A question even your Magic-8 ball can't answer.

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Planning a wedding should be, in theory, nonstop fun: There are cakes to taste, accessories to shop for, and playlists to curate. But any bride or groom will tell you that the build-up to the big day also comes with a little stress; and of all the holy-matrimony-induced headaches, the guest list is a veritable migraine. Ultimately, it’s up to you and your partner to determine how many people make the guest list, but there are three things Emily Post’s Wedding Etiquette suggests keeping in mind. Here’s what to consider as you draw up your first draft.

The Venue

If you have your heart set on a specific venue, let the location guide your guest list. Alternately, if you haven’t given much thought to a venue but know how many people you want to attend your wedding, choose a site that can accommodate that number.  For the indecisive, having a venue’s maximum capacity as your cut-off can make drafting the guest list easier. Think, too, about how your guests will fill the space: You probably don’t want to host a 125-person wedding reception in a ballroom that can fit 600. 

The Atmosphere  

Consider what you want your big day to feel like. Those most comfortable with a cozy, intimate vibe will likely want to keep the guest list on the smaller side, including only your nearest and dearest in the festivities. On the other hand, if you’re the type who wants to celebrate your wedding with everyone you’ve ever known, from your second-grade teacher to your entire team at work, the guest list may rocket well into the hundreds. 

The Budget

As with the venue, your budget is a practical factor that can help you determine how many people to invite. A seated multi-course dinner, for instance, will likely set you back more than more casual food stations, so if that’s what you’ve always dreamed of, you may need to tighten up the guest list in order to keep the finances in check. 

Once you’ve decided on a ballpark number for how many guests you’d like to include, it’s time to determine who makes the cut. But that’s above our paygrade, so for now, we’ll leave that conundrum to you and your mama.

Bride, groom and guests walking across lawn
Credit: Tom Merton/Getty Images

Mark the calendar. Here's your deadline for getting those pretty papers out the door.