One of the more challenging parts of wedding planning is creating a guest list. How many people should you invite? Do you include plus ones? What about kids? Where is the cutoff, and who has the final say? RiverStone is tackling some of these important questions in order to help you walk through the step-by-step process of getting that wedding guest list finalized!

Step 1: Create a Rough Draft

First, we recommend that you sit down with your partner, and whoever else will be involved in making key wedding decisions (financial or otherwise). Then come up with a dream guest list. Include everyone that you would love to have present for your wedding if you had unlimited resources. Start by listing your immediate family and close friends. Then move on to extended family and extended friends. Remember, this is a roughdraft, and you will be making cuts. But a master list like this is a valuable reference to work backward from.

Step 2: Know Your Limits

How many guests can you actually afford?

Part of what makes solidifying your guest list challenging is the fact that it is so impactful to your budget, venue selection, and overall wedding day vibes. Each guest carries a price tag (think food, linens, wedding favors, stationary, and a variety of other amenities). So start by establishing a realistic budget before you determine the number of guests that you want to invite.

How many guests can you accommodate?

It is also important to know how many guests your venue can accommodate. According to the Knot, approximately 10-20% of invited guests will decline. However, we recommend that you do not count on this statistic. Don’t go overboard. But if your target guest count is not close to venue capacity, inviting approximately 10% more guests than your target number is considered an acceptable practice.

Step 3: Establish Some Guidelines

Once you have determined how many guests you can afford and accommodate, it’s time to establish guidelines that will help you make the necessary cuts to your master list. A good rule of thumb is to concentrate on the people who are most important to your life today and who will still be important to you 5 years from now. Then decide how you want to handle the following groups of people:


Are little ones welcome, or do you want your wedding to be a kid-free-zone? Here are some options to consider.

  • Adults-only reception. Establish an age cutoff. Examples: 18+ or 21 and older.
  • Children of the wedding party only. Flower girls and ring bearers included.
  • All children welcome. More appropriate for daytime weddings. Children have a hard time hanging through the late night hours of evening receptions.
  • Babysitter Provided. If there are lots of children in your inner circle, consider hiring a babysitter as a gift to your friends and family.


Priory goes to coworkers who are also your friends outside of work and bosses/superiors that you work with most frequently.

Plus ones

Anyone who is married, engaged, lives together, or is in a long-term, serious relationship should get a plus one.

Friends of Your Parents

If your parents or in-laws are helping to foot the bill for your wedding, it is good etiquette to allow them to contribute to your guest list. If you are worried about things getting out of hand, you may want to give them a certain number of spaces to fill.

Step 4: Trim and Finalize

Finally, go through your master list and apply the guidelines that you have established. Be consistent. If you are questioned by disgruntled friends or family about your reasoning for making certain cuts, it will be much easier to explain if you have been fair in your approach.