Deciding who to invite to your wedding is fun, and a challenge. Don’t tear your hair out or getting into rock ‘em sock ‘em fights with your partner or parents about it. Get organized instead.
Following these Top Tips will help you have the guests you want and stick to your budget.

1. Prioritize your list

Right from the start, make yourself a list with three columns for different types of guests: Family, Friends, Frills. Use it to write down who you would want to invite if your budget were limitless and the venue enormous.
In the Family column, put close family first, and more distant relatives below. In the Friends column, list the friends you really want to be there. And in the Frills column, list anyone else, such as colleagues, co-workers and neighbours, who you would like to include if your budget stretches that far, but who aren’t vital for your happiness.

2. Check it twice, then edit it down

Add up the numbers, then think again about who of these people you want to invite, who you have to invite, and who you think you ought to invite. This is when some of the hard decisions come in and the pruning and grooming of the list begins. Is it more important to invite a distant relative or a close friend? Do you have to invite someone to your wedding just because they invited you to theirs?
Before you send the invitations out, make sure that you are not inviting any more people than your absolute maximum. When you cut guests, go from the lowest priority guests (colleagues, distant family members, parents’ friends you might not know) up to the highest.


3. Remember the plus one

Do you want to invite everyone on your guestlist to bring a significant other or date with them? Depending on your budget and the size of the venue, you may decide not to include the option for your guests to bring a date. Of course, if you have friends and relations who are married or in long-terms relationships, you should invite their spouse or partner as well. Factor these into the guestlist count.

4. Decide if you want children there or not

It’s your wedding so you make the rules. If you have children you want to be there, such as your own, or children who are in the bridal party or participating in the ceremony in some other way, of course include them in your list. But do you want to have everyone else with children bring their children to your wedding? It’s a good rule to have one rule that fits all. Either no one can bring their children, or everyone can. If you choose the latter, make sure you have child care arrangements – such as hiring babysitters,  so you don’t have rambunctious or tearful children disrupting the ceremony and the reception.


5. The 20% factor

The rule of thumb is that 15-20% of the people you invite won’t be able to attend. This gives you a chance to extend the list of potential guests. – maybe some people from the “Frills” List, or some more distant relatives?
It’s a good idea to send invitations to your Family and Friends say, two or three  months ahead of the wedding date, then, depending on the responses, send invitation to your next tier of guests say, 6 to 8 weeks before your wedding. That enables you to get a realistic head count, and has the bonus of not making anyone feel like a “last-minute” invitee. Be sure to have different “reply by” dates on the two sets of invitations.


6. Bonus: Earth to Australia

If any of the guests live in, say Australia or South Africa or India, or Russia or China,  or even just across the province or country, it’s worth calling them or contacting them as soon as possible to see if they would be willing to come to your wedding. Get a firm answer. That way you will keep your guest list realistic,  the far-flung family and friends will know they have been thought of and invited.
If they can’t make it to your wedding, it gives you the chance to ask more of the more local people you would like to have at your wedding.


Getting a firm yes or no can save you huge amounts on the catering – think per-plate costs –  and on the actual venue. You don’t want to book a place that holds 300 (and pay for dinner and drinks for that number) when only 240 will actually be attending. Likewise,  you don’t want to book a place that seats 75 and then have 100 guests arrive on the day, with nowhere to sit and not enough food and drink to go around!

Doing your guest list in this way means you can get a real handle on your budget, get the people and place you want, and save you having to make costly changes to venue and catering.

Catherine Kentridge, Licensed Wedding Officiant 
Custom Wedding Ceremonies