How do I form my Wedding Guest List?

I get asked this question really often when working with couples. Hill Country weddings are a little different than say Dallas or Austin weddings. Typically they are smaller and more “destination-like”. If you follow the rules and formula below you’ll end up with a really close number to use for your budget and give to vendors!

First, divide up the guest list. No matter who is paying for the wedding, the general split is 50% bride & groom invites, 25% to each set of parents. This may not be applicable if one side of the family is significantly larger than the other, but if there are questionable invites use the rules below to decide whether or not they should be on the list.

Rule #1: If neither of you has spoken to or met them before, including distant family relatives, don’t invite them (this doesn’t include dates of people you do want to invite).
Rule #2: If anyone is on the list because you feel guilty about leaving them off (maybe because you were invited to their wedding or they are friends with a lot of people who are invited) don’t invite them.
Rule 3: If don’t see yourself being friends with them in 5-10 years, don’t invite them.

Some common questions to address…

1. Do I have to allow everyone a date? Yes! No explanation needed. Just yes. You don’t have to account for everyone having a date if you are pretty sure they won’t bring one, but you must give them the room to bring one if they wish.

2. Do I have to invite kids? Absolutely not! Even if you have kids in the bridal party, you don’t have to invite everyone’s kids. Just try to keep the rule consistent, like bridal party kids but no one else, or just relative’s kids but not friend’s kids.

3. Do I have to invite my parent’s friends? Well, in general, if it is within the allotted percentage of guests that you gave them, yes, even if it is annoying. If you are really worried about cutting back, I’d present your parents with a guest list of the family/friends related to them you want to invite and maybe just give them a few other invites (but make sure they still fall within the rules listed above).

The Magic Formula to Estimate Your Guest Count Correctly

How do I know how many guests will come? How many guests should I account for in my budget? A lot of websites will give you a general percentage, but for me that’s just not good enough! It also doesn’t take into account the fact that Hill Country Weddings are often “destination-ish”, with people coming from all over and very few actually living in the area.

Make a master guest list and split it into three different categories:

  1. Wouldn’t miss my wedding for the world.
  2. I have no idea whether these guests will be able to make it.
  3. I’m sending them an invite as a courtesy, but I know they won’t come (maybe you know they won’t be able to swing the travel cost, or get away from work or school).

Then take the following percentages:

  1. 100% of these guests
  2. 75% of these guests
  3. 0% of these guests

This always yields a number within 10 guests of the actual count! It’s a magical formula! Well maybe not magical, but it is customized to your guests (because you know them the best!).

After putting together these numbers, see if your budget is realistic to your wedding head count and cut back even more if necessary. You’ll want to work on this guest count number BEFORE booking your venue. After it’s final, its final! You do not want to lose several thousand dollars in deposit money because you have more people to invite than what your venue can handle.

Hope this helps some of you out there put together a Hill Country wedding guest list!

Photos thanks to Amy Karp from a wedding at Camp Waldemar. More from this gorgeous wedding to come in later posts!

Share this story