The wedding guest list might just be one of the hardest parts about having a wedding in the Washington DC area. Just exactly how many people should you invite? Will guests decline? What about the “A list” and the “B list”? We went to some of the top wedding planners in the Washington DC area and asked their advice. How do they help their clients create a wedding guest list? What are their expert tips to getting started on the daunting task. Here is what they had to say….

Maryland-Farm-Wedding-Sarah-Jane-Winter-Photography

Photo Credit: Sarah Jane Winter from Danielle + Melissa’s wedding in MD

HAVE A MEETING

“Creating a guest list. is one of the hardest tasks for the newly engaged couple. As you begin the planning process, you have a magic number in mind and think that it is going to be a breeze to make that number.  My advice is that shortly after getting engaged, together with your fiance, type up a wedding guest list in an excel file with one guest per line. This allows you to easily count the number of guests and gives you a true picture from the onset of the number of guests that you would potentially invite. Have a meeting with both sets of parents and review the list with them so that there are very few surprises as you get closer to wedding date.” – Shawn at TreBella Events

GROUP YOUR GUESTS

“Start with the number that would be ideal for the style of wedding you are planning. Then, split the list by three. That is the number that the couple and each family should invite, including guests of guests. Then, write down guests in order of importance and see where you land. Double check the list for omissions such as leaving off only one of your many cousins and adjust accordingly. Resist the urge to control the parents’ lists unless you have a really compelling reason.” – Ginger, owner of Gingerwood Creative

“The first thing to learn in any good relationship is compromise. so by the time you’re putting together your guest list for your wedding you should have had some practice. Splitting the guest list down the middle is a great way to start. If you have a venue, look at the total capacity of the space. If you know you can fit 200 people in, then you and your family get 100 guests to add and your fiancé and their family gets 100 to add. If you’re paying for the wedding yourself, you can also break the delineation down further by giving your families a set number from your total portion (in this example, a portion of 100). If they’re helping with the budget, you may choose split your portion down the middle (give them 50, and you get 50). I should note that just because your venue can hold 200 guests, doesn’t mean your budget can, so also take into consideration how many folks you’ll be able to pay for before deciding on a total guest count.” – Candy, of Candy + Co. Events

A AND B LISTS

“Make a list of everyone you and your parents want to invite. Perhaps you need to group your guests. Keeping in mind the kind of wedding you want to have and your venue’s capacity, you may need to trim your list. Alternatively, you can create an A and B list. No need to go more than that. Your initial list is your A list. These are the people you send invitations to. Once you receive a decline from someone on the A list, you can send an invitation to someone on the B list. The B list should be kept very short.” – Vicky, owner of Event Accomplished

DECLINE RATES

“Your guest list is the very first thing you should work on when planning a wedding, as it will affect everything from your budget to your venue choice to room layout and decor. While you don’t need to have a final guest list before you start making wedding decisions, you should have a firm handle on the range of guests you’re going to invite. Keep in mind that typically, 15-20% of invited guests will not attend your wedding. The key word here is typically, though. If you’re guests are all local, you’re likely to have fewer declines than if guests are traveling from out of town; similarly, if your family treats weddings as family reunions, that will lead to a higher acceptance rate. Every now and then a wedding will only have a 5% decline rate, so make sure you’re prepared (in terms of space and budget) for most of your guests to accept when creating your list.” – Sara at Bella Notte

CREATE THE DREAM LIST

“I think the best thing to do is to is first create a list of absolutely everyone you would possibly want to invite to your wedding.  If you’re including parents in the process, start early and send them the list you’ve come up with and see if they have any additions (or subtractions) but MAKE SURE they know that this is the ‘dream’ list and that it will likely be cut down based on a number of factors including your budget, type of wedding you want, etc. But I think the best way to go is to know how many people you’re working with at the start. Then based on the TYPE of wedding you want to have (you haven’t chosen a venue at this point, just do you want something formal and inside the city?  That’s more expensive than a casual BBQ in a park — can you afford formal and inside the city with that size guest list?) start the discussion on making cuts to the list.” – Rebecca at Blue Canary Events

