The Ultimate Guide to Building Your Wedding Guest List

One of the most stressful parts of wedding planning can be building your guest list. Depending on which Maryland wedding venue you choose or your budget, you may have to limit the number of people you invite. It may not be as fun as finding a wedding dress or tasting cakes, but it has to be done. So before you dive into deciding who should not be in attendance on your special day, consider these tips. 

The Ultimate Guide for Putting Together Your Wedding Guest List

Choose the Right Maryland Wedding Venue for Your Budget

indoor wedding venue
Consider putting together a guest list draft before deciding on a wedding venue. 

Deciding who gets to be at your wedding can become messy very quickly. A great way to do your best to make sure everyone you want to be invited is to make up a mock guest list. If you make up a draft before you start scouting out various wedding venues in Maryland, you’ll have an idea of how large you would like the space to be. Of course, some couples come across the perfect venue that may not fit the size of their guest list, which is perfectly fine. You’ll just have to do some extra rearranging. 

Once you’ve found the right venue for your wedding day, make sure you are aware of the maximum capacity. On average, around 15-25% of guests will decline the invitation, but it’s best to lean on the side of caution. Do not overbook the space because you could end up in a sticky situation if more people accept than you expected. 

Keep Your Budget in Mind

wedding budget planner
Image courtesy of Event Leadership Institute

Unfortunately, a large number of guests means it’ll cost you more money. The size of your guest list will probably have the most impact on your budget, which is something to always keep in mind during your wedding planning process. From the stationary to a plated dinner, there is a cost for everything. Some of the main expenses include stationery, table rentals, party favors, alcohol, cocktails, meals, and wedding cake. At some weddings, it can cost well over $75 per person. To cut down on food costs, consider a more affordable option like a casual BBQ buffet and trimming down your guest list as much as possible.

If you are on a tight budget, keep your guest list as small as you possibly can. If you would rather cut out other aspects of your day besides guests, think about cutting down on flowers, types of food you’ll be serving, wedding favors, or decorations. The size of your wedding will not determine how beautiful and meaningful your day is, so if you have to cut down on size, you can still plan an incredible small or micro wedding. 

Create Your Dream List and Then Start Eliminating

wedding guest list
Image courtesy of Melanie Parent Events.

You can brainstorm and add anyone and everyone you would like to invite to the list to start. From old high school friends to fifth cousins you only speak on holidays, the first draft will not be the final draft. When you are brainstorming, take your budget and venue out of the equation. At this moment, you are just trying to think of everyone you and your significant other would remotely enjoy being there for your wedding.

After you’ve built your dream list, it’s time to start trimming it down. Now you have to consider your budget and guest list. Here are a few ideas to cut down your list and decide who gets invited.

  • Consider only having family members only.
  • Ask yourself, “who can I not imagine the day without?”
  • Removing kids from the guest list.
  • Create two rounds of invitations. This first is the must-haves, and the second set of invites can be sent if seats free up. 

Decide on How Many Plus-Ones You’ll be Handing Out

two guests at a wedding
Image courtesy of iStock.

Obviously, everyone would ideally like to bring a date to your wedding — but that’s not always ideal for your wallet. If every person on your guest list gets a plus-one, that’s doubling your guest list, which is also doubling the amount of money you’ll have to spend. You don’t have to feel obligated to give everyone a plus-one — choose the people wisely. If they are engaged, are in your bridal party, or have been with their significant other for years, you might want to offer them a plus-one. It’s ultimately up to you and your significant other if you want everyone to have a plus-one, certain guests to have a plus-one, or no one gets a plus-one. 

Find the Perfect Tool to Plan Your Guest List On

screenshots of Zola app
Image courtesy of Coruscate Solutions.

Living in the digital age means that there are endless possibilities when it comes to making a list. You can go old school and write your guest’s names with pen and paper, or you can subscribe to an app or website. You’ll want to consider the pros and cons for each and decide on what will make it the least stressful for you and your partner. In general, an electronic wedding guest will be easier to send out and share with your friends and family. Here are a few ideas for apps that you can use to keep your wedding planning in one place:


Every part of your wedding day is important, but it’s who you spend it with that matters the most. To make sure that you choose the right venue, put together the perfect guest list, and cater the most delicious food, use The Smokehouse Grill. The Smokehouse Grill not only provides casual BBQ catering to upscale plated filet mignon, but we also offer wedding planning and rentals to help make your wedding special. Contact us today to get started on planning the wedding of your dreams. 

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