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Your First Wedding Project: Planning Your Guest List


How many people do you really need for your wedding? Well technically, just the two of you and two witnesses - but chances are you’ll probably have a bit more. In the current state of the economy, how many people can you afford to splurge on for a big wedding? Do you really need 200 guests? While planning your guest list you’ll probably come to a point in time where you need to trim it down, not to worry - we have a great guide just for you.

Before planning anything and before signing any contracts, decide on what size wedding you want to have. A small wedding is considered 100 guests or less, which usually means close friends and family only. Medium weddings usually range from 100 to 200 guests - think close friends, family, extended relatives and acquaintances. More than 200 guests is considered a large wedding - think everyone in your rolodex.

Once you’ve decided on the size of your wedding, start pricing it out. Whether you talk to a wedding planner or you start visiting catering facilities - talk to potential vendors and venues to ballpark your wedding reception costs. Get a rough estimate for your ideal guest list count - whether it’s 100 or 200 people. Chances are at this point you may have to compromise - would you rather blow your budget on a huge guest list or extravagant décor? The more guests you have, the more your reception costs will run, so you may have to trim your decorating expenses. You may also decide you want the grandeur of a fairytale wedding minus the huge guest list.

Most venues will require you sign a guarantee for a specific number of guests. You don’t want to fall short on this number because you’ll just be tossing cash out the window on unused and uneaten place settings. Assuming that the typical wedding receives 20% of invites are declined (destination weddings have a 30% decline rate), now that you know your magic number of guests, up that quantity by twenty percent. Therefore if you budgeted out for 100 guests, plan to send out 120 invites. Out of this magic number divide it by four - and allot a specific number of guests to each set of parents, as well as to you and your fiancé.

It’s inevitable and almost every bride goes through it: who makes the cut and who doesn’t. If you’re facing the dilemma of who to cut, here are a few suggestions to make it a bit easier:

  • Social obligations: just because your parents went to their friend’s children’s wedding - doesn’t mean you have to reciprocate. There is no etiquette rule, or expectation for reciprocation.

  • Co-workers: if you spend time with them outside of the office, you may want to invite them, if not don’t. There is no need to invite everyone in your office or department. Even you’re boss isn’t a “must invite”. If a close relationship doesn’t feel natural - then they shouldn’t make the cut.

  • Plus - Ones: It’s perfectly fine to invite those with long term relationship status, but you do not need to welcome everyone’s boyfriend and girlfriend to your wedding.

  • Children: Some couples don’t want the chaos children naturally bring, while other’s welcome it. This is a personal decision, but realize some parents may not be able to attend if they can’t find a sitter for that day.

  • Extended Families: There are three categories for families, Close (immediate + siblings), Close extended (Aunts, Uncles, Nieces & Nephews) and Extended (Cousins and everyone else). Cut categories but not people.


Now that you have your guest list neatly trimmed and all planned out, it is now the time to send out the invites. Save thee date cards should only be sent out to the people who will definitely be on the list - and they should be sent out no more than 6 to 8 months before your wedding date. Wedding invitations should be mailed out 6 to 8 weeks before and request that guests return their RSVPs no later than one month before the wedding.

And once your RSVPs come back you can now give your caterer the final head count, you can order your wedding favors and your place card holders or place card frames for your seating assignments.

© Erica Tevis, Little Things Favors

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