Midwestern weddings are known for being big events! It’s not uncommon to invite 150, 200 or even 300+ people. Hitch has two weddings this year that hit the 400-person mark. How do you decide who’s invited and how do you organize your large wedding guest list?

Our most important piece of advice is that you begin your guest list BEFORE you select a venue. This single step can prevent a tremendous amount of stress. If you’re going to have a big guest list, don’t make this process more stressful by selecting a venue that only holds 100 people or is outside of your budget.

What’s the best part of having a big wedding? Studies show that couples who invite more than 200 people to their wedding are 92% less likely to divorce than couples who have no guests at all! This article in The Atlantic shares the study. What a great way to start your marriage with the odds in your favor!


Decide “how far” out on the family tree you are going to invite. In most Midwestern weddings, it is common for the bride and groom to invite:

  • Parents, grandparents, great aunts and uncles, uncles and aunts and all of their first cousins.
  • These invitations are generally extended to relatives no matter the distance, simply as an expectation and courtesy.
  • In some families, second cousins may be living nearby and are close with the family, thus in this case, they would likely be invited, too.

Try pulling together all of these names from both sides and see what total number of guests you’ve reached. Don’t be surprised if the number is already at 50 or 100. If the number is too high, visit this article to help you trim down the list. You can also read our blog on advice for narrowing down your guest list.

Bride’s tip: “We forgot to invite some of my husband’s first cousins and it truly hurt their feelings and my husband felt terrible for years afterward. Don’t feel bad taking extra time to double-check your list; it’s a good use of time.”

Your Parents

Don’t be surprised when your parents and his parents hand you a list of 40 guests of their friends who they want to invite to your wedding! While this may be frustrating, remember how proud your parents are and all the things they’ve done for you in your life. Yes, it’s “your special day”, but allow them some freedom to invite some friends.

  • One way to keep this section of the invite list from getting too large is by giving each parent a number of guests that you can afford to add to the guest list. Remind your parents and future in-laws that this is a process and everyone has to “give and take”. Try to give them their “limit” before they hand over their dream list.
  • Keep in mind who is paying for the wedding. If it’s your parents, be prepared to give them a little more leeway with their portion of the guest list. Look for other areas of the wedding budget to keep costs down.

Bride’s tip: “My mother was so happy to be able to invite a few of her friends to our wedding. She enjoyed laughing and talking with them during the reception. I’m so glad we did it this way!”

Bride’s tip: “I compromised. I told both sets of parents that they could invite some friends, but if I didn’t know the guest or their name (or be able to greet them by their first names at the wedding) they were the first to get cut.”


In larger cities, it is less common for neighbors to make the wedding guest list, but the social expectations are different in the Midwest and rural areas. In many ways, neighbors can become just like extended family.

  • Did they bring food to your mother when you were born? Babysit so your parents could go on a date? Attend your high school graduation? Did your family get invited to their daughter’s wedding? If you’re answering yes to most of these questions, chances are it would hurt this person’s feelings if they weren’t invited.

Bride’s tip: “If you’re moving into a new community, be sure to trust your fiancé’s judgment on this portion of the list. He will know which neighbors need to be on the list. It’s important to start out your married life with good relationships in the community.”

Your Friends

Where to draw the line here? There are college friends, high school friends, work friends, your finance’s softball team friends, Fire Department friends…who should you invite?

Here are some tips for whittling down the list:

  • Were they supportive of you and your boyfriend/girlfriend as you dated?
  • Are they someone you will keep in contact with in the next five years?
  • Did you spend all of your grade school years with them?
  • For coworkers, would you remain friends if you switched jobs?
  • For coworkers, do you do things together outside of work?
  • If you moved away and were coming to town, are they close enough friends that you would call them ahead of time to let them know you were coming?
  • Have you called them in the last year?

Bride’s tip: “Make sure to include “plus ones” for your friends. Chances are they might not know anyone else at your wedding and would feel uncomfortable if they had to come alone.”

Another option Hitch has done a lot is design “Dance Only” postcards. The bowling league buddies and distance grad school friends get a very nice postcard inviting them to your wedding dance (the part they’re most excited about anyway). That eliminates the need for them to feel obligated to bring a gift and eliminates the seating/food cost for inviting them to your wedding. It’s a win/win. And more popular than you might think. Contact Hitch to see some wording templates for these types of tiered invitations.

Guests Make the Day

When you look back on your wedding day, you’ll cherish the people who you spent the day with: friends, family, neighbors and coworkers. All of these people make your wedding special. If you’re dealing with a large guest list, we suggest that you embrace it! Select a venue and caterer that will hold a large crowd and allow you to stay within your budget.

Need more insight into this topic? Here are a few bonus articles.

  • How to build your wedding guest list via Loverly.
  • Guest list rules to help you keep your wedding small via Loverly.
  • Questions to ask before inviting wedding guests via Brides.

No matter what, make sure the day suits you perfectly — from venue size, to guest list, to budget. Celebrate with the most important people in your life!

To organize yourself and make the process smoother purchase the Wedding Day Designer!


Leave a Comment