Puerto Vallarta Destination Wedding Guide: Guest List (Chapter 5)

Guest looking at the seating chart at a destination wedding in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Learn how to curate the perfect destination wedding guest list, whether you envision an intimate affair or a grand celebration.

In this article:

I. How to craft your wedding guest list
II. Wedding guest list calculator
III. Wedding guest list form
IV. Wedding invitation cheat sheet
V. What to include in your wedding invitations
VI. Guest books, photo booths, and wishing trees
VII. How to craft your wedding registry

 

Many elements will make your Puerto Vallarta destination wedding memorable, such as the beachfront venue, the mariachi band, or the tacos al pastor. However, it’s the people by your side that will truly make your wedding day special. There will be little moments — seeing your dad tear up, your grandma dancing until midnight, or your brother bonding with your beau — that you’ll remember forever. Furthermore, you must decide whether you’d like a small, intimate wedding, or a grand lavish celebration (and have the resources to do so!). Thus, crafting the perfect guest list is key.

 

How to craft your wedding guest list

Start by pulling out your computer and typing out your ideal guest list. Ask your fiancé and both sets of parents to do the same. Merge all of the names into one document, delete duplicates, and begin to narrow down the list. If there are some you’re on the fence about, try this exercise: Visualize your wedding day and specifically the moment when you lock eyes with this person during the celebration. Does the thought of their presence bring you joy and add to your happiness? Do you think they would genuinely be happy for you? Your wedding day should be filled with genuine joy, both yours and your guests. This check ensures you’re surrounded by people who genuinely share in your happiness. Remember, not everyone will be able to attend. For local weddings, normally ten percent cannot attend, while twenty percent send their regrets for destination weddings.

 

Wedding guest list calculator

In Chapter 2: Budget, we covered everything about creating a realistic budget for your wedding. As mentioned, the size of the guest list is the biggest predictor of your wedding costs. In other words, the more guests you invite, the higher the cost of your wedding. Use this equation to determine how many guests you can afford to invite:

Total Budget – Fixed Costs / Cost-per-Head Estimate = Guests You Can Realistically Invite

Steps:

  1. Write down your total projected budget.
  2. Add up your fixed costs (ie: that which won’t change with the number of guests): venue, music, photo/video, suit/dress, officiant.
  3. Add costs that will fluctuate with the number of guests — food, alcohol, rentals, centerpieces, invitations — and come up with a cost-per-head estimate.
  4. Subtract your fixed costs from your total budget and see what’s left.
  5. Divide that figure by the cost per head and voila! This is how many guests you can afford to invite.

 

Wedding guest list form

After you have a final headcount, it’s crucial to keep track of the guest names, addresses, RSVPs, and gifts sent. Download our Wedding Guest List Form (you’ll probably need to duplicate pages to cover your entire guest list). Another option is to craft your guest list within a wedding website such as zola.com which can help you track RSVPs and the like.

Download our Wedding Guest List form

 

Wedding invitation cheat sheet

When your stationer hands you hundreds of stationary options, you may need a guide to help you understand the invitation lingo.

  • Embossing: A technique where designs or lettering are raised above the surface of the paper, creating a tactile, three-dimensional effect.
  • Debossing: Similar to embossing, but the designs or lettering are pressed into the paper, creating a depressed effect.
  • Foil Stamping: A printing process that presses a thin layer of foil onto the paper, resulting in shiny, metallic designs or text.
  • Inclusions: Small items or materials (such as flower petals, glitter, or foil pieces) embedded within the paper itself, adding texture and visual interest.
  • Beveled Edge: The edges of the paper are cut to an angle, creating a slope that adds depth and a sophisticated finish.
  • Deckle Edge: A feathered, torn edge on paper, giving the invitation a rustic or vintage feel.
  • Border: A decorative frame or edge around the text or design on the invitation, often used to draw attention to the central message.
  • Dingbats: Ornamental characters or spacer elements used in printing to add decoration, divide sections, or create visual interest around the text.

 

What to include in your wedding invitations

The main elements of your wedding invitations are the invitations, reply cards, and reply card envelopes. However, wedding invitations often come with a variety of enclosures, each serving a specific purpose to ensure guests have all the information they need for the big day. Beyond the main wedding invitation suite, there are several pieces of additional printed matter that a bride might need for the wedding ceremony and reception. Providing these details to the stationer can help ensure a cohesive design theme throughout all wedding elements. Here’s a list of items and why they might be needed:

Invitation main elements:

  • Invitation: The invitation is the centerpiece of your wedding stationery suite and sets the tone for your special day. Here’s a basic outline of what it typically includes:
    • Host Line: Begins with the names of the hosts (traditionally the parents of the bride) and an indication of who is inviting guests to the celebration.
    • Request Line: This is where you formally invite guests, using phrasing like “request the honor of your presence” for religious ceremonies or “request the pleasure of your company” for non-religious ones.
    • Names of the Couple: The most important part! The bride and groom’s names are prominently featured, signifying who is getting married.
    • Date and Time: Clearly states when the wedding will take place. The date is usually spelled out, and the time is often followed by “in the morning,” “in the afternoon,” or “in the evening.”
    • Ceremony Location: Provides the full address of the ceremony location, including the venue name and city, but usually not the zip code.
  • Response Card (RSVP Card): Includes a space for the guest to write their name(s), indicate whether they will attend, and sometimes choose their meal preference. It’s crucial for finalizing the guest count and catering needs.

