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Your Comprehensive Guide to Creating a Destination Wedding Guest List

Everything you need to know about constructing the perfect destination wedding guest list.

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Destination Brides |

You’re engaged and ready to start planning your dream destination wedding. Now what?

One of the first steps to planning a destination wedding is creating a guest list. Your guest list will help determine which location you choose for the wedding, where people will stay, which wedding package you choose, the size of your room block, and the overall cost of your wedding. So it’s important to get it right.

Fortunately, this daunting task becomes much easier when broken down into smaller steps. Keep reading to learn how to create and stay on top of the perfect destination wedding guest list.

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Determine Your Guest Count

Before figuring out who gets an invite, figure out how many people you should invite. Here are some tips to help you determine your guest count:

Consider Your Budget

With postage, food, and favors, your number of guests has a major effect on your overall budget. By far the easiest way to reduce your budget is to trim down your guest list. If you’re looking for a budget-friendly wedding, consider having a smaller guest list, with only your closest family and friends.

Check Your Wedding Package

If you’ve chosen your dream location already and are looking at packages, pay attention to how many guests are allowed. Some resorts offer packages with a limited number of guests, with each additional guest requiring a fee. If you’re looking to stay within your budget, keep guests closer to this number.

Look at Maximum Capacities

Do you dream of getting married on an idyllic beach or picture-perfect gazebo? Keep in mind that your perfect ceremony or reception location may have a maximum capacity, especially if it’s a small area. Talk with your travel agent to make sure you find a location which can accommodate your guests.

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Decide Who to Invite to Your Destination Wedding

After you’ve figured out how many guests you’ll be inviting to your wedding, the next step is to determine who those guests will be. 

A Lists and B Lists

It’s inevitable that some people won’t be able to come, so you should prepare to invite more people than you actually expect to attend. However, if too many people RSVP yes, you could have a tricky situation on your hands.

One common solution couples use to combat this is creating multiple guest lists: usually an A list and a B list. Your A list should include people you want to have the most at your wedding, like immediate family, close friends, and anyone else you can’t imagine tying the knot without. 

Your B list might include extended family you’re not as close with, coworkers, etc. Make sure any plus-ones are accounted for on the same list as whoever they’d be attending with. For example, if you’re putting a close friend on the A list, her husband should be on the A list as well.

Who Gets a Plus-One to Your Destination Wedding

Traditionally, plus-ones go to anybody who’s married or in a serious relationship. Some couples like to offer a plus-one to their single friends as a courtesy, but when you have a limited guest count and travel is involved, it may be too difficult to make accommodations.

To make sure single friends and family feel included at the wedding, be sure to sit them with people they know. Some couples have a “singles” table at their reception, but this can get awkward if nobody at the table knows each other. To break the ice, put conversation starters on the table to get everybody acquainted.

Kids or No Kids?

Whether or not a couple chooses to have children at their wedding is a matter of personal preference, but it can become a critical decision if you’re having your destination wedding at an all-inclusive resort. Some resorts allow children, and some don’t. When deciding whether or not to invite children to your wedding, there are a few things to consider: 

  • Do any of your guests have children? 
  • If so, would they be able to find childcare at home if you chose an adults-only resort?
  • If you choose a family-friendly resort, will you want an adults-only wedding? Will the resort have on-site childcare?
  • Are you comfortable with the possibility of other children staying at the resort making noise near your wedding celebration?

Once you’ve figured out who you’ll be inviting, it’s time to start putting a list together.

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What to Include in Your Destination Wedding Guest List

Having a system in place to manage your wedding guest list will help you stay organized and save you a lot of headaches in the future. You’ll want each guest’s information in a spreadsheet where it’s easy to access so you can send invites,  Here are some things you should include:

  • Title
  • First Name
  • Last Name
  • Address
  • Phone Number
  • Email Address
  • Preferred method of communication
  • Spouse
  • Children (names and ages)

Be sure to save this spreadsheet offline and keep it handy so that you can contact anybody if necessary during your wedding trip.

