Party Planning Guide: How to Make a Guest List

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Where my party people at?

Your go-to guide for deciding who to invite to your party

You want to have a party. You’ve got the perfect theme in mind and can’t wait to make it happen. Your party planning checklist is A-list organized. Your event planning template is done for you, courtesy of Partytrick. The kicker? Your guest list. It is the people that make a party, after all. While your college roommate is a blast and a half, she may be better suited for the opposite side of the table from your strategist from work. Check our tips below for crafting your guest list of who to invite. When considering how to throw a party at home, your party flow depends on it.

To consider for your guest list specific to a party style, see below.

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Top 3 Things to Think about for your Guest List

1. Decide what vibe and style of event you want

Pick 3 adjectives - ready GO! Not a words person? It’s ok. Do any of these fit what type of party you want to host? Nighttime. Wild and crazy. Sports night. Girls brunch. Book club. Casual backyard bbq. Gossip sesh. Mommy and me playdate. Birthday party. Networking. Who knew there could be so many party vibes? 

2. Choose which crowd suits that vibe best 

Based on the party style you chose, think about which of your social circles suit it best. Where to start? Couples. Girls. Dude crew. Lifegiving convos. Moms and daughters. Old friends. Meet the neighbors. Mingling groups.

Think about your single friends. Think about your quieter friends. If your partner from pickleball isn’t as keen on downing the highballs as your coworkers are, think about who you can invite so pickleball Paige has an easy go-to. We’re all about having a variety of personalities to complement one another - just especially consider how your outliers will handle the night. 

3. Pick the best food service that fits 

Now think about which food type suits the crowd that you’re hosting. Do you want to cook or hire a service? Should it be a taco truck or gourmet pizzas? Does buffet or potluck fit this better? Knowing the way you want the event to go and the guests you’re inviting, does grazing over apps work better or do you need a heavy meat main course?

Check this out to simplify your planning: Where to Find Vendors for the Party You're Hosting

Once you’ve gotten through these three steps, your guest list may have just magically formed itself! Just another of our partytricks. Want more? Join the party.

Now, off to create your invites!

Who To Invite To Your Cocktail Party

1. What is your main event of the night?

It may be as simple as “drinking!” or “dancing!” or “sitting on the kitchen counter catching up!” But, it’s important to take into account whether you want your guests to play games together, start a kitchen-centric dancefloor, or cozy up on the couch sipping away the wine. 

2. Are they the cocktail or mocktail type?

Consider what groups of friends will collab well for the setting you want. If Taboo rolls out, so be it! If Calvin Harris takes over the Spotify playlist, well, be thankful you thought ahead to call up your friends with dancing feet. That way you can assure them… ‘this is what you came for.’

3. Do you want guests to make their own cocktails or are you pre-mixing?

We all love a carefully crafted cocktail. Now, think about whether your guests are prone to want to mix their own or are happy with the blog-worthy concoction you found. Simply thinking about your guests' drinking habits  can save you the overflow of alcohol remaining after the party. Either way, add a mint garnish and you’re golden.

Who to Invite to your Brunch Party

Your brunch display is flourishing. Flowers are cut. Place settings are immaculate. Now, let’s be honest. Do you want your guests to swoon over the frittata…or just finish up the plethora of mimosa supplies you bought? Whichever brunch party is your style, think ahead of what sort of guest will fit (and enjoy!) the party you throw. After all, when your friends say “Brunch!” do they really mean, “Let’s skip the eggs and go day drinking!” Neither way is wrong. But know your guests. Your Costco receipt will thank you.

1. Would you like an intimate or more social atmosphere?

Is your brunch the type of affair where you see friends mixing with your sports league and laughing with your coworkers? Or do you want to get the girls together to catch up, reminisce, and have no question of who they’ll talk to next? A mix of both is always allowed (really, anything is allowed, except inviting Aunt Karen), but keep in mind which social groups will mesh best. If you know that the new girl to town is itching for friends, make sure your warmest guest meets her early on and is up to be her go-to as the party carries on.