 

Invitation enclosures:

  • Reception Card: If the reception is at a different location than the ceremony, this card provides details like the address, start time, and any special instructions for guests.
  • Directions Card: Offers detailed driving directions to the ceremony and reception venues. It’s especially helpful for out-of-town guests or if the location is difficult to find.
  • Accommodation Card: Suggests hotels where guests might stay, often including a group discount code if you’ve arranged one. It’s essential for guests traveling from out of town.
  • Attire Card: Specifies the expected dress code for the event (e.g., black tie, casual, themed attire). It helps ensure guests feel comfortable and appropriately dressed.
  • Website Card: Includes the URL for your wedding website where guests can find more detailed information, such as the story of how you met, additional photos, registry details, and updates.
  • Weekend Itinerary: For weddings that span multiple days or have multiple events (welcome party, rehearsal dinner, post-wedding brunch), this gives guests a schedule so they know what’s happening and when.
  • Transportation Card: Useful if you’re providing transportation for guests from their accommodations to the wedding venue or between the ceremony and reception locations.
  • Registry Card: Though traditionally considered a faux pas to include in the invitation suite (with information often shared by word of mouth or on a wedding website), some couples choose to enclose a small card that guides guests to their registry.
  • Map Card: A custom map that highlights key locations (ceremony, reception, accommodations, points of interest) can be both a practical guide and a charming keepsake.
  • Safety or Health Guidelines Card: Given current events, some couples include a card outlining any health and safety protocols for their wedding, ensuring guests feel informed and comfortable.

 

Additional printed matter:

  • Programs: Outlines the order of the wedding ceremony, including the names of participants (officiants, bridal party members, readers) and details of readings, vows, and music selections. It serves as a guide for guests during the ceremony.
  • Menus: Lists the courses and meal options available during the reception. Menu cards can be placed at each setting or displayed on tables. They’re especially useful for plated dinners or to highlight signature dishes and drinks.
  • Table Numbers or Names: Helps guests locate their assigned table at the reception. They can range from simple numbers to more creative names that reflect the couple’s interests or wedding theme.
  • Escort Cards or Seating Chart: Escort cards are small cards that indicate to guests their table assignment. Alternatively, a seating chart is a large display with guests’ names and corresponding table numbers or names. Both options organize seating arrangements and facilitate smooth transitions to the reception seating.
  • Place Cards: These cards are placed at each seat to assign guests to specific seats at their designated tables. They are particularly helpful for formal receptions or when specific meal choices have been pre-selected by guests.
  • Favor Tags or Labels: If you’re giving out wedding favors, personalized tags or labels can add a special touch and thank guests for their attendance. They often include the couple’s names and wedding date.
  • Thank You Cards: Though not part of the day-of stationery, custom thank-you cards matching the wedding stationery theme are useful for expressing gratitude to guests and anyone who contributed to the wedding.
  • Welcome Letters or Itineraries for Guests: For guests staying in accommodations or attending a destination wedding, a welcome letter or itinerary provides a warm greeting and outlines activities, transportation options, and important times and locations.
  • Signage: Various signs might be needed for directions, guest book instructions, hashtag reminders, bar menus, or any special instructions related to the wedding events.
  • Guest Book: While not always printed by the same stationer, the guest book can be designed to match the overall theme of the wedding stationery. It’s where guests can leave personal messages for the couple.

 

Guest books, photo booths, and wishing trees

Traditional guest books are a wonderful way to remember who shared your special day with you, but alternative ideas can add a unique touch and even double as a piece of art for your home. Here are some creative alternatives:

  • Polaroid photo album: Set up a Polaroid camera station with props where guests can snap a quick photo of themselves. Have them attach their photo to a page in an album and write a personal message or piece of advice next to their picture.
  • Old-fashioned photo booth: Guests take pictures in the booths and get two strips. They keep one set and put the other into a scrapbook along with a note for the newlyweds.
  • Wishing tree: Place a beautifully decorated tree at your reception, and provide tags or cards for guests to write their wishes or advice for your future together. Guests can then hang their messages on the tree. Filled with fluttering wishes, this creates a stunning visual piece for your wedding.
  • Video messages: Set up a video recording station where guests can record a short message or story for you. This can be particularly touching, as it captures the voices and expressions of your loved ones sharing their congratulations, advice, or funny stories.
  • Interactive art piece: Invite guests to contribute to a piece of art that will commemorate your wedding day. This could involve signing a large canvas, adding thumbprints to a tree painting, or placing colorful stickers on a predetermined image in a paint-by-number style.