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Sending Out Your Invitations

Now comes the exciting part. For a destination wedding, it’s ideal to give your guests at least a year’s notice so they have ample time to make plans and travel arrangements. Double-check your guest list to make sure everyone’s names and addresses are correctly spelled so you don’t run the risk of an invitation being lost in the mail.

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Tracking RSVPs

Just as it’s important to keep track of your invitees’ contact information, you should be keeping track of their RSVPs as well. We recommend using a separate spreadsheet for this, so your contact information sheet isn’t too crowded. If you have a wedding website, you’ll probably have automatic RSVP tracking. To be sure you have all of the information you need, though, include all of these items in your RSVPs:

  • Relationship to couple (this will help you determine seating arrangements)
  • RSVP: Yes/No
  • Is their room booked (your travel agent can help with this)?
  • Has their final payment been received (your travel agent can help with this)?
  • Are they bringing children?
  • Table Number
  • Menu Choices
  • Have you received a gift from them? What was it?
  • Have you sent them a thank you note?

Some couples will forgo a traditional RSVP and instead use a booked room reservation as an RSVP. In this case, it’s best to assume that if somebody hasn’t booked a room, they won’t be there.

A woman comforts another woman who looks sad

What to Do When Guests Can’t Come

At any wedding, it’s inevitable that guests won’t be able to make it. But between cost, scheduling conflicts, and travel, destination weddings tend to have a lower RSVP rate than traditional weddings. If you anticipate this early on in the planning process, there are a few things you can do to make it easier for guests to attend. Here are some examples of reasons guests may not be able to come to your destination wedding and how you can help:

The Wedding is Out of Budget for Your Guests

The best thing you can do to keep costs low for guests is to book with a travel agent or destination wedding specialist. These pros can secure a room block for you at substantially lower rates than the market cost, and often have internal relationships with resorts and destination management companies that allow them to negotiate contracts.

Additionally, you can choose to get married on a later date than you might have originally planned. Many couples elect to hold a destination a year or two after getting engaged, allowing guests extra time to save up. If you don’t want to wait that long, you can also opt to have a legal wedding earlier and a symbolic destination wedding later.

If the guest that can’t make it is a close friend or family member, and you need to have them at your wedding, consider chipping in to help cover their costs. This is by no means obligated or expected of couples, but the gesture will mean a lot to your guest and let you spend your big day with a special person.

Your Guests Can’t Find Childcare

Adults-only resorts have a lot of appeal — and for good reason. They tend to be quieter, they have a more-exclusive feel, and if your ceremony is in a public place, adults tend to be more courteous of the event. Or maybe you found that picture-perfect ceremony location or an incredible package that happens to be at an adults-only resort.

There are plenty of benefits to going adults-only, but it could put any guests who are parents in a difficult situation. One thing you can do is look for a location that has an adults-only resort and a family-friendly resort on the same property, such as Secrets and Dreams Royal Beach Punta Cana. The adults can cross over to attend the wedding, and the kids will be able to spend the day at the kids or teen club.

Alternatively, you can see if your resort offers a day pass for attendees to your wedding. This will come at an extra cost, but it will allow parents to stay at a different property and still attend your wedding

Your Guests Have a Prior Commitment or Can’t Travel

Whether it’s work, a family event, or anything else, some guests simply won’t be able to make it to your destination wedding. It’s a sad truth, but you can still make the best out of the situation by holding a casual reception in your hometown before or after the destination wedding. If you want to avoid extra costs, you can always host a potluck — most people will just be happy to show up and celebrate with you.


Amidst all the travel arrangements, room blocks, and napkin color choices, it’s easy to lose sight of what your wedding is all about: celebrating your biggest milestone as a couple with your closest friends and family. But once you’re at your destination, being surrounded by the right people will take all your worries away and let you enjoy this special occasion.

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