The Ultimate Guide to Keeping Your Wedding Guest List Under Control

As weddings continue to become more and more expensive, couples are looking for ways to cut expenses so their wedding day won’t empty out their bank account - can we blame them? Now, this is when you start thinking to yourself: “do I really have to invite my third cousin’s uncle? Is that necessary?” Now you’re thinking right! 

how to plan a small wedding guest list

The best way to cut expenses for your wedding day is to keep the guest list small. Many brides dream of having a big wedding, but many actually report to enjoying small ones more. So, we have some strategies on how to keep your guest list small for your wedding, and hopefully save you some cash in the process!

#1 // Only invite the important people in your life

When we mean the important people in your life, we’re talking about the people you called when you first became engaged. That’s your crew, your family, your loved ones - those are the people that deserve an invite. You don’t need to invite your mailman or your brother’s soccer coach. Sure, they’d love to attend your wedding, but why are you inviting them? Can you genuinely say that these people are your friends or family?

Here’s a good rule of thumb: if you’d feel uncomfortable calling them in the middle of the night if you were locked out of your house in the rain and needed help, don’t invite them to your wedding.

#2 // You’re not obligated to invite anyone & everyone

*Now say it again*

*And again*

*And again*


Cut the guilt! This is so real, so listen up bigtime to this one.

Don’t feel bad, why would you feel bad? You are the one saying vows. Of course, if you had an unlimited budget, you’d be going wild and inviting whoever you wanted whether you knew them or not. But the reality is that you have a budget so choosing who’s going to be in your wedding needs to be well-thought out. If you’re feeling guilty about not inviting someone, you can always apologize and explain that you had to keep the wedding guest list small. Most people 100% understand that wedding expenses are not a joke!

#3 // Set the boundaries at the very start

Your boundaries regarding the guest list need to be strict and made before creating a guest list. We all know what’s going to happen during the guest list process - your parents and in-laws are going to get involved. Of course, they’re excited so they want their friends and certain family members to be invited. But, you need to give them boundaries. Allow each parent to choose a certain number of guests to invite. It can be 10 or 60 guests each, it depends on what you’re comfortable with. That way, they have some say but it doesn’t get out of hand.

Remember: this tip completely depends on who is paying. If your in-laws are chipping in 70% of the budget, let them know you prefer to keep the wedding small, but respect the fact that without them, your wedding would look a lot different.

#4 // Consider a destination wedding

If you really want to make sure your guest list stays to a minimum, then you can’t go wrong with a destination wedding. It’s literally the best way to invite freely but keep the number of people who actually show up pretty small.

Taking your wedding out of town means people have to take time off of work and pay to travel/attend your wedding. So, if someone is going to make that commitment then they’re probably extremely close to you.

Read this Next! // The Top 5 Reasons to Have a Destination Wedding

#5 // Make it an adult-only wedding

If you really want to make sure the wedding guest list is small, then make the wedding adult-only. This is also great if your wedding is more formal, because kids at long events can be unpredictable. When you invite couples or singles, it’s much different than inviting an entire family and that can add up quickly!

#6 // Pay for the wedding yourself

If you’re letting your parents or in-laws pay for your wedding then you should be expected to have less of a say, and even have people at your wedding that you’ve never met before (your dad’s boss, for example.) If you want more control over your guest list, then it’s best for you to try to pay for most of the wedding, if you can.

It can get real easy to see your wedding as a “reunion,” but remember, it’s not.

#7 // Make a rule about plus-ones

If your friend is going to bring some girl that he just met at a bar last week, then you have the right to say no. By making a rule about plus-ones, you limit any last-minute invites or casual dates from coming. Of course, if it’s a serious relationship then you should allow both of them to come. But if they’re just bringing someone so they’re not alone, say no.

Here’s a tip: make your invite envelopes incredibly clear when addressing them. Put “Mr & Mrs. Johnson & Sarah” if you want them to bring their adult daughter but not their 4-year old. Don’t be afraid to also put “Adults-Only” or “Please contact Natasha for plus-ones” on your invite.

Here’s another tip: if someone you’re inviting to your wedding is in a serious relationship and you didn’t know that, are they really close to you after all?

#8 // Write everyone down that you’d invite

Write down your dream list. When we say dream list, we’re meaning everyone that you’d invite if you could. (We recommend doing this in Google Sheets so your fiance can participate at the same time, and you can access your list anywhere on your phone.)

This way, you can have an idea of how many people would actually be invited if the sky was the limit. Maybe the number isn’t as big as you thought it was and you won’t have to cut the list down. But, if it’s big, you’ll be able to go through the list easily, crossing out those that you really don’t need to invite.

#9 // Make an A and B list

We also call this the “invite and announcement” strategy. It essentially means that some people in your life know they will not be able to make it, but still want the pleasure of seeing an invite in the mail, something they can hold in their hand. This includes co-workers, friends you haven’t spoken to since 8th grade but still like your facebook updates, elderly relatives, people who live abroad, etc.

The A-list & B-list method works as well. (BTW, don’t tell people you made two lists, they’re not going to be too happy to hear about that - especially if they were on the B-list!) See, your A-list is going to consist of the ‘must-haves’- the people that you need to have at your wedding such as your parents and siblings. Your B-list are the people that you’d like there, but you don’t necessarily need at your wedding. Knowing who is absolutely critical will help you determine what size wedding you actually need.

#10 // No last-minute add-ons

Sometimes, out of excitement, word will get around about your wedding and someone not invited will hear about it. It gets very tempting to make a last-minute exception out of guilt, but in this time, remember why you chose the guest list you did. Was it costs? Style? Intimacy? It’s your wedding and together with your family, you have the right to decide who gets to be there. Don’t let anyone guilt you into making an exception, because as we all know, not only do last minute detail changes suck, but one exception quickly turns into two and three.

#11 // Blast's from the Past? Think Twice

Invite people from the present. Yeah, your high school friends are great but if you haven’t spoken to them in five years, think hard about whether you want to invite them. It can get real easy to see your wedding as a “reunion,” but remember, it’s not. You won’t get to have long sit-down conversations with people (even though in your head you’re probably so excited to catch up with them.) In fact, your wedding weekend, you’ll have an itinerary like the Kardashians at the Grammys. Step, repeat, step, repeat…. :)

Keep your wedding relevant to the people that are in your life right now. If you start going through your memories, you’ll end up inviting your entire graduating class.


Small weddings are highly enjoyed by brides, grooms, and guests because it feels intimate -- like everyone is there for a reason and was invited to take part in a once-in-a-lifetime experience. If this is for you, our 11 strategies can help you get there and absolutely love it!

Natasha Ivanovic is a writer at Broomstick! Other than her love of writing, she loves reading, getting lost in nature and drinking a good cappuccino (it's not as easy to find as it sounds). She recently finished her post-graduate degree in forensic psychology but decided to stick with writing as her imagination always seems to get the best of her. Join Natasha and apply to be a Broomstick contributing writer here.