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How to Make A Wedding Guest List

by | 17 February 2018 | Planning

In this day and age, more nearlyweds are paying for all, if not the majority, of their wedding costs, which means minimal bells and whistles and maximum terror for things like deciding who makes the wedding guest list.

And we totally get it: you want to invite this many people to your wedding, but your venue and budget will only allow for this many people. Sound familiar? Well, this week we’ve got a viable solution that might just let you have your wedding cake AND eat it.

Tier your wedding invites

When you’re getting married, you don’t want anyone to feel left out. But you can’t invite everyone you’ve ever met to come either, especially if you’re getting married on a micro-budget.

So if you have a large number of potential guests, or you can only fit so many people into the tiny church you’re having the ceremony in, make a tiered wedding guest list to prioritise things.

It might seem a bit systematic and impersonal to categorise your guests under three tiers (‘must’, ‘want’ and ‘should’), but needs must.

So tier one is for people you must invite (close family and bridal party/groomsmen). Tier two is for those you want to invite (close friends and their partners). And tier three is for people you think you should invite but if you were being completely honest, it wouldn’t make a huge difference to your enjoyment of the day if they came or not (second cousins, long-lost uncles, colleagues, old school friends).

Be our guest chalkboard - Couple getting married abroad - ‘no ring, no bring’

Tier one – invite them to the ceremony

Your tier one guests are those that will be with you for the whole wedding day. They’ll watch you walk down the aisle, pick confetti out of your eyes, and have your first dance. So it makes sense that they’re your nearest and dearest.

But if you’re having your ceremony in a small space and your tier one guest list exceeds the capacity of the venue, go back and trim the fat. Unless you want to change the venue that is… (didn’t think so).

Tier two – invite them to the reception dinner

While wedding etiquette says you should never invite guests to just the ceremony, the reception gives you a bit more flexibility. And if you’re saying your vows in a tiny space, the reception dinner is a great way to include your close friends and wider family members in your big day.

These guests will be with you from the start of the meal through to the evening party. Just make sure you communicate clearly on the invitation that they are invited to the reception, not the ceremony. Something like ‘You’re invited to a reception in celebration of our marriage’ is perfect.

Tier three – invite them to the party

If your guest list is so big you need a tier three, then invite them to just the party, which happens after the reception dinner.

If you’re having the party in the same venue as the reception dinner (which is highly likely), give these guests a heads up of the plan. Otherwise you could make them feel awkward as they arrive at an event that’s already in full swing.

Popup Weddings co-founders Kerry and Alasdair experienced that awkwardness when they went to a friend’s wedding party. It was a bit of a travel, so they stayed overnight in the hotel venue.

‘The wedding was at the same hotel as the reception meal. So, because we’d travelled to get there, we arrived with plenty of time to get to our room and change. But we kept bumping into people we knew who were invited to the reception, and it was awkward because we were upstairs waiting for the party to start while everyone else was downstairs celebrating at the reception dinner.’

Having to categorise your friends and family to decide on your wedding guest list is not ideal. But ultimately your budget dictates who you can and can’t afford to host on your big day. If you suspect some of your guests will be sensitive about only being invited to one aspect of the wedding, make time to have a chat with them about the running order of the day and why you made such a decision. They’ll be more responsive if you explain that there weren’t enough seats in the ceremony venue or that your budget wouldn’t stretch for them to attend the reception dinner.

Have you used the tiered approach to help decide on your wedding guest list? If so, what were your reasons? How did you categorise your guests? And did you come up against any challenges? Please share your insights with the Popup Weddings community in the comments box below.

About the author

Jo Wigley

From her word-nerd studio (way) down under in New Zealand, the copywriter in Jo crafts websites, advertising campaigns, scripts, blogs and brochures for businesses across the world. While the creative consultant in her helps brands, big and small, find their voice in one heck of a noisy world.


Planning How to Make A Wedding Guest List