst. My template already has a tab for that... click here to view a blue template, or here to view a pink one.)
Step eight: gather addresses
Once you know who is getting an invite to your wedding, you gotta get their addresses. Please, please don’t be that person who writes a giant Facebook message to 95 of their friends saying “Hey guys I need your address.” That’s annoying when 95 people reply and I get 95 notifications. Also, people may not want their address to be given out in such a public manner (95 other people are going to see it, hello.)
Start with the ones you already have on file somewhere and put them in your spreadsheet.
Ask your parents for any relatives’ addresses they might have on file.
Use whitepages.com to search for addresses.
Ask your work friends in person. You don’t have to be all weird and secretive about it. “Hey, [friend from work]! I am gathering addresses for my wedding invitations, and I would really like to include you. Can I get your address?” Just be sure not to ask in a common area where other people might question why they’re not getting asked, too.
Call your extended family members to ask
Texts are fine for your BFF and your bridesmaid babes
A private Facebook message or a simple email is appropriate when all else fails
Step nine: CELEBRATE. And send those invites, girlfriend.
You've done it, my friend. You have a guest list. You have addresses. You've even organized it all in a super-shareable way so you can keep others up-to-date on what's going on. HOORAY FOR INTERNET COLLABORATION. It's time to send your invites. You can do it. All you have to do is copy 150 addresses onto 150 envelopes and try not to get a serious hand cramp while maintaining beautiful handwriting without crying. (Oh wait, that's an impossible task you also need help with? No worries, champ. I wrote a post just for you with a bunch of ideas for how regular people can spice up their lettering skills.) Good luck my friend, you can totally do it!
P.s. in case you forgot to access the templates before, I put them here for you one more time.