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Building Your Wedding Guest List


Today, we're going to continue our wedding planning foundation series that is made up of the five main pillars of wedding planning.


So far we've covered pillar one, your wedding planning priorities. Pillar two, the wedding budget. And now we're moving on to pillar three, your guest list. After this, we'll be moving on to the final two pillars, your checklists and timeframes and your vendor team. Now, these foundational steps might seem pretty basic, but I absolutely promise you that if you spend just a bit of time on these five pillars, you are going to feel so much more confident as you move forward with your wedding plans.


If you're just finding this podcast at this episode, please go back to episode 30, to follow along with building your wedding planning foundation. I try to keep these episodes quick and to the point. So it won't take long to catch up. And one final note before we get started is to make sure you grab the free worksheet that accompanies the foundational series of episodes.

You can find it at planning, collective.com or in the show notes here. The worksheets are included in the four things every couple must do after getting engaged guide. All right, let's get started. I often call today's topic a lesson on picking your battles for some working out your guest list might seem like an easy task. You know exactly who's going to be on that invite list and there aren't any crazy fine lines to draw or family dynamics to take into consideration many couples,

however, need to pick their battles and look at the big picture of life beyond the wedding. When it comes to who makes the cut for their wedding guest list, I'd love to share an example here from a client we worked with years ago, the bride had really wanted a smaller event. However, she knew that the wedding was a really big deal for her future mother-in-law and they had a huge family earlier in their relationship,

the bride and her mother-in-law had some tension, but now they were in a really good place. The bride decided that she was going to let her mother-in-law have this one and not restrict the number of guests that she could invite. The bride knew that it was important to her and they were helping to pay for the wedding. So it worth it to her to have a bigger wedding than they initially wanted to help keep the peace after the wedding was done.

And over now, typically I'm a huge advocate for couples standing their ground when it comes to others' opinions and planning their wedding. But there are certain situations where it's just not worth the long-term problems that could come up. And this was one of those examples. I know in the past, I've had clients that have had a flip situation. Thenthis example,

they held their ground and kept their guest list to what they initially planned for it. The point is you need to think about your specific wants priorities and family dynamics when it comes to the wedding guest list, pick your battles carefully, if necessary. All right. That little disclaimer, aside, let's get into how you create your guest list to begin with as with just about everything else in wedding planning,

we are going back to pillar one, your wedding priorities. What did you decide on when you were talking about the size of your wedding? Did you want to have a micro or intimate wedding, maybe something small or medium, or do you have massive families and a large amount of friends and you are going to have to have a big bash. The amount of guests that you invite is going to have an immediate impact on not only your budget,

but the venues or locations that are available to you. Based on the size of the wedding. Quick side note here at this stage, we are typically talking about the estimated number of guests that you're going to invite. Most couples don't have the exact number until just a few weeks before the wedding venues and other vendors are very familiar with working with these initial estimates.

So don't feel like you need to have an exact number before reaching out to venues. The general rule is that about 20% of the guests invited will not be able to attend, but this can vary greatly, depending on the details of the wedding. I found that smaller guests lists under 75 or so tend to have a much smaller percentage of guests declining. If you're only inviting close family and friends,

they're more likely to do whatever they have to do to make that wedding. If you have a larger guest list, however, you'll most likely see the declines are closer to that 20% rate. The two other factors that often impact this number is whether or not your wedding is being held on or around a holiday, or if there's significant travel involved for many of the guests,

either of these situations often mean that you'll have a higher number of guests not able to make it, but that's not always the case. For example, if your family or friends live out of state and you have a wedding around the holidays, when they're already home, you might have more guests able to attend that wouldn't have been able to travel a different time of the year.

Of course, that scenario could be flipped. You might have most of your guests out of town around the holidays. So take into consideration those that are the most important to you and what they may have going on around the time of year. You're looking at getting back on track here though. The point is that it's really important for you to have a basic guest list decided on before you booked the venue or solidify the breakdown of your budget.

