by Cora Gold January 21, 2022 3 min read

There are many valid reasons to have a small wedding. Some brides may not have the budget for venues that charge over $10,000 for a single day of use. Others may have complicated family relationships or loved ones who would clash with each other.

Here's how to plan your guest list for an intimate wedding so the invites don’t get out of control.

1. Find Your Venue

Finalizing your guest list is likely the first thing people tell you to do. It’s an essential part of your planning process because you’ll need that number for your caterers and hotel room blocks. Although finishing that step sooner than later is best, you can also get creative and start by finding your venue.

Compare small venues that work with your dream and budget. You could find the perfect place by comparing Airbnb wedding properties or asking a loved one if you can use their backyard. Each space will fit a limited number of chairs, giving you the maximum number of guests you can invite.

2. Start With Nonnegotiables

Think about who you definitely want at your wedding. Your nonnegotiables will be the people you’d delay your ceremony for if they arrive late. You wouldn’t ever walk down the aisle without them there. Consider your relationships with close people like:

  • Parents
  • Siblings
  • Grandparents
  • Best friends

Everyone’s relationships will be different, so you may not have people in every group that will make your intimate guest list. Ensure that the core group of invitees contains those who matter most.

3. Limit Your Extra Invites

Couples find wedding planning much easier after compromising on their guest list number by limiting the people added after their nonnegotiables. Your partner might have over 50 friends from high school and college that they want to have fun with, but that would blow your guest list out of proportion. Compromising would require both people to invite an equal number of friends to keep the number small but fair.

4. Ban Plus-One Guests

Closer to your wedding date, your guests will send their RSVP cards. People are used to expecting plus-one invites and may request one for someone they know, but you’re not obligated to expand your list for strangers. Make it clear on your invitation that plus-ones are respectfully not welcome. You could mention the space limit at your venue or clarify your wish for an intimate wedding. Anyone who truly cares about you will understand.

5. Keep It Adults-Only

Inviting single people or couples can push your guest list to a number larger than you expected. Then you have to factor in their kids. Children can double an entire guest list if your loved ones have big families, but you can always request that they stay home with a sitter.

Many couples prefer adults-only weddings for reasons other than their budget or guest list. They might have a venue that poses risks for wandering kids or want to have a good time at their reception where everyone can have a drink. Clarify this rule on your invitation and mention it on your wedding website. You can also call people a month early to remind them they need to find someone to watch their kids if they still want to attend your ceremony.

6. Stick With Your Gut

People will have many opinions as your wedding day gets closer. They’ll recommend flowers, food and dress alternatives, but they may also talk about the rules you set for your guest list. Ignore whatever reactions you might get from people and focus on what’s best for you and your partner. You’re the only people who know what’s ideal for your situation.

7. Privatize Your List

Avoid the urge to show people your guest list while you’re strategizing caters or seating. It could create opportunities for them to complain or suggest changing permanent details, so keep your list private to make life easier. You’ll also avoid accidentally offending anyone who may not speak up until long after they’re hurt.

8. Have Honest Conversations

When people contact you to say they might make it to your wedding but they’re unsure, it’s time for an honest conversation. Let them know that your invites are limited, and if they can’t make it, you need to know so their seat can go to someone else. It isn’t personal, so approach these conversations with kind words and an open heart.

Plan Your Guest List Effortlessly

Creating a guest list can be stressful if you’re worried about offending people. However, keep in mind that it’s your special day. You don’t want anyone there who might cause problems. You and your partner should work together and set the same goals to develop the perfect list that includes everyone you love.