Creating Stress-free Guest Lists for Any Event

Creating Stress-free Guest Lists for Any Event

Author: Gillian Barnes/Monday, October 23, 2017/Categories: Functions

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No matter what event you are planning, the guest list always seems to be the biggest source of stress. And, given the time of year, if you add on holiday scheduling, cleaning and organizing, this “small” element can often be the cause of all out panic. As we move into the fall and winter seasons, we would like to offer these tips from our professional sales and event managers about how to manage and master guest lists.

Starting the List

Just starting the process of creating a guest list can be daunting. Where do you begin? Arguably the best place is by deciding how much you can afford to spend. Establishing your budget early will help you structure every part of the event from booking the actual venue to the scope of your list.

Once you have your budget outlined, you can create the actual lists with first choices and alternates. Tia Parziale, our Event Manager said, “A suggestion would be to have an A and B list. Determine what guests are important to the type of event you are hosting. The B list can be for anyone that you want to invite but might not work within your budget at that time.”

Culling the List

Sometimes, the trouble is simply deciding how to cut back. You may have already generated the A and B lists, but without a system for culling, it can be hard to choose.

Our Hospitality Sales Manager, Carolyn Heffron said, “A suggestion to slim down the guest list would be to look at the list and determine the ‘must-haves’ such as close family and friends and then look at the next level of guests to see how closely tied to the guest or guests of honor. If coworkers are invited, maybe just invite the ones who work in the department or office with them, rather than opening it up to all coworkers. If your office has a tight budget for a company party, you could invite employees only without spouses if you need to pare down the guest list.”

Explaining Your Guest List

Guest lists can be excellent tools for expectation management. For instance, if you are hosting a small-scale event, chances are you are operating on a fixed budget, which means you really need to be clear on who and how many you include. Creating your guest list with that system in mind will help you manage peoples’ invitation expectations. If someone asks why they were not included on the list consider offering up the following explanations:

To anyone: “We are working on a budget for this particular event, so we have to keep it on the smaller side. We hope you understand.”

To a coworker: “We are hosting an intimate event, so we are only inviting family and friends.”

To those who want to bring a date: “We are planning to keep this event to just family, but we would really like to set up another time to get together with you and X.”

Finalizing the Count

Nailing down the final count for an event can be difficult. How much wiggle room should you leave open for late responders? It seems like the consensus when booking a venue is that kind of flexibility should only account for a small margin at best. After all, most venues require you to declare your number ahead of time so that they can assist you with meal choices, layouts and other important aspects of the event.

In our experience, another common question everyone really wants the answer to is how do you determine how many people will actually show up in proportion to the number of guests you initially invite? Carolyn said in her experience, “you can expect 5-15% unable to attend from your invited list.”

Of course, you can increase your RSVP rates by utilizing a Save the Date option, but the most important thing to do when planning it to make sure you have a firm date in mind that you need to hear back by. Most venues will want that list in hand at least three weeks in advance and we suggest that you build in more time so that you can compile all of the information in a clear format.


There you have it! Advanced planning, established deadlines and systems for list generation. Of course, one other important thing to consider is the venue – we can help with that…

Inquire about Atkinson Resort & Country Club event space via We look forward to helping you plan your perfect function!


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