Guest list troubles. Here’s some advice

Deciding who to invite to your wedding can be very stressful. There are people who believe they should be invited, but that you might not want to invite, or a family member is insisting that someone that they know is invited. Here are some tips that can help you navigate through this process with greater ease:

Before starting to work on the guest list make sure you know your budget. This is crucial because it will give you an idea of how many people you can invite. This will serve as your base for a guest list. There are a couple of different ways that I help my clients decide on a proper guest count. Here is the overview:

Budget – once you have figured out your budget you will know what your guest count should be.

Guest list – write down a full guest “wish list” draft as a starting point.

Compare – compare the number of guests on your draft “wish list” with your final guest count number that your budget will allow for.

Use the chart – narrow down your draft by using the wedding guest list manager chart. Some couples do this process several times until they get to the desired amount. Sometimes walking away from this task and coming back with a fresh set of eyes is helpful.

Reflect – look over your budget again and see if the final guest list that you have is realistic. If you still have more people than you can afford with your current budget, see if you could adjust the budget. There are ways to move the budget around to fit your needs realistically.

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Go over this process a couple of time to make sure you have accurate information. With time, your budget could change; it could end up stretching further than you thought, or it might not be enough for all your guests to be served. Explore your options a bit, see what catering options you have and what your meal costs should be. If you are set on your guest list, then you should be flexible with your menu. You should be ok with serving a different menu or instead of table service to do a buffet. If you are set on the menu and you can’t increase the budget for the catering, then you should consider having less guests. Keep in mind the pitfalls of additional charges such as tastings, service charges and staff. For example, if you have table service, most catering companies will hire an additional staff for every 25 guests. Therefore, if you have 200 total guests/dinners (that will include the bride, groom, and bridal party) they will need 8 servers plus a banquet manager. If you do a buffet then the caterer will need 1 server for every 50 guests. In addition to these 4 to 9 salaries for table service, you will need to pay a service charge which is most likely between 18-25% of the total bill. That will include the meal cost, salaries and rentals that you will need. Therefore the cost of the plate increases. So, if you are budgeted for $25 per plate look for something in the $18 to $20 range to stay within your actual budget. My suggestion is that when you look for a caterer be sure to tell them what you budget is and be specific that you want the food cost and all fees and charges to be covered within that budget, no hidden fees. This way you can ensure that they are not trying to stretch an un-stretchable budget at the very last moment.


Thank you for your time.