Setting a budget and building a guest list really do go hand in hand. And just like setting a budget, building a guest list isn’t something you can delegate to your event planner. It’s going to take a little time and effort to figure out who makes the cut. Let this process be collaborative so that it reflects the important people in your life.

Although it would be nice to invite everyone you know, often times that is not at all possible when considering budget and/or venue. The good news is, gone are the days of celebrations filled with strangers. More and more couples and hosts/hostesses are taking the time to create a curated lists of guests make their event or occasion more manageable and meaningful.

Don’t know where to start? Try starting with three separate lists. 1. The Musts  2. The Want Tos  3. Maybe/Maybe Not

Start by sitting down with your partner to determine a dream list. Just sit down and list all the people you each think should be there, together. If you have parents or other contributors that are helping pay for your wedding, party or event, they may also have a list of guests that they would like to see there. Once you’ve made your list, take a day or two to think about it before coming back to it. Is there anyone you forgot? Or even changed your mind about? You might be surprised at the amount of people you’ve come up with, but rest assured, your first list shouldn’t be your final list.

Once you have your list built, it might be time to establish some rules and boundaries. What will your “cutting rules” be?

  1. What was your name again? Do you have people on this list that you never heard of, never met, or that couldn’t pick you out of a line-up. Then, you might not want them there.
  2. Yay or Nay? Are you inviting kids to your event? Once you determine that, you’ll have to be consistent.
  3. Feeling Guilty? Are you inviting someone because you feel like you have to? Don’t feel like you have to invite someone just because their feelings might be hurt.
  4. Plus One More? Will you give those who are single and not in a relationship the freedom to bring an extra guest.
  5. All or None? When you begin thinking about co-workers or other groups you belong to, does it have to be all or none? Maybe just pick the people you are closest too. Or, set a firm rule regarding all or none.

After you’ve determined your list and feel like you’ve sorted through all the “musts”, “wants”, and “maybes”, and gone through you’re cutting rules, it’ll be time to get organized. Keeping track of all your guests and accumulating a list of names (that are spelled correctly) and addresses can get hairy if you aren’t ready.

The process of accumulating addresses could take a whole lot longer than you anticipate, so don’t put it off. Find a system that works for you whether it’s a paper master list, Microsoft Excel or an on-line Guest List tool like this one:

The experts say that for any event, you can expect about 80% acceptance from your guests. Sometimes when couples or hostesses receive a bunch of declined invitations, they begin addressing envelopes to third and fourth string guests. One thing that I’d recommend is avoiding the last minute add. If they weren’t important enough to be on your “musts” or “wants” list, then chances are you adding them for the wrong reason.

And finally, once you are ready to address your invitations, you’ll want to make sure that you are addressing your envelopes correctly to clearly communicate who is actually invited. Check out for more precise rules regarding families with and without children and guests with or without a plus one.