Back to articles

7 Tips To Designing The Ultimate Guest List For Your Wedding

Ultimate guest list

So, you’ve decided on your budget and your next task is to decide on your guest list. Easy, right?! Think again.

It is wise to start forming a guest list during the early stages of your wedding preparation. This is harder than it sounds and it may be something you and your partner find difficult to agree on, especially if you both have a large family and/or friendship group. Naturally, you want your family and friends to be at your wedding but when you consider your budget, suddenly the friend you met in Spain in 2003, and haven’t really spoken to since, seems less important.

1/ Organising your guest list or guest lists!

Depending on the number of guests you are planning on inviting to your wedding, you may decide to separate your guests into two, or even three, guest lists – the wedding ceremony, the wedding breakfast and the evening. Before we get too carried away with guest lists, we will just outline what we mean by the wedding ceremony, wedding breakfast and the evening reception.

  • Wedding Ceremony

You will either have a civil or religious wedding ceremony and typically, the type of ceremony will determine where it is held. For instance, if you’re having a church wedding your guests will typically need to travel from the church to a separate venue where your wedding breakfast and evening reception will be hosted. This is not always the case, however.

  • Wedding Breakfast

The wedding breakfast is the part of the day some (well, probably most!) guests look forward to. A traditional wedding breakfast is a 3-course sit down meal, but this doesn’t suit every bride and groom. Depending on where and when you have your wedding, you may choose a buffet or a BBQ – the choice is endless! The time of the wedding breakfast tends to be dependent on what time your wedding ceremony starts but, again, it is entirely up to you and the groom.

  •  Evening Reception

By ’evening reception’, we mean the part of the reception which is after the wedding breakfast and the speeches. By having your guests arrive at this point of the day allows them to still be a part of your day and enjoy the evening’s entertainment.

2/ Look at your engagement party guest list

Now, we’re back to the guest list. Engagement parties are still popular in the UK and are a good way to share your exciting news with your family and friends. If you have already had an engagement party or you’re planning on having one, it is worth looking at your engagement party guest list as a first step to influencing your wedding guest list.

There is no typical bride and groom, and since it’s your wedding day, you can invite who you like to whatever part of the day you choose. However, if you’re really unsure and need some help we have put together a brief guide to give you suggestions on which groups of people you may want to invite to certain events during the day.

  • Wedding Ceremony and Wedding Breakfast

Parents, Siblings, Grandparents, Uncles, Aunties and their families, Bride’s close friends, Groom’s close friends, Family friends.

  • Evening Reception

Friends, Distant relatives, Work colleagues

3/ The Venue

You will only really be able to start drafting your guest list when you have your venue booked or at least an idea of where you would like it to be held. This is important because the venue might only be able to accommodate a limited number of people.

4/ The budget

Draft your guest list based on your allocated budget. Your budget is extremely important and whatever budget you have allocated, you must try to stick to it. The more guests you have, the higher your wedding costs are likely to be.

5/ People you feel obliged to invite

If someone else is paying for your wedding, or a large proportion of it, you should find out whether they would like to invite anyone. If your parents are paying for the wedding it would be a good idea to sit down with them to discuss your guest list; if nothing else it will make them feel as if they’re involved in the wedding preparations. If you or your husband-to-be are paying for the wedding then ultimately it’s your decision who you invite to your wedding.

6/ Friends or family

If you’re lucky enough to have a lot of friends and perhaps not so lucky to have a large family, you may find you keep putting off drafting your guest list. Limiting your guest list is almost a guarantee for most brides and unless you have an unlimited budget and a venue with a massive allocation, you’re likely going to need to do this. You should get together with everyone involved in the guest list and decide who is going and to which part of the day. If you have a limited budget, you may decide to have just close family at the wedding ceremony and wedding breakfast with friends arriving for the evening reception. Alternatively, you may want close family and close friends at the ceremony and wedding breakfast, with the rest of your family and friends arriving for the evening reception.

7/ Who not to invite

When drafting your guest list you need to consider whether there is any particular person or groups of people who you do not want at your wedding. For instance, you may decide not to invite children, ex-boyfriends and ex-girlfriends, work colleagues and plus ones for single guests. If you opt for an all adult guest list, bear in mind that some of your guests may have trouble getting childcare, especially if your wedding is being held during the week. If you need to cut your guest list down, plus ones may be a good place to start as they can significantly increase your wedding costs. If you have a group of girlfriends and have not met their partners, why not look at removing their plus ones, and creating a table just for the girls. That way you are able to again cut the total cost of catering down which could have a huge positive impact on your budgeting.


We hope that these tips have been useful for you and have helped you in creating your guest list. Remember that no matter what, your friends and family should respect your decision and should understand whatever you decide to do. It’s a very common understanding nowadays that wedding guest lists are one of the most difficult things to plan, and with the price of weddings consistently rising, it’s likely that a lot of your friends will at some point, or have already, had to make the same sacrifices as you and will therefore appreciate and understand the decisions you ultimately make.