How to Make a Wedding Guest List

Planning your wedding? Congratulations! While this journey is incredibly exciting, it can also be stressful at times. Creating the ideal wedding guest list is one of those tricky tasks you may have been putting off, but we are here to help. Once your list is finalized, we can also assist in finding a venue that…

Planning your wedding? Congratulations! While this journey is incredibly exciting, it can also be stressful at times. Creating the ideal wedding guest list is one of those tricky tasks you may have been putting off, but we are here to help. Once your list is finalized, we can also assist in finding a venue that fits you and yours perfectly.

Tips for Getting Started on Your Wedding Guest List (including a free RedWater template!)

Brain Dump 

Creating the perfect wedding day list may seem overwhelming. A great place to start is with a brain dump. You can make it a fun task by sitting down with your soon-to-be spouse and a glass of wine; write (or type) out everyone you would consider or are definitely inviting to your wedding. You can use this free wedding guest list spreadsheet we created if you’re a fan of Sheets or Excel organization like we are. Simply make a copy of our sheet and start entering names. Both partners should enter their must-have guests, and possibly even have separate sheets to compare.


When considering who is a definite “YES!” versus who is a “Hmm… maybe?”, a good rule of thumb is to prioritize your wedding guest list. Start by categorizing the people that mean the most to you: close family, your wedding party, your must-attend friends. Next, write out the members of your extended family, casual friends or coworkers, or other possible attendees that might make the cut. Use a ranking scale or color coding to find your core guests, and go from there.


It is probable that not every person you wrote down in your initial wedding guest will make it to your day. When culling your list, we suggest you nix the long-lost childhood or college friends you rarely connect with, as well as distant family members whose names you’re often unsure of. If you don’t envision them being in your life in five years, they probably don’t need to be at your wedding. Keep it to those that love you, those you love to be around, and most importantly, those who you and yours-to-be truly want included in this incredibly special and intimate day.

Wedding Guest List Etiquette

Determine Your Plus-One Plan

The topic of allowing attendees to bring a date to your day is common, and everyone handles it differently. Because food and beverage costs are calculated on a per-person basis, it is not surprising that a couple may want to forgo extending an invitation to extra guests. It is often appropriate to give a plus-one to any invitee that is married or engaged. You probably wouldn’t want to attend another wedding without your beloved, so it is only fair to give that same courtesy to other wedded or to-be-wedded love birds. Your wedding party is a group that should probably receive a plus one. They have invested a lot of time and effort to make your wedding day as wonderful as can be because they care about you. Including their special someone (if they have one- not everyone in your party will necessarily want to bring a date) is a way to show you care about them, too. No one wants to be left out of those romantic slow dances! All others, including those in more casual relationships or those that are single, probably don’t need to bring a date. If they know others in attendance, sit them together for the celebration. Of course, this is a case-by-case basis, so if you feel you need to give a specific non-married person a plus one, go for it. It’s your wedding, after all!

Will Kids Be Allowed?

Everyone planning a wedding will encounter this debate: should kids be allowed at ours? Whether you plan an adults-only affair or family-friendly ceremony and/or reception is up to you, but keep in mind that this could impact your guest list. If parents are unwilling or unable to find a babysitter, they may not be in attendance. You can also add a “Kids above the age of ___ are welcome ” clause to your wedding invites, but that might not be received well by your potential guests. Keep in mind, if you’re skipping the popular flower-man trend in favor of more traditional flower girls and ring bearers, they will be included in the festivities unless you make post-ceremony arrangements.

Keep Budget in Mind 

Keeping close track of your wedding budget is key to minimizing wedding planning stress and creating realistic expectations about the size of your guest list. Allott your budget based on what is most important to you, may that be a jaw-dropping, decked out reception venue, a five star, multi-course dinner, or custom-designed wedding dress of your dreams. Unless you’re going with an all-inclusive venue, there are a lot of guest-related venue costs to keep in mind, like seating and table placements, parking, and food and beverage costs. These can differ greatly between a buffet-style meal or a serviced, plated dinner, and an open or cash only bar.

How Your Wedding Guest List Impacts Your Venue 

The number of people you want at your wedding will determine what size wedding venue you require. Many venues are booked over a year in advance, so the sooner you figure out your guest list, the better chance of securing your ideal spot. If you’re envisioning an intimate wedding with a smaller guest list, you could splurge on a more lavish setup that involves separate ceremony and reception sites. With a larger guest list, you may decide to keep the party going in the same spot you said, “I do,”  to save money. No matter the size of your guest list, we are here to help you through the process of finding the dreamiest setting for your wedding. Reach out today to learn more about our West Michigan wedding venues.

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