2. How many tables do you envision?

This is related to #1 but goes a little deeper into seating specifics. When you invite your guests to sit down for brunch, think about how it will feel for them to pick a seat. Do you want to set up multiple smaller tables, or one longer family style table? Will your guests know where to sit, who to sit next to, or would it ease their nerves to have assigned seating? Crafty place cards [link to DIY place cards] can seriously amp up a table display with little effort. If they want freedom, let ‘em fly.  

3. More mimosas or coffee, please?

The age old question. You know what sort of brunch you’re throwing. If you’re dying to ball out on champagne, be (your) guest. Just be sure to think about if your guests want to partake in that. If a gorgeous waffle stack and raspberry drizzle are more your speed, consider letting your brunch queen bee know that the champagne may not flow as much, but fun will be had without a doubt. Keep in mind that you don’t divide tables purely based on drinking or loud habits of guests. You don’t want the less boisterous table to feel outdone by the, well, champagne showers.

Who To Invite To A Dinner Party 

You’re doing it! You’re throwing a dinner party. You found the most festive decor and your bulbed light display is just…chef’s kiss. Now…who the heck to invite to this shindig? We get it. Compiling the right guest list of people who will jive over a dinner table setting may not be the simplest. But once you master it, it is oh so worth it and something you’ll come back to time and again. Here’s what we recommend keeping in mind as you scroll through your contacts and assemble the perfect guest list. 

1. Are you thinking plated, family style, or a buffet serving style?

Passing the garlic bread is a great way for guests to feel at home next to new friends. It’s helpful for your planning as well to think about table display. If you opt for family style route, you can go simpler on centerpieces, since your beautiful dishes will take the cake there (no need to serve cake…it’s a euphemism) (but we love cake). The buffet line can get a bit backed up, since guests will need to line up in shifts, but it does ease up the passing and waiting for dishes at the table. Overall, make a plan ahead of time if you want to make use of your countertop for a buffet, or invite guests to all sit down together and break (garlic) bread.

Ultimately, if you want a more formal, fancy, or ‘host to impress’ vibe (inviting your boss over? Props!) - opt for a plated dinner party style. If hosting a more casual group of friends, go for potluck, family, or buffet style. 

2. Inviting old friends or new friends, red friends or blue friends?

Dr. Seuss sure knew how to bring opposites together with his fish of all colors. The question is, do you want to meld groups for your dinner party? Or do you simply want to get your closest people together and give them a quality night to remember?

Think of the core guests you’d like to see there. Then pick a few from circles beyond - think work, your sports league, your bff’s boyfriend’s fun friends, church, your yoga studio, etc. You get it.

Think outside of the box and see what great people you’re surrounded with. Now, who do you want to surround your dinner table with? Key points to consider:

  • Do guests all know each other or is it a get-to-know-each-other event? If a get-to-know, think about the guests who are less likely to mingle. What other guest can you invite who will get them to unwind?
  • Ratio of singles to couples: Make sure the ones flying solo have a buddy. And most definitely make sure that if Savannah brings a guy (she always does), you’ve got another guy or two attending. 
  • Sitting style: one long dinner table or scattered around on couches, floor, pillows etc. If it’s not your standard dinner table, think about if any guests need special accommodations for sitting. 
  • Are you assigning seats? Not required, but it does add a fun ‘official’ party feel to your dinner. Plus, it saves guests from needing to think when they set down their plate. Check these adorable place cards [link out] if so!
  • Think about the type of guests coming
  • Quiet and boisterous person
3. How are you handling food sensitivities?

We live in an age where eating is not as simple as it once was. This doesn’t need to be a problem though! You’re prepared, you partytricker you, remember? First off, have options. Start your menu thinking of the guest with the most specific eating needs. What foods would knock this guest’s socks off… and everyone else’s too? Check out some of the yummiest vegan, dairy-free, gluten-free ideas out there. Once you have 1-2 dishes to wow the most exclusive pallet, you party on. 

  • Scrumptious appetizer
  • Salad or colorful veggie
  • Starch like potatoes, rice, or pasta
  • Protein
  • Dessert (duh!) 

Your dinner party is going to make all their mouths water, no question. If the guest list is getting to you, sit back on your couch with a glass of pinot, turn on The Bachelor (there’s no way your dinner party could ever surpass that drama) and think of who you’d like to spend time with. Then invite them. Dinner party, here you come.

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