The Etiquette for a Wedding Invitation Guest List

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Creating a guest list for your wedding can be a difficult process. You want to make sure you don't offend anyone but at the same time, you want to be surrounded by those closest to you on your special day. Although it is inevitable that you will have to make some compromises, following the general etiquette rules of wedding guest lists can help make this process easier.

Multiple Guest Lists

The first thing you need to do before creating a guest list is decide how many people you want to invite. This is based on numerous factors, including the atmosphere you want to create (intimate weddings allow for fewer guests), cost (more guests equals more money) and reception hall rules (some venues have a minimum or maximum guest requirement). Next, make a list of immediate family members on both sides who must be invited. Subtract that number by the total number of guests you want to invite then divide that number by three. So, if you have 150 spots left after including immediate family members, you and your groom get to invite 50, your parents get to invite 50 and your groom's parents get to invite 50. Alternatively, you and your groom can control 40 percent of the guest list and give each of your parents control of 30 percent. However you do it, be sure both sets of parents are given an equal number of guests to invite.

Plus Ones

A guest list can grow quickly, especially when single guests are invited with a "plus one." If the size of your guest list and your budget allows for this, then it is certainly a nice gesture; however, it is not required. That being said, spouses of married guests and partners of guests in significant relationships must be invited. If you do not plan on inviting plus ones for your single guests, make sure to address each invitation by name. If you want to make an exception for a single guest who won't know anyone at your wedding, then ask your friend who she would like to invite and address an invitation to that person specifically.


There is absolutely no rule stating that children must be invited to a wedding. In fact, many couples choose to have adult-only receptions for a wide variety of reasons, such as wanting to maintain an elegant atmosphere or needing to cut back on numbers. If you want to exclude children, that is fine, but don't make exceptions as this can seem rude to the other guests with children. If your family and friends are giving you a hard time about not inviting children, or if you want an adult's only reception but feel guilty about excluding children, then consider having a separate party just for them. For example, if your reception is being held in a hotel conference room, rent a hotel room for the night and hire a babysitter or two to keep the children entertained. Then parents can drop their kids off in the room while they take part in the reception. This has the added benefit of providing them with free child care.

Definite No-Shows

Definite no-shows are people you know for sure won't be able to attend your wedding, such as an aunt who lives half way across the world or a disabled friend whose mobility issues prevent him from attending social events. Since etiquette dictates that anyone who receives a wedding invitation should send a gift, sending invitations to definite no-shows might look as though you're asking for gifts. For this reason, you should avoid sending definite no-show invitations. If you think this will hurt someone's feelings, then send her an invitations with a note saying you know she won't be able to make it and you don't expect a gift, but you wanted to keep her involved in the wedding festivities and you will be thinking of her on your special day.