Creating a wedding guest list – how to do it and not lose your mind, even with +900 guests!

One of the most exclusive wedding in Italy that I’ve done as a film wedding photographer, is the one of Giulia and Pietro at Palazzo Albergati in Bologna. When they told me they’ll have more than 900 gusts, I was seriously wondering where will they be able to held the reception! As the most luxury weddings I’ve done, were hosting a maximum of 500 guests.

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When it comes to weddings, many things might seem scary at first. I guess it is your first time planning such an event and it is normal to feel overwhelmed or even scared. But do not worry, we've got you. Creating a wedding guest list is one of the most daunting tasks and many couples try to avoid it for as long as possible. Great news – help is on the way! I've asked my friend Marina, who is a professional wedding planner but also last year's bride, to give you tips on how to solve this task easily and without stress.

Family, friends, co-workers, childhood friends, classmates... Yes, you probably know a lot of people. And for sure you like many of them or have great memories with them. But that is not all that it is to it. It is not mandatory for you to invite everybody that you like. Think about that number and then multiply it by two (yes, your fiancé is thinking about it too).

Well, that would be a lot of people. Of course weddings can be big or small. In some societies it would be shameful to have wedding with “only” 300 guests. Others put adventure first and rather choose to elope and get married in secret, then to go through a process of making a wedding guest list. However, it doesn’t matter how big is the wedding going to be. You basically go through the same process either way.

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First of all you have to talk. Talk to your fiancé and decide how many guests you are imagining to invite. That will be your starting point. You can even make a draft of the list at this point, but it will change for sure. This will help you to create an image about who you are thinking of and how big is your wedding going to be. If you'd like, you can also include your parents into this conversation. In some cases, when parents are paying for the wedding, they want to have a say in the matter. But it is still up to you to decide if this is something that you want to do or not. Never forget that your wedding is about you two and about people you love.

Okay, so more or less you have the idea. The next step is to write down everybody that you want to share this day with (if you didn't make the draft already). Compare it with your partner and check for “duplicates” = people you both have written. In case one of you comes from much bigger family than the other one, talk about it. Let's say the bride has a lot of uncles and aunts and cousins, but the groom has only few of them. You can choose to invite only the closest family members from both sides, so the groom's family doesn't feel overpowered. In case this is not a worry for you, you don't have to think about how many people are invited from whose side. At the end, they will be all there to celebrate both of you. But if, let's say, you want to go 50:50, let the groom invite for example more friends from his side so he doesn't feel disadvantaged.


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Now, there is not a single method that will help you finalise your list, but there are some general tips that you can apply to select from your first draft list.

1. Forget about the rule “They invited us, so we have to invite them”.

People often think that this is necessary but no. You do not have to invite somebody, you barely see or know or like, when they did invite you. If the only reason why would you invite them is the reason you were invited to their wedding, then they do not have to be on the list.

2. Kids or no kids on wedding

That is a big question. Some couples do not mind kids on their wedding and some are against them. What is your case? If you know what you want, let your guests know it too. If you’d like to have a wedding without kids, you have to inform those, who have them. Families with children then can decide if they will come without their kids or if they will come at all. When some of them decline your invitation that is okay and you have to understand it. Maybe their children are too small or they cannot arrange a babysitter.

3. “One year rule”

Sometimes time flies real quickly and you might not even realise that you haven't spoken to some of your friends in months or years. When creating a guest list, think about those friends who end up on your draft, but you haven't been in touch for a long time. Do they even know you are getting married? Do they know your partner? Have they talked to you in past year? If the answers are no, then you can cross them off the list and not feel sorry for that. But if you think your wedding wouldn't be the same without them and they have a special place in your heart despite the “not-being-in-touch” thing, then invite them.

4. Exes

Well, this might seem obvious. Your exes or yours partner's exes should not be invited to your wedding. It doesn't matter if you have a great relationship with them after the breakup. This is just a right thing to do. Your partner could have questions or even doubts why you want them on your wedding day. Past should stay in the past and weddings are all about future.

I hope these tips will help you get started and stress about creating a wedding guest list. It is a delicate topic, because you want to make everybody happy. But think about yourself first! There may always be that one person that will get upset, but don't let it get to you and focus of your dream wedding.