Who makes the cut? How many people do you get to choose and how many choices do your future in-laws get? Is there that one guest that your mom is set on having there, but you just don’t want that? Here are some quick tips on creating your guest and how to avoid blowing your budget out of the water.

Your guest list is one of the most crucial parts of planning your wedding. Oh, who are we kidding, it is all crucial. But your guest list is one of those things that can really blow your budget if you are not careful. You may not think adding an additional 20 people to the list is that bad, but those twenty people need a meal, extra favors, dessert, and extra chair, linen, place setting rentals. It is a stress that most couples don’t even think about until it is time to make the list. So, to help avoid some of that stress we have some tips for you when it comes to creating your wedding guest list.

1. Just start writing.

We get that making your guest list is not as fun as it may seem at first. Sorry, there is no getting around that. But one thing you should do, before you book your venue and set your budget, is just start writing down the names of anyone you would like to invite to your wedding. It doesn’t matter who it is. It could be your best friend from college to distant cousins you only see every other year. This is a time to just put their name down if you feel like it would be nice to have them there. This is a good list to have when you want to go back later and add-on that one person that you didn’t think you would invite. If they weren’t on your list at this stage, then it might be something to reconsider.

You will want to have a system that everyone contributing can use. We use Aisle Planner for all our couples, which can include anyone you would like to participate in the planning. It is simple, straight forward and offers a great RSVP tracking tool along with it. Or you can use just a simple excel spreadsheet in Google Drive so people can go in and edit the list as needed in real-time.

2. Make cutting rules for everyone to follow.

You should have already how many people each person contributing gets to invite. For example, most couples have their parents involved in creating the guest list. There are going to be those that are close to your parents that they would like to have there that day. Talk about this early and once you decide on how many each gets to invite, stick to it.

When it comes time to make cuts everyone should follow the same rules. It may be tough at the beginning, but it avoids the drama and stress later. Some examples may be that you don’t want to have kids at your wedding. So, for this, when creating your invitations, be sure to properly address them to get the message across or creatively word your invites stating adults-only wedding. Another rule might be don’t do the guild invite. What we mean is there might be someone on your list that you don’t really want there, but they invited you to their wedding, so you feel guilty if you don’t return the favor. Create your list of rules and stick to them.

3. Be realistic about the number you can have.

This is where you want to start thinking about your venue and your catering budget. Don’t invite so many people that you are hoping for half of them to send their regrets. You are setting yourself up for stress later if you have a confirmed guest list that exceeds your venue’s max capacity. And more guests mean more food. Be mindful of what happens to your catering budget as you keep increasing your guest count.

4. Divide into two lists: A and B.

There is no shame in creating an A and B list. I mean, don’t go around telling people which list they are on. That may create some tension. But have you’re a list be people such as your immediate family and closest friends. Send those invites out sooner, say 10-11 weeks prior to the wedding. Once you start receiving regrets from those people, it opens it up to those on your B list. This list is still comprised of those that are very near and dear to you and invites sent out 6-8 weeks prior to the wedding. Just be sure that your RSVP cards don’t give away your secret. You may want to print out two sets of RSVP cards with your A-list RSVP date sooner than the B-list RSVP date.

5. Be clear on the RSVP cards.

We all know that one person, or 5 people, that take the opportunity to write in multiple names on the “Yes, I’ll be attending line”, even though it very clearly states their name on the envelope. Having their name already listed on the RSVP card and clear instructions if a guest is allowed is a nice way to let them know to be respectful of your wishes. But, let’s face it, sometimes people still write in names. If this happens, a phone call to them and politely explaining that although you would love to have everyone, the budget and venue just does not allow it.

6. Set boundaries for everyone.

You may run into those few people that your parents or your in-laws are pushing to have, but your budget is tight enough as it is. Setting boundaries early with everyone involved in creating the guest list is the best option. If one person must cut someone from their list, then maybe everyone should choose one to cut from theirs too. If the budget is the main issue, the solution may be to let that person know that you need them to chip in for the extra expense you were not accounting for.

7. Avoid add-ons at the last minute.

Once you have created your guest list, your budget for catering is clear. Avoid adding any last-minute add-ons even though you may get those awkward comments from someone excited to attend your wedding. If you’re still early in the planning process just avoid talking about these things. If they push it, you can simply let them know that you are still working out the logistics of the venue and your budget to know how many you can invite.

Bonus tip: Keep the list of your big guest list for future mailings such as holiday cards, anniversary parties, etc. Having their contact information can really come in handy down the road so you don’t have to chase down that information again.

Happy Planning!

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