DOWN TO THE COUNT | Tackle your wedding guest list with grace and gratitude

DOWN TO THE COUNT  |  Tackle your wedding guest list with grace and gratitude

The wedding guest list can be tricky business. Most couples have a general idea of the size of the wedding they could have, based on their amount of relatives. But just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. And how does this relate to how many wedding invitations to order?

We’ll get into whether Aunt Betty’s sister-in-laws, son from her third marriage get’s invited in a bit later with our lovely guest Jennifer Tansley of Soirees & Revelry! But for now, let’s get down to the count.


1. Start with a spreadsheet. Trust me. It might seem really overwhelming at first but your planner, mom, and last but not least stationery designer will thank you for it.

It’s the holy scripture for me when it comes to addressing your invitations correctly. And the more accurate it is, especially with spellings, the fewer changes and embarrassment there will be on both our parts. It also helps when Mr. and Mrs. are next to each name so Grandma Pat doesn’t become a Grandpa.

And you have my full permission to get comfy in your pajamas, grab a cup of coffee or tea, a sweet and throw on some relaxing tunes when you’re dealing with names and numbers because that’s exactly what I do.

2. Be sure to count couples or households together so they receive one invite. For example, you would address them more formally as Mr. and Mrs. James Williams or casually as Rita & James Williams, or The Williams Family. We’ll save the details of wording for another post, but you get the idea.

3. Decide if you want to include kids. If you choose to invite the entire family (say with older children), I suggest formally addressing it to the family instead of just the parents. If they have young children, address to the parents and let them know separately if their children are invited. If a child is 18 or older, they would be considered an adult for this purpose and should get their own invite.

4. Include specific vendors like photographers and officiants.

– Your photographer will often like an invite to shoot along with your day of details. Plus we stationers love when your photographer takes amazing pictures of our work, so thank you in advance.

– If your officiant is a family friend or part of the church you belong, or even if you’ve never met them before it is a nice gesture to invite them to the reception (you can verbally ask and if they express interest, send them an invitation).

5. Take your total count and add 3.

– You will want an invite to keep – one that is pristine and unmailed.
– So will your mom or someone special to you.
– There might always be one extra person you forgot to invite.

Ok! Now, who to invite?

I believe when it comes to deciding on how many people should be invited to your wedding, it’s best to choose quality over quantity. I had a pretty small wedding of 55 people, but every person that came was and still is very important to me. Our venue made it possible for narrowing the list out of necessity but if that’s not an option for you, I’ve brought in reinforcements for some better ideas!

And what better expert than a wedding planner, so I’ve asked Jennifer Tansley of Soirees & Revelry to weigh in on her top 3 tips for narrowing down a big guest list.


The following tips have helped my clients narrow down a big guest list. There will always be exceptions, and as with any advice, I always stress to my couples to do what makes them feel comfortable.  If you are going to lose sleep over not inviting Cousin Bob, even though you never really speak, then invite him! This day is about celebrating you and your fiancé in the most loving, fun, and stress-free way possible.

1. Focus on the present – It can be really difficult to narrow down your guest list when you start to think of all the people you have had in your life over the years- childhood friends, co-workers, college friends, etc.  A good rule of thumb when deciding whether to invite friends, acquaintances or distant relatives is to think of your present life.  Invite only those who know your fiancé, the people who have spent time with you as a couple, or who you have seen or talked to in the last year.  If you haven’t spoken in a year or they haven’t met your fiancé (unless distance has prevented it) they most likely won’t be hurt to not receive an invitation.

2. Be selective with plus-ones – So the general etiquette here is if you know a guest’s significant other, they should be invited. Same goes if they are engaged, cohabiting, or married.  If they are not in a committed relationship, it is not necessary to include them with a plus-one.  The exception to this rule, in my opinion, is if the guest won’t know anyone else at the wedding.  Then it is always nice to allow them to bring a guest so they have company and feel more comfortable.

3. Cut by category – This method can reduce hurt feelings by not singling anyone out.  So, for example, you may decide to not invite any co-workers, young children, or acquaintances.  The key is to be consistent.  If you start making exceptions, you may have one couple upset that they couldn’t bring their child when they see your cousin’s 2 yr old daughter running around.

Jennifer shares some perfect advice here. My take away and hopefully yours too is to act with some tough love. Be firm, consistent and confident in your decisions as a couple. Don’t feel the need to please everyone because most people will understand. A friend of mine who was recently married had a small wedding with family and close friends and is having a BBQ this summer to celebrate with those she couldn’t invite. I thought that was a beautiful way to share your marriage with your circle. And when you need help planning your wedding or post-soiree, you know who to call! Be sure to check out Soirees and Revelry for more of Jennifer’s amazing wedding planning advice and her beautiful services for your day! Thanks, Jenn!

Keep Growing,