“How about Shirley?”

“You mean Shirley Shots from your first-year party crew?”

“Okay okay. Justin?”

“No, he never stops staring at my-“

“Okay okay, Phiwe?”


Guest lists. They can be cutthroat. Whether you’ve got a limited capacity or you’re trying to coordinate personalities or meet all the ‘newly turned’ dietary requirements at your dinner party, the make or break of guest list creation has a way of giving rise to guilt, chaos, tears and tension. 

Celeb couple Scott and Heidi Lazerson, known to throw stellar parties, say that when creating a guest list, you should first begin with family, friends and co-workers that are constants in your life. Then, divide the rest of the list into “people we love, people we want to get to know better and the people that we’d like for other people to meet.”  

What do we say? Just try not to peeve anybody off in the process. Organising the party of the decade is dramatic enough as it is, so pick your peeps wisely and keep the drama to a min.

To help, check out our Fine Line Events tips on keeping the G.L (Guest List) on the D.L (Down Low).

1. What do you want?

Start by thinking about the mood and purpose of your event. How do you want it to feel? What do you want the outcome to be? Imagine how a guest would describe the event afterward- what would you want them to say? If you’re planning a low key booze-free dinner party, Shirley Shots with the motor mouth might ruin the vibe. Mood matters, people – use it to guide the guest list, as personalities will affect it. We promise.

 2. Dream G.L VS Reality G.L

Once you’ve defined the dream you’ve got to ground it in reality. You can only invite as many people as you can pay for. While this might feel sad sometimes, it’s actually a helpful eliminating tool.

Having your limits defined helps keep the guest list on track and can help with awkward conversations. If Shirley Shots asks why she wasn’t invited, it’s appropriate to be able to explain that “we only had the budget for thirty guests.” And Shirley will understand.

3. Stay organised

It’s one thing to decide on the guest list and quite another to stay on top of it. It may sound hella draining to personally invite each guest, to organise each guest, and to update their responses and contact details into a database BUT this document of excel lines that you will have to officially create is THE Life Saver. It will keep you on track of the Yes’s, No’s and Maybe’s – and it will keep you from wondering why Allan and Mindy (invited) were ‘#justchillin on the couch’, in their Instagram post the same night they were supposed to be at your party. Confusion ruins lives, don’t go there.

4. The Wedding Guest List

This extra-special, extra-stressful event gets special attention because it’s a whole genre of guest list drama by itself. When you’ve got parental assistance (interference?) in the planning of an event, things can get complicated. An old-school tradition is that the couple gets 50% of the guest list and each set of parents choose 25% of guests. This seems a little archaic but it might help to manage the madness.

5. Arthur or Martha, or both

According to Martha Stewart, the correct protocol for significant others at weddings is that the wives and husbands of guests are automatically included on guest list and invitations. Of course. Couples living together are treated in the same manner. Good news. However, casual girlfriends and boyfriends aren’t under obligation to be invited but it’s a nice gesture. We love Martha but we don’t think playing hopscotch with someone’s definition of “committed” is the right call. When it comes to partners or no partners, it’s really down to what feels right to you, per individual. If you know whole-heartedly that ‘no partner’ will result in a social media war, loss of friendship and some added trolls on your event hashtag, then, for obvious reasons, include.

6. Don’t be a guilty party

Something about creating a guest list and leaving someone out, anyone out, plays havoc with your emo vibes. Guilt is not a healthy emotion, and nor is it productive when planning your function. If there are people you can’t invite for all kinds of reasons, don’t make it worse by feeling guilty, or heaven forbid, trying to explain yourself. Understand perhaps that an #uninvited guest does not mean you don’t like them, it just means you liked someone else a little, teeny eensty weensy bit more. And hey, that’s okay.


If you need support managing your Guest List, that’s what we’re here for! And a whole lot more.

Chat with FineLine Events for all your eventing how-to’s, to-do’s and who-not-to’s.