Wedding Guest List Mistakes to Avoid, According to an Expert

It's a delicate process, but it doesn't have to be stressful.

A wedding reception table with greenery, hanging lights, pink flowers, and gold chairs.

Madalena Leles / Getty Images

Compiling the guest list for your wedding day can be really fun—you, as a couple, get to think about all your friends and family who will gather to watch you become newlyweds! But this process can also be a delicate one, especially when trying to determine the number of people you can host at your wedding, considering budget, and taking into account that parents and in-laws may have opinions on who makes the cut. Plus, it can just be plain difficult to narrow down a guest list when you're combing all the important people from both of your lives.

"Even before you sit down to create a guest list, spend quality time asking yourself a handful of important questions," suggests Jen Glantz, founder of Bridesmaid for Hire. "First, review your budget. How much are you able to spend per person for this wedding? Once you have a number in mind, you'll be able to have a realistic amount of people you can invite to your wedding, without overspending. Even if the venue's max capacity is a certain number, only fill the room with people you can afford to have there, and truly want there as a guest."

It's a lot to think about, but Glantz emphasizes that couples should remember that, at the end of the day, this is all about love and celebration. "While creating a wedding guest list can be stressful, it's always important to remember that your celebration should feel joyful, meaningful, and intimate, no matter how many guests are there," says Glantz With this in mind, we speak with her about wedding guest list mistakes to avoid during the planning process.

Meet the Expert

Jen Glantz is the founder of Bridesmaid for Hire and creator of The Newlywed Card Game.

Don't Make the Initial List Too Small

Even if you're having a smaller wedding, Glantz stresses that when you sit down to make the initial list, make it dense! It's easier to narrow down a long list rather than work the other way around. "Make a list of everyone you can think of who you'd want to invite. Make the list long and dense. Put everyone on it," she advises. "After that, write down next to each name a number: 1, 2, or 3. Use "1" if you're inviting this person because you absolutely want them there and can't imagine your special day without them. Use "2" if you aren't sure about how you feel about having them there or inviting them, and "3" if you feel any type of pressure to invite them and list why," she explains.

By doing this, you can ensure that you have a full list of everyone important in front of you, and then you can have conversations around the people you feel less sure about and narrow it down from there.

Avoid Having a B-List

It might be a hot-take, but Glantz suggests avoiding a B-list altogether. "If a person didn't make your main list, chances are you didn't really want them at your celebration. If you do end up having the room, before sending them an invite, ask yourself if you really do want to invest in having them at your wedding because every person you invite is an investment since you're paying for them to be there." It might feel strange to think about guests as a financial investment, but this is an important consideration when you're creating the guest list as you allocate your budget.

Don't Wait Too Long to Send B-List Invites

If you do choose to create a B-list (perhaps your venue has a set number of people you can host, and you aren't sure if all of the initial guest list invitees will be able to attend), don't wait too long to send out that second round of invitations. "Send out your first round of invites earlier than expected (perhaps seven-to-10 weeks before the wedding) so that you can get RSVPs back as soon as possible," explains Glantz. "And begin sending out [B-list] invites once you have spots available."

Avoid Inviting Too Many People You're Not Close With

When it comes to choosing whether or not to invite people you're not close with, but might feel obligated to invite (this is often the case with extended family members), Glantz advises couples to have a set number of extended family members (or guests of a similar category) to invite. "Let's say you want to invite 100 people, so perhaps you reserve five spots for extended family members," she says. "Setting a limit will help you really narrow down and focus on who you'd like to have there versus who you feel obligated to invite, but don't really want at your celebration."

Don't Ignore Your Gut

Ultimately, your wedding day is about you as a couple. Trust your gut when it comes to the guest list! "Only add a name to your guest list if deep down you want to be beside that person on your special day and hug them hello," suggests Glantz. "Just do what's right for you, your partner, and your wedding celebration."

Related Stories