The Must-Know Wedding Guest List Advice, Straight From Influencers

Top content creators open up about tackling wedding guest list creation.
Hannah Nowack The Knot Senior Weddings Editor
Hannah Nowack
Hannah Nowack The Knot Senior Weddings Editor
Hannah Nowack
Senior Editor, Weddings
  • Hannah writes and edits articles for The Knot Worldwide, with a focus on real wedding coverage.
  • Hannah has a passion for DE&I and plays an integral role in ensuring The Knot content highlights all voices and all love stories.
  • Prior to The Knot Worldwide, Hannah was the Social Media Editor at Martha Stewart Weddings.
Updated May 19, 2022

Dreaming of a wedding that would impress even the most viral TikTok star? Wedding ideas abound online and social media often plays an integral role in wedding planning—whether we're scrolling for ideas on Pinterest for hours or checking out what big-name Instagrammers are cooking up for their weddings. The problem is—once you've curated the perfect big day packed with lots of details for the 'gram, who do you actually invite to celebrate with you? We went to the source and asked some of our fave content creators how they tackled putting together a wedding guest list.

Hoàng-Kim Cung, Asia Sullivan, Clara Guillem and Tanya Marie Zielke, all members of The Knot's Most Influential Weddings Crew, dish on how to nail your wedding guest list. Consider this your ultimate guide to making a wedding guest list, from who gets a say in the final decision to what parameters you need to establish, .

These nine tips will help you create a wedding guest list with as little stress as possible. Consult this guide as your go-to resource that will address even the most pressing guest list hurdles and FAQs before diving into making your invite list.

1. Start With a Realistic Budget

From how many people you have to feed to how many place settings and centerpieces you have to order, your headcount will heavily impact your wedding budget. Beyond those details, even things like what kind of wedding venues you can consider will be impacted by the guest list. Along those lines, a good rule of thumb, as any wedding planner will attest, is that trimming your guest list will help you trim your wedding budget. So unless you have clarity around how much you're willing to spend on the wedding day (and auxiliary events like the rehearsal dinner), it's nearly impossible to make a realistic guest list.

Sullivan encourages to-be-weds to "set a budget first and then decide how many invites to send out. Only invite the number of guests you intend to pay for. We invited many more folks than we expected would come but were surprised by all the RSVPs! It was a happy surprise though and we're so excited to see every single guest."

Also keep in mind that the people contributing to the budget may also have expectations about how much of a say they get in the guest list creation. If people beyond you and your partner are contributing to the budget, make sure to have a discussion early on setting expectations about who will receive a wedding invitation. "We paid for our wedding completely, which also gave us the power to say no to anyone and took the pressure off listening to our parents for every decision made. And at the end of the day everyone not invited understood completely," shares Zielke.

2. Set Boundaries

With all wedding-related decisions, but especially the attendee list, people will have opinions that they feel compelled to share with you and your partner—from who should get a plus-one to which coworkers or extended family members should attend and whether or not you should have a last-minute B-List. Remember that this is your special day to plan the way you see fit. If that means letting certain people in on the decision making, great! But if that looks like drawing a hard line in sand about who gets a say in the guest list and who makes the cut for the guest list then you should feel empowered to set those boundaries. Decide on your non-negotiables and stick to them—adhering to predetermined parameters is a great way to mitigate hurt feelings.

Guillem encourages to-be-weds to "set clear boundaries with each other as well as with your family members about who you feel comfortable inviting. Don't feel like just because someone texted you for the first time in five years to congratulate you that you're obliged to invite them. This day is about you and your partner and who you really want to celebrate with."

3. Prioritize Close Loved Ones

In addition to setting boundaries about who won't make the cut, it's paramount that you focus on your closest loved ones and immediate family members. Sullivan shares that it is helpful to start by figuring out who your VIPs are before expanding your guest list to include other people. "Start with the 'must-haves' and then work your way out. Think about who absolutely must be there (parents, siblings, close friends, grandparents, etc.) and go from there," she advises.

Cung adds that to-be-weds should "think of the people who were truly there for you in your life. We personally didn't want "small talk" at our wedding so we wanted to really fill the room with people we loved. Johnny always says there are two times you can have all the people you love in one place: your wedding and your funeral, but you only get to attend one."

4. Don't Rush the Process

Creating the perfect wedding guest list takes time, and the process shouldn't be rushed. "At the time, building our guest list didn't feel like much of a challenge because we were so excited to share our love with everyone. However, as the wedding planning process has gone on I wish we would have slowed down a little and possibly reduced our initial guest list," says Guillem. "We wanted to celebrate with everyone so badly that we really didn't put a limit on our guest list when we probably should have."

5. Set Guidelines, and Stick to Them

If there are certain guidelines you want guests to follow in order to attend your wedding ceremony and wedding reception, especially surrounding health and safety, make sure to outline those from the onset. For Sullivan, it was important to her and her partner that guests attending be vaccinated against COVID-19. "One challenge we encountered was our requirement for COVID-19 vaccination which, as a healthcare worker, was important to me. We do have a few family members who will not be attending due to this, but there are no hard feelings among us. We prioritized what was important to us and were firm in our decisions."

6. Consider Travel Requirements

Accessibility is a major concern for guests when deciding whether or not they will be able to attend. From pandemic-related travel requirements to things as simple as whether there's a convenient flight to your destination wedding locale of choice, guests' potential travel needs should be kept in mind as you're curating the wedding guest list. This is a challenge that Sullivan experienced first-hand: "Approximately 90% of our guests would be flying in from all over the country—Alabama, Alaska, Idaho, Hawaii, Georgia. For some of our guests, traveling to our wedding will be their first time on an airplane! We helped our friends and family arrange travel and accommodations ourselves."

7. Set a Policy for Plus-Ones

Ultimately, you can't invite an unlimited number of people to the wedding. However, many people want, and often expect, a plus-one if they'll be attending the wedding solo. Decide early on how you'll handle plus-ones so you don't have to deal with the issue on a case-by-case basis. Maybe you allow plus-ones for your wedding party, any engaged couples and those who live together with their significant other but no one else. Or maybe you don't allow any plus-ones at all. Whatever the case—decide early on how you want to handle this. Sullivan notes that she wishes "we would have thought more about plus ones in our initial budget. We wound up having to allow plus ones on a case by case basis after getting so many RSVPs!"

8. Utilize a Guest List Manager

As you're creating the invite list, it can be helpful to have a central place where you're tracking guests' names. While a simple list or Excel doc would work, The Knot Guest List Manager is a great tool because it also allows you to manage other important tasks like collecting addresses and phone numbers. The tool is also compatible with The Knot Wedding Websites so that you can track RSVPs and answers to any other guest list questions you may have for attendees as part of their reply, like dietary restrictions. Having the guest list, and all related information, in one central location will also make the process of creating your seating chart much simpler once the time comes.

9. Go With Your Gut

Do you want a small wedding? Great—you should feel empowered to make the tough decision and limit your guest count so you can spend time with those closest to you. Zielke notes that "for me, I need intimacy when it comes to big moments. I really had to say if I am not close with this person at this moment or if they don't really know our relationship, then they aren't invited. This gave me so much anxiety. But, on my wedding day, I knew that I made the right decision when I looked around the room and saw all my closest people."

Connect with your partner about what matters most to you and let those priorities inform your wedding guest list creation.

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