When you get engaged, you're eager to start planning, however you really can't start the wedding planning process, until you know one key detail: The Guest List. Whether you want to go the approach of close friends and family, an A List or B List, adult-only reception, is up to you. Whatever organization method you want to use, stick to it!
You can't plan a wedding budget without having an estimated guest count, you can't look at possible venues without having an estimated guest count. A cake tasting is pointless, until you know how many mouths you are feeding, same goes for that caterer!
The first step you and your fiance, parents, or anyone who is helping pay for the wedding needs to do, is to compose a guest list. On average, plan on spending between $200-300 per guest for a wedding between $30,000-$45,000 (which is the average wedding cost in Northern Virginia).
Every guest that you add to the guest list means another mouth to feed, possibly another centerpieces because you may need to add another table, which means linens and china, a meal, cocktail hour appetizers, alcohol, another slice of cake, and so on and so forth. Once you realize the cost of a guest, it may help you decide if they are a must have, a like to have, or cut from the list (sorry Neighbor Joe!).
So before you start the tours, appointments, and tasting, really take some time to develop a guest list so you are more prepared in the planning process. Educating yourself on what it takes to develop a wedding budget from the start is much easier than trying to figure out why your 300 person guest count is not working for your $30,000 wedding budget.
Your guest list is the foundation to your wedding. Be sure to build a firm foundation of must have's rather than having a lot of maybe's. Comment below with any questions you may have on how to form your guest list or how to develop a budget using your guest list count.