Remember you don't want to be stuck planning your wedding backwards by making a decision or commitment, and then being forced to adjust the budget or other details to accommodate that. Once you've decided on the approximate size, how do you come up with the actual guest list? Well, I recommend that you grab a glass or maybe a bottle of wine cup of tea,

or maybe your favorite Spindrift and just start writing down at names, start with your immediate family wedding party members and close friends and work your way down the list. If you have any friends or family who have recently gotten married, or maybe had a graduation party or another large event, reach out to them and see if you can get a copy of their list,

this will help make sure that you aren't missing anyone. And it'll also give you a jumpstart on collecting their addresses. Remember back in episode 30, one of your first steps in wedding planning was to set up your accounts. This is where your Google drive is going to come in handy by using Google sheets. It's like a live online version of Excel. If you're not familiar that you can actually share with family and friends this way they can help you collect the guest contact information in a super easy way.

You can also check out sites like the knot or Zola as they have different guests tracking features within their sites as well. There are two common questions that come up as couples are working through their guest list. The first is, do we invite kids to the wedding? I find the answer to this is most often a pretty fast yes or no either. This is a super common in your family to have kids attend,

or your family prefers adults only receptions. And the parents will make arrangements for the kids on their own. There's really no right or wrong answer. Do what feels best for you. It is your wedding. After all, remember that if you do have quite a few guests that have little ones and it might be an issue with childcare. So if they're traveling or maybe all of their go-to babysitters are also going to be at the reception,

you can arrange to have a sitter onsite at the venue or hotel to make sure that the parents can enjoy the reception. I typically see that parents are grateful for an excuse for a night out, especially if there is an open bar. The second question I get is who gets a plus one or a date? The formal rule is that spouses fiances and live in partners should be included as a guest on the invitation.

You'll most likely have some guests that are in long-term relationships, but maybe not living together or engaged. It will probably be assumed that their significant other is going to be included too, regardless of the official status of their relationship. And in these cases, it'll probably be that their significant other is going to be included too, regardless of the official status of their relationship.

My personal opinion is that all adult members of the wedding party and immediate family should also be invited with a guest regardless of their relationship status. But I understand that that's not always going to be the case based on the dynamics of the family, as well as the budget or venue restrictions, if your budget and the space do allow, it's not uncommon to extend a plus one to all adult guests,

the primary guests will know if they're invited with a date, by the way you address the wedding invitation. If you know the significant other's name, you would include that on the invite. If you're unsure, if they're in a relationship you would simply add and guest to the envelope, keep in mind, whatever your decision is on the topic of kids and plus ones,

you're most likely going to get some guests that disagree with you or want to share their opinions for whatever reason. These are two areas that can be really divisive. So try not to take it personally, if you get any pushback, once you've done your brain dump of potential guests, take a look at how that compares with your preferred wedding size. Ideally,

they are going to match up perfectly, but most likely you'll need to either make some cuts or separate them into an, a list and a B list. It's a relatively common practice, but I do want to share a couple words of caution. If you choose to do the different lists, if you're sending out, save the dates, only send them to those that,

you know, 100% will be invited. Anyone who receives a save the date will expect an invitation to the wedding and they might start making arrangements to attend. This also includes the kids and dates. If you're unsure at the point of sending out, save the dates who is going to be able to be invited, it's perfectly acceptable to send out a, save the date addressed just to the primary guest and you can add in and family or,

and guests on the invitation later on. You'll also want to send out your first round of invitations on the earlier side, if you're doing an, a list and abuse list, normally I recommend six to eight weeks to send out your invitations. But if you're doing a second list, I would say eight to 10 weeks before would be appropriate. This way you can send out a second round early enough so that the guests can make arrangements to attend.

And it doesn't feel last minute, if you're able to make sure the second round of invitations has a leader RSVP due date to reflect the different timing. If someone receives an invitation to a wedding a week after the request to date has passed, they'll know that they were on that B list and one final tip for all engaged couples. When it comes to the guest list,

stop making friends, no new clubs, no new hobbies or jobs until after the wedding. Now I'm kidding, of course, but it can be really challenging when you meet new people after you've been engaged that you really want to include in the wedding. If you're the type of person that likes to pick up strays as a past client once said, make sure that you leave a little bit of extra room in that guest list and budget for some of those added guests that you maybe haven't met yet.

All right, you have some homework to do. Now. I'd love to hear what size wedding you're planning on and how you've decided on that list. Head over to the wedding planning, collective Facebook group and tell us all about it. And if you found this episode helpful, I would love it. If you could give me a quick review, it would mean the world to me,

and it would help other couples find the wedding planning resources they need. Thank you so much for joining me today. And I will see you in the next episode where we'll discuss pillar for the wedding planning, checklists and timeframes.

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