“To create a realistic wedding guest list, couples will have to consider their extended family and parents friends, in addition to their own friends. Some couples choose to pick a max invite number and then divide that number by the couple and each set of parents. Other couples will compile a list of all the people they would invite (to include individual and mutual friends, and possibly colleagues). And then ask parents to provide a list of family members and friends they would like to invite.  Once the big list is completed, they may scale back based on space and budget.” -Margo, owner Bright Occasions

“We recommend creating a draft guest list as a first step in the planning process – before any decisions are made about venue or budget.  Sometimes it’s easiest to start with everyone putting together their invite wish list and then whittling it down from there based on budget and venue availability. For others, they know they want a wedding that’s a certain size from the beginning, e.g. intimate or grand. If the target guest count is known, one of the most common pieces of advice we give is that traditionally, if the bride’s family is hosting, the bride’s parents and bride should have the majority of the invite list.” – Elizabeth at Elizabeth Duncan Events

SET THE RULES

“Make a rule and stick to it for everyone.  If kids below 12 aren’t invited, then that has to be the rule for all kids.  Or if you aren’t inviting boyfriends or girlfriends, stick with that for everyone. If you make exceptions for some, that is when feelings really get hurt.” – Aimee and Cindy at A. Dominick Events

ABOUT THE BUDGET

“In creating an accurate guest list, its important to remember that more guests mean more money. At the end of the day its important to remember that the core of the guests that are there should really be about quality and not quantity. Start with family and bridal party, then people that you actually correspond with. Do not start verbally inviting neighbors, coworkers, extended family, etc. Once you say it to someone, they will expect an invite. Start big and then separate an A List and a B List. We always suggest that the B List is never a definite to be invited but something to be considered. If your engagement is long its also feasible that your guest list will change over time just as friendships do. You don’t mail invitations out until three months before hand at the earliest so if you aren’t absolutely positive about a guest don’t send them a Save The Date either.” – Laura at Events in the City

“Guest lists can get very large very quickly!  Start with taking a look at your budget so you will have a rough idea of how many people you can affordably invite and then start by adding your immediate family and closest friends.  If there’s still room within the budget, add some extended family, co-workers, etc. and then add anyone else after this.” – Jennifer at Elegantly Chic Events

“My biggest and best guest list tip is that nothing drives the cost of your wedding like the guest list. More guests = more money; fewer guests = less money. Set aside some time to dedicate to your guest list. If your parents or other people will be contributing names as well, then ask them to do the same. If you take a more casual approach and just write down names as you think of them, then you’re likely to leave out somebody important. Have your guest list as close to finalized as possible prior to booking your venue, so that you know how much space you’ll need.” – Stephanie at Pretty Entertaining

GET ORGANIZED

“Be organized. There a lot of tools out there that will help you organize your wedding guest list and/or gather invitees addresses, but make sure you’re using one that is collaborative. This will help ensure that anyone who’s adding to the list can make edits that you can see in real time. It’s also useful to find a tool that includes more than just recording names and addresses. There are a couple of tools out there that manage your guest lists, track your RSVPs and meal choices. These tools tend to be worth their weight in gold if you can download them and use them for seating charts and make them into labels for all of those thank you letters you’ll be writing!” – Candy, of Candy + Co. Events

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Thank you so much to all of the wedding planners in the DMV who offered such great advice for creating a wedding guest list. Be sure to visit them on their websites to find out more of their services.

So, what about you? Are you stressed up creating that guest list? What are you doing to get it all together?

Are you looking for more local wedding ideas? Be sure to look through our DC area wedding idea galleries and find wedding advice from local DC area pros. If that isn’t enough, check out our collection of local DMV weddings from the real world and the best DC area wedding vendors who make it all happen.

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