How to organise your wedding guest list and reduce when needed?

Weddings can be extremely expensive, and there are huge savings to be made on food costs which can be £150 per head on average. it can be a headache to organise your wedding guest list, and later on reducing it to meet capacity or reduce the budget.

First off, it’s worth remembering a lot of weddings happened in 2020 and 2021 with just 15 people there, and the intimate atmosphere made it very special. It is possible, and people do understand. There is even a potential swing to having everyone just at a big party, not even on the same day.

With venue restrictions making the conversation easier than ever to have limited numbers, it’s possible to have the wedding day you want. Destination weddings are of course an easy way to get limited numbers as involves flights, financial commitment and time.

Simply, fewer guests at your wedding mean you can spend more money on other aspects of your day including great entertainment, food, a good photographer, your honeymoon and well-earned cocktails at the reception. And makes doing the seating plan a lot easier later on.

Wedding guest lists are an emotive subject and can cause a lot of stress and arguments between couples and families. It may feel dominated by one side of the family. I’d urge you two to do this alone for now and just be warned nearly all parents who are financially contributing will likely want relations or family friends there who could have not even be on your mind. Here are some wedding guest list ideas to consider.

How to organise your wedding guest list

How to keep your wedding guest list small

There are a few things to consider before you start your list.

  1. You cannot uninvite guests – You should be conservative from the off, especially when it comes to plus ones and courtesy invites
  2. Discuss your thoughts as a couple for inviting kids
  3. Speak to your parents about their expectations on who is coming
  4. Consider bridesmaids plus ones. Any casual boyfriends won’t actually be with them throughout the day
  5. Day vs night guests. Consider who the day fillers might be if you have any last-minute cancellations.

Who should you invite to your wedding?

The best way to work out who to invite to your wedding is to create separate lists and have a wedding guest planner. Names will move as it’s likely you will be looking at how to limit wedding guest list in the future.

The first list contains the essentials, and no matter what you need a venue to accommodate these special guests. This should not be more than 30 people and should be just those the day would not happen without. If it’s more than that, then you know you need a big venue.

As above, anyone financially contributing to the wedding will have their own guest list, and you must not compromise on your own essential list.

List two is the “nice-to-have” people that matter, and that if you had the capacity you would have them there enjoying the day with you. Bear in mind you might have dropouts and people could be busy, and you will need a 2.5 at some point with a standby list.

List three is the “maybe” pile, the people you’d like to see there but could be day or evening guests. Ideally, this should be the biggest group as will be the main cut list.

List four is your evening guests, this will have to be limited at some point, so it’s best to keep it initially to those who are definitely evening guests and people will be moved from list 3. Getting an evening invite is viewed by some as a courtesy and those not local might not accept.

This process helps you be realistic from the beginning, rather than having a mental list of 300 people that you will never be able to accommodate. So let’s break down potential guests into groups.

kids on your wedding guest list
should you put kids on your wedding guest list?


Let’s start with the elephant in the room. Is it going to be a kid-friendly zone at your wedding and reception? Of course, it is a no-brainer if you do have children yourself but what happens if you don’t and do not plan on having children at your wedding?

First off, this is more of a fire-cracker than not inviting your parents best friends and will cause more fallouts. If there are kids in your family, you need to have this conversion sooner rather than later. If you have nieces and nephews, your siblings will likely be upset they are not involved.

There is a work-around often used to only invite children involved in the ceremony, which means the children of the wedding party can be involved.

The kid dilemma is one of the most difficult to resolve, as some parents take child-unfriendly weddings as a personal affront.  If you only allow some children, then those that are forced to leave their kids behind will likely take offence. Also, that then means childcare has to be considered too.

First, you’ll have to decide if you want little kids at your ceremony such as a favourite, niece, nephew or godchild. You should consider extending your invitations to other children if you do but may want to introduce a minimum and maximum age requirement to keep your list manageable.

If you are inviting kids, then they need to be added to your lists for seats and numbers. If you are not, then be prepared some people will not come. At my own wedding, my uncle would not come without his four teenage children and the relationship has been strained ever since.


After the immediate family, they should the first ones to consider. Possibly some family members are in regular contact with one of your parents, but who you haven’t seen since you for over 20 years ago. Do you have regular contact with this distant relative? Do you regularly speak to them on the phone or via Skype? If not, then you would be inviting them just because of your parents, not because you actually want them there.

It is okay to leave them off the list if you don’t have a close relationship with them. Distant relatives not only take up many slots on the guest list, but they also attend out of a sense of duty, not because they want to be there when you tie the knot.

And what about your close relatives, such as uncles, aunts and first cousins that you have a strained relationship? If your Aunt is a drama queen, your Uncle inappropriate, and your cousin is an alcoholic mess, then you have the right not to invite them.

Before you do make a final decision, have a discussion with your parents. You will have to consider what the impact will be on the other guests by excluding them from your wedding.

Friends and co-workers

This is another tricky decision to make. In regards to friends, you should choose who you invite depending on how often you see them. For instance, you should invite your closest friends who you see on a weekly or monthly basis.

Of course, you may want to invite those from your past; old school or uni friends that were a big part of your life then but you have grown apart. You’d be amazed how quickly you can reconnect.

Then there are co-workers. It may seem rude not to invite your colleagues who you work with for eight to nine hours, five days a week. Close proximity with co-workers doesn’t foster close interpersonal relationships. If you don’t have close relationships with these people then leave them off your list.

wedding guests

How to reduce your wedding guest list

If budgets are running high, then it might be time to look at how you can reduce your wedding guest list. This is when your lists come into their own, and you can downgrade people as required.

Work colleagues and kids are the easiest “quick wins”. Also, you can consider if people will still be around in 5-10 years as close friends. Commonly, newly married couples go on to have kids and that creates new friendship groups and often is the cause for previous friendships to fade away.

How do I cut down my wedding guest list?
  • Organise your wedding list early.
  • Wisely select your plus ones (A plus one that has been in a serious relationship with your guest for a few years).
  • Only invite family members that you are close with.
  • Have a child-free wedding if that is possible.
  • Don’t feel obliged to return the invite of someone who invited you to their wedding.
  • Cut out your work colleagues who you are not close with.
How do you prioritize a wedding guest list?
The bride and groom should spend time organising a list based on priority. The first priority of guests should always be your immediate family and close friends. Your second priority can extend to your other family members, friends and work colleagues.
How much time do you give guests to RSVP to a wedding?
If you have given out your invitations early (At least 6 weeks before your wedding) then expect your guest to RSVP within 4 to 6 weeks after receiving the invite. This will give them plenty of time to decide whether they can attend your big day.
What is considered a small wedding?
Generally, a small wedding is 50 guests or under. A medium wedding normally includes between 50 to 150 people and a large ceremony has over 150 guests.
Does the wedding party count as guests?
You may not think that the wedding party needs to be added to the guest list but they must be factored into the total headcount for your wedding. They are central to your wedding ceremony. You will also need to add their partners and children to the priority list.


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