 

How to craft your wedding registry 

For some brides, the registry can be puzzling. How many registries should you set up? What items should I register for? What if I just want cold hard cash?! However, with a few solid rules in place, setting up your registry (or cash fund) can be an easy and pain-free process.

First of all, it’s best to set up three registries: a department store, a chain that’s available in towns and cities, and a local boutique for some of the more unusual gifts. Be sure to register for enough stuff – don’t worry about looking greedy. It’s best to register for 2-3 times as many gifts as you have guests and you want there to be a wide selection for your guests to choose from. Also, be sure the gifts span a variety of price ranges ($25 and up). And don’t feel pressure to register for things you don’t need.

Many couples opt to include cash funds or gift cards for various purposes in their registry. These funds may be designated for specific purposes such as a honeymoon fund, home improvement projects, or contributions towards larger purchases like furniture or electronics.

With all of that in mind, peruse these lists that are intended to help you start brainstorming. You won’t need everything, and there is some overlap, but this checklist ensures no essential is left behind. Check the box when you receive something. Happy registering!

Download our Wedding Registry form

 

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How do I start crafting my destination wedding guest list?

Begin by envisioning your ideal wedding atmosphere—whether it’s an intimate affair or a grand celebration. Sit down with your partner and both sets of parents to compile a preliminary list of guests. Merge these lists into one document, removing any duplicates. This initial step is crucial in forming the foundation of your guest list, which can then be refined based on factors like budget, venue capacity, and personal preferences.

2. Is there a formula to calculate how many guests I can invite based on my budget?

Yes, there is a straightforward formula that can help you determine the number of guests you can realistically invite: Total Budget − Fixed Costs ÷ Cost-per-Head Estimate = Number of Guests. Remember, the size of your guest list will significantly impact the overall cost of your wedding, so it’s important to use this calculation early in your planning process.

3. What tools can help me organize my wedding guest list?

To keep track of your guest list, including names, addresses, RSVPs, and gifts, consider using our Guest List Form. There are also online platforms like Zola.com that offer digital tools to help you manage your guest list, track RSVPs, and more, making the process easier and more efficient.

4. What are the essential elements to include in my wedding invitations?

Your wedding invitations should include the invitation itself, a reply card, and a reply card envelope. The main invitation should feature the host line, request line, names of the couple, date and time, and ceremony location. Additional enclosures might include reception cards, directions, accommodation suggestions, and attire guidance.

5. Can you suggest creative alternatives to traditional guest books?

Absolutely! Consider options like a Polaroid photo album, an old-fashioned photo booth, a wishing tree, video messages, or an interactive art piece. These alternatives not only serve as a unique keepsake from your wedding day but also add a fun and interactive element to your reception.

6. How should I approach setting up my wedding registry?

Start by establishing registries at a variety of places—a department store, a widely available chain, and a local boutique—to offer a range of gift options. It’s advisable to select more items than the number of guests you have, ensuring there’s something for every budget. Consider including traditional gifts, cash funds, or contributions towards big-ticket items.

7. What’s the etiquette for inviting guests to a destination wedding?

When inviting guests to a destination wedding, give them plenty of notice—ideally, save-the-dates should go out 8 to 12 months in advance, and invitations 3 to 4 months before the wedding. This extra time allows guests to make travel arrangements and take advantage of early booking discounts.

8. How do I handle guests who can’t attend my destination wedding?

For guests unable to attend, consider setting up a virtual option so they can still be part of your special day. After the wedding, sharing photos and videos or hosting a post-wedding celebration at home can also make them feel included.

9. What should I consider when choosing a destination wedding location?

Consider accessibility for guests, the climate, local customs, and the legal requirements for getting married in that location. A place with sentimental value to you and your partner or a location that offers a variety of activities for guests can also add to the experience.

10. How can I ensure my destination wedding is memorable for guests?

Focus on creating a unique experience that reflects your personalities and relationship. Incorporate local culture and traditions, plan group activities, and provide welcome bags with essentials and local treats. Personal touches and attention to guest comfort will make your wedding memorable and enjoyable for everyone involved.

Taylor Wade headshot

Author:

Hi, I'm Taylor, the Creative Director at Chas Studios. I co-founded a matchmaking company at the age of 16 and have since amassed two decades of experience in the dating and relationship industry. My deep understanding spans critical areas, from the spiritual growth potential within relationships to navigating finances with your partner. In 2017, just two weeks after relocating to Mexico City, I met and fell head over heels for Diego, who was working in the fashion and editorial world at the time. We subsequently moved to Puerto Vallarta and launched Chas Studios, a photography and film house specializing in weddings and events. We also married in Puerto Vallarta in 2023 allowing us to offer our local knowledge and experience to our readers. 

Are you looking for a wedding photographer for your destination wedding in Mexico?

Chas Studios has an instantly recognizable aesthetic, defined by the soft, organic, and classic qualities that film provides. As a bespoke photography service, we apply a highly personalized and hand-crafted approach to each and every wedding. Our team goes above and beyond for our clients to stay true to our mission: to provide a one-of-a-kind wedding experience! Submit an application to receive a custom quote.

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