Wedding Guest List Etiquette 101: Who Gets Invited

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Compiling your wedding guest list is possibly the most difficult wedding-related task. Your budget and venue capacities are the factors that will decide your final guest list number, but who finds a place on it and who doesn’t will be arrived at after a fair deal of negotiation. Be prepared to want to tear your hair out when your to be mother-in-law requests you to include your fiancé’s three second cousins once removed. If you know the rules of wedding guest list etiquette, it will help the process. As you go about this task, set a few ground rules to help you prepare the list, and employ tact and patience to avoid hurting the sentiments of those involved. Standard practice is to split the number of guests down the middle, with the bride’s side and groom’s side getting an equal number. This half is then split between the person getting married and his/her parents in a 60-40 or 50-50 share. Another factor is to expect some people to RSVP ‘no’, so prepare a wedding invitation list of about 10% more than your decided number.

Guest List Etiquette for Wedding

When to Invite

The best way to get organized is with an excel spreadsheet. Have two lists within it, yours and your fiancé’s, and add in all those you are sure to invite. As you go along, keep updating it with new names and addresses. This will help you with invitations, meal selections, seat assignments, and thank you notes. One aspect of wedding guest list etiquette is when to inform people. Those who are close to you and your fiancé should be told as soon as the date has been finalized, so they can adjust their schedules to be there. While others will be aware of the wedding, ideally, cards should reach everyone about a month in advance. This will give them time to RSVP. Once you have all the confirmations and cancellations, you can start working on other details, such as table seating.

Who to Invite

You start by putting down your and your partner’s immediate family and close relatives (such as grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins). You then progress to close friends and colleagues who you have known for a while. You can invite only the boss or the boss and a few coworkers. You should now have your list ready without your (and your fiancé’s parents) invitees. Please don’t count on your parents not inviting as many people as they’ve been alloted, for this rarely happens. If you have any spots left, you can decide between the not so close relative/friends/colleagues. There may be a few important people in your life that you know will not be able to attend, but you should send them an invite nonetheless.

Other Wedding Guest List Etiquette Rules

Significant Other

Should you add, “And Guest” or not. While some people won’t add it unless the invitee is engaged or living with their partner, some will add it if they know that the invitee is in a committed long-term relationship. If a guest asks if they can bring a date, do not feel bad to politely explain that budget and venue restrictions won’t allow for it.


If you don’t want children at the wedding, print, “Adults Only Reception” on the invitation cards. Alternatively, you can write only the parents’ names, such as ‘Mr & Mrs Coleridge’, or ‘Sam and Katie Coleridge’. If your numbers don’t allow for it, don’t feel guilty about not inviting the kids.