The Guide to Unapologetically Creating Your Guest List

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So it’s time to tackle the dreaded guest list (and all of the forewarned stress they say it brings), and you’re unsure where to begin. We understand – we’ve been here before. While it’s the planning task that involves the most important people in your life, we’re here to reassure you that making your list doesn’t need to be so daunting. In fact, we promise that you can draft your guest list and send those invitations without any necessary apologies.

Before diving in, take a few minutes to read through our suggested process below. While you can use our steps as a guideline to creating your guest list, remember that there’s no right or wrong way to plan the wedding of your dreams.

Consider Your Wedding Planning Budget

If you’ve already begun drafting a preliminary budget, this is the perfect time to consider how large your guest list will be. Consider what you and your partner are willing and able to spend per person, so that you can estimate how many invitations you are able to send out. By working with a wedding planner, you’ll be able to consider a professional opinion for your vision and budget, and find some ease in breaking the cost down.

 Friendly reminder: An average of 10% of wedding invitations will be declined.

Break Out a Pie Chart

That’s right, those skills we learned in grade school are finally being put to use. Before you make any big decisions on who you’re going to (or not) invite, it will be helpful to assign each category of invitations a percentage. For example, maybe you’ll designate 50% of your invites to both you and your partner’s family, and 25% each to friends and family-friends. However you decide to split your guest list, breaking it down will help you add and cut invitations with ease in the long run.

Pro tip: This is especially helpful when dealing with familial opinions on who should be invited. Are your parents interested in inviting their friends from highschool and others from work? Give them a number of invitations to split up and stress over themselves. Sorry fam, we’ve got much more to think about!

A…B…C… The Guest Lists Go On

You’ve heard this classic suggestion before, and it’s part of our suggested process because it’s just that good. When it comes to finally naming names, split your guest list into an A, B, and C list. Begin with your A-List of individuals who you CANNOT imagine your day without: this list will be those you include no matter if your wedding is intimate or a large celebration. Your B-List will include everyone you’ll most likely invite to your wedding (think extended family and loved ones), but might not be included for last-minute pandemic-related reasons. Last but Certainly not least, write down your C-List of people who would be “nice” to have at your celebration: you picture them there in your perfect wedding vision but they’d understand if your guest list needed to be cut short. You’ll use these lists to determine who can be invited based on budget, venue space, etc.

Remember: This is YOUR special day. Rank your list according to who you want most by your side on the greatest day of your life.

The Little Nuances and Formulas

What about plus ones, the thought of kids, and pity invitations? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. You can use the questions below to determine a “formula” of sorts for those random categories of people you’re unsure how to rank. At the end of the day, the answer to these questions will differ for each couple, and when it comes to planning your wedding, there’s no wrong answer.

Plus Ones:

  • Would you prefer to reserve invitations for long-term partners, or are you willing to host a random date or two?


  • Are you okay with children attending your wedding?
  • If so, should they be of a certain age? 
  • Would you prefer to invite just the children in your immediate family, or will cousins and extended loved ones be included?

Random Friendly Invitations: Brace yourself – we’ve got a few questions for you.

  • Do they know at least 3 other people attending? Does that matter to you?
  • Would it matter if they are someone who you or your partner have in your phone list?
  • If you wouldn’t invite them to an intimate dinner or double date, do you feel comfortable inviting them to your wedding?
  • Have you actually spoken to them in the last year or two? Does that matter to you?
  • Would they be offended if you didn’t invite them because you have a close relationship, or just because someone else was invited and they weren’t?
  • Lastly, have you always pictured them at your wedding and enjoy their presence? Or do you just feel obligated to invite them as a pity invitation?

No Apologies Necessary

Has the process of curating your guest list been simplified enough by now? We’re serious when we say that this step in wedding planning can be unapologetic in every way, shape and form. This “How To” is meant to end in a room full of people who want the best celebration for you, and please let us know when it does!

When it comes to wedding planning, we at DCE will always remind you that your wedding should be for you, and you only. There’s no wrong way to handle any step of this process, and with our help, we hope to make this the best experience for you.

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I’m an event logistics guru and wedding designer based in Washington, D.C. I’m also a wife and mama to a fiercely independent toddler and two fluffy terriers. Settle in as we share our team’s latest love stories, behind-the-scenes adventures and top-notch wedding planning advice.

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Dantus & Co. Events specializes in special event, and wedding planning & design in the greater Washington, D.C. area and beyond. Our couples are busy professionals who love details, want to incorporate several cultures or religions into their big day, and need a wedding planner who gets it to help.