How to Create a Guest List

how to create a guest list

Now, I could sit here and write a procedure for how to plan an event that has caterers and room rentals and hired performers, but #1) I’m not fully versed in that level of event planning yet and #2) I’ve got to believe that most people reading this blog aren’t at that level yet either.  We can get there together 🙂

Most people planning events are planning birthday parties, small gatherings – shindigs if you will, and holiday parties for no more than 30 people at a time.  So that’s where we begin.

Step one: the possible guest list

Start with the guest list.  This is going to determine so many other factors that it would be silly to start anywhere else.  Separate your guest list into groups by how you know people – college, choir, high school, middle school, work, etc.  Include every possible person that you may want to invite to the party.

Step two: narrow down the guest list

Look at the list that you have created and take a highlighter to it.  Separate people into the “must haves”, “want to haves”, “would be cool to have” and “why did I put this person on the list again?”.  Now, remember, there is no reason for anybody else to be seeing this list, so you can be completely honest on it.

Step three: complete the guest list

Once the list has been color coded, make the finalized guest list.  Put all of the “must haves” on the list and then fill in the gaps.  Think about who else usually hangs out with that group of people, think about who’s really good at being the life of the party, or think about who makes the best dessert.  If there’s somebody that doesn’t seem like they know anybody else, tell her that she can bring a friend and then the ball is in her court.

Step four: asking the tough questions

Look at how many people you’re dealing with.  Look to see if there’s anything that these people have in common.  Are you dealing with a group of people that really likes to go out to the bars or a group of people that loves to play board games in on a Saturday night?  Nothing is wrong with either scenario, but unless your heart is set on a specific type of party, the affair will run much smoother if the guests feel comfortable.  Here are some questions you now want to ask yourself.

  • Do I want to pay for this party?  What is my budget?
  • Will every person pay his or her own way?  What is a reasonable cost to ask each of them to pay?
  • How much prep work do I want to do the day of the event?
  • How will people be getting to the event?
  • Is there public transportation or a place for people to stay if there will be drinking?
  • Do I want to have the party at my house or will it be at a different venue?

 Here are some ideas –

A night in:
Potluck, wine and cheese, brunch, baked potato party, taco night, ice cream sundae party, breakfast for dinner, game night, movie night, a specific food themed party, arts and crafts, holiday sweaters party, ladies night in with manicures and Sex and the City

Out in the country:
A kickball game, a recess themed party – hop scotch, tag, playgrounds, scavenger hunt, line dancing, pumpkin picking, apple picking

Out in the city:
Karaoke, fondue, concert, musical, theater, movies, bowling

Events somebody else can host for you:
Wine tasting, brewery tour, pottery painting, jewelry making, swing dancing, salsa dancing, pole dancing, rock climbing, volunteering, food tour

Foolproof & easy to execute:
Dinner and/or drinks

Some tips that I’ve learned along the way:

  • If you’re having an event where people need to pay their own way, it may be worth it to put “no gifts necessary” on the invitation
  • If you’re going to have a dinner and you can get a fixed rate, tell everybody the fixed rate including tax and tip and round it to a nice whole number
  • If it’s cash only, tell your guests that ahead of time
  • Sometimes it’s cheaper if you don’t tell the venue that you’re throwing a party.  For example, if you are going to go pottery painting, they’ll usually give you a fixed sitting fee for everybody that is higher than the normal sitting fee – so just call and make a reservation for however many people you need.  This works the same with bowling as well.
  • Check for coupons online
  • Ask for a lower rate from vendors, it can’t hurt
  • Ask your guests if they have an interest in bringing food or wine to an event – most people are glad to help out!

Step five: the invitations

Either make your invitations or send them out using a website such as Evite.  I’ve learned that handmade invitations are an awesome idea – unless you lack the means to get them to everybody ahead of time.  Now, the best part is that you are pretty much done until the day of the party, all you need to do is keep tabs on the RSVPs.

the finishing touches

Now that the party is planned, there are a few more details that you can start thinking about to make the event a little bit more personalized.  Is there a specific party favor that you want to give out to guests to remind them of the party?  Something that I have done in the past that has worked very well is created a collage of pictures, printed that collage on a 4”x6” picture and writing a thank you note on the back for each person.  Also, now is the time to start getting people psyched up for the party.  The more you talk about it and the more excited that you are for it, the more excited that your guests will be!  (No, seriously.)

Also – I’ve been horrible about this recently, but thank you cards are a very nice gesture, even if there was no present involved.  The reason that you invited somebody is to spend time with him or her and it was nice of that person to make time in his or her schedule to attend the gathering.  I hope to be better about this in the future.

Other posts that could follow this one:

  • Planning a menu
  • Prep work the day of the event
  • Decorations
  • Budgeting

Let me know what you’re most interested in hearing about!

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  • I love this event breakdown. I can’t wait to use it. Good job