The dreaded question that every couple has to ask themselves when planning their big day. How many people should I invite to my wedding? It can be the seed for many an argument and even has the potential to get some people banned from attending altogether.
We don’t think it needs to be this way. So how do you decide how many people to invite?
In this article we cover everything you need to know to ensure a stress free approach to planning your invite list. Are you planning an extra large wedding with a huge capacity? Or maybe a more intimate affair with your nearest and dearest? Whatever your plans we’ve got you covered.
So, before you can get to the fun stuff such as finding the perfect wedding dress or choosing your floral arrangements, let’s get this sorted.
What we’ll cover:
- The basics of wedding guest lists that all couples should know
- What style of wedding are you hosting?
- What venue have you chosen?
- Tough decisions but they’ve got to be made
Guest list basics
You’re probably tired of people constantly asking you, how many people are you inviting to your wedding? Venues want to know. Photographers want to know. Caterers want to know. Family and friends want to know.
The amount of people you invite to your wedding is important to figure out as it will determine a lot about how your day pans out.
More importantly than that, it will have a dramatic impact on your budget and therefore every other planning detail surrounding your big day.
What’s the budget for your wedding?
Guests are one of, if not the biggest expense for your wedding day and inevitably the more people you invite to your wedding the pricier it is going to be.
The Knot revealed in their Real Wedding Study that the average amount spent catering for a single guest was $75. Say you invite 150 guests, that’s $11,250 just on catering alone. Hitched put this figure at £65 for U.K. weddings in their survey of 2000 couples so not too dissimilar coming in at £9,750 for 150 guests. It shows that no matter where you are getting married in the world, budget should be a huge consideration.
This is why your guest list is one of the first things you and your partner should try and complete. You can’t just pluck a number out of thin air and be done with. It needs to be carefully considered.
There will be lots of people who will want input and might have strong views on who they think you should invite. Parents for example, who might be contributing financially towards your big day. This can put you and your partner in a tricky situation trying to appease everyone.
Equally you need to consider each of your guests’ circumstances when inviting them. Do they have partners that you’ve never met? Dietary requirements? Children? How generous are they going to be with your wedding gift..nah only joking!
All these things can increase the guest list and at the same time eat into your budget.
So what is the average guest count?
In recent years it’s been difficult to pin down that average figure as guest counts have been restricted due to COVID.
Luckily The Knot have been keeping track with their annual Real Weddings Study so we can see what it’s trending towards. To summarize, their data shows that in 2021 the average wedding size was 105 guests which is a huge increase from 2020 (mid pandemic) of just 66 guests. Average guest lists for 2019 were 131 which shows couples are getting back to relative normality when thinking about who to invite to their wedding.
It’s still quite a way off the heights of 2019 (pre pandemic) but it seems couples are more confident now that their wedding will go ahead on their chosen date.
Various factors will be at play so you should take those averages with a pinch of salt. As previously mentioned, the budget will have a great influence. Equally the style of wedding and where in the country you get married.
100 guests is a good starting point for most couples and will help inform your budget in a sensible way.
What percentage of guests attend a wedding?
Sorry to tell you, but not everyone you invite to your wedding will attend. That is just a fact.
RSVPIFY have crunched the numbers on this and found that the acceptance rate is around 83%. With the decline rate or simply not returning the rsvp at 17%. So if you invite 150 people you can expect 125 on your big day with the remaining 25 missing out on your nuptial.
We’d never recommend inviting 17% more people than you can actually accommodate though. You don’t want to have that awkward conversation with Auntie Darcy because you can no longer fit her into your plans.
However, going 5 -10% over should account for people not attending to get you closer to the actual figure of guests you want at your wedding.
Considerations when creating your guest list
So now that you’ve thought about your budget, the average guest count and how many people are likely to attend. What next?
Well here are a couple of things to also consider to help you decide who makes the cut. It’s also advice to help you avoid potentially awkward situations.
V.I.P. list and having back up guests
It’s inevitable that some people will have to miss out on your nuptials. However, the way you go about this will determine how much offense if any is taken by your friends or relatives.
You should think about first of all creating a V.I.P list. The people who make this list are those who you simply couldn’t imagine getting married without. Think parents, your best friends, close family who you see regularly. This should provide you with the bulk of your list.
After you’ve drawn up your must have people it’s time for, how do we put this, the not so important people. These should be people who you’d obviously love to have there sharing in your happiness but who don’t quite make the V.I.P list.
Guard this list with your life and keep it in a locked safe. You don’t want Mark from accounting knowing he was a backup plan!
The B list can be quite large. That way if less than the average of 83% intend on attending your big day you can always call upon these people. Make sure you don’t leave it too late though so that it becomes obvious that they were the second choice.
Do I have to invite someone to my wedding who invited me?
Remember that wedding you were invited to 5 years ago between Leanne and Dale? Well Leanne invited you because you were super close at the time, Dale wasn’t really fussed about having you there. And neither of them had even met your partner at the time.
So do Leanne and Dale get an invite to your wedding now? It does feel out of hand not to return the gesture but you should ask yourself a few questions before sending their invite.
- Are you as close as you were back then?
- Have you seen each other since the wedding?
- Are they aware you’re even engaged? Think comments on your Instagram engagement post? A congratulatory text or phone call etc
I think you can see where this is heading. If the answer to some of those questions is NO you don’t need to invite Leanne and Dale.
If however one of you sees them regularly or you have an occasional catch up the etiquette is definitely to invite them back.
Even if they decline you’ve demonstrated you care about them and would love them at your celebration.
Dont assume a person’s response to an invite
Never assume, it makes an ass out of u and me… Sorry. It’s easy to listen to that devil on your shoulder saying “they won’t want to come to my wedding” or your parents getting in your ear “they won’t show up, they’ll be sunning themselves in the Maldives at that time of the year”.
However, in post pandemic times that simply might not be the case. Everyone is looking for a good party to attend. Equally after some tough times there’s nothing more joyous than a wedding celebration with family.
So we say never assume their response. That’s what your B list is for anyway.
Where will you be in 5 years? Do you plan on keeping in touch?
Sounds like a job interview question doesn’t it?! But it’s well worth considering when you’re planning your guest invites.
We advise you to construct your list and apply this question to every invitee. If the answer is no you won’t be in touch in 5 years time it might be an idea to cut them from the list.
People who fall into this category are typically work colleagues or friends of a friend.
The only time it becomes a tricky one to answer is if a third party other than you and your partner are inviting guests.
Say for example your parents want to invite their friend Taylor who they know from the golf club. Well if they’re contributing financially towards the wedding it’s only fair that they are allowed to invite some of their own guests. You may never have met Taylor so you’re very unlikely to be in touch with them in 5 years time.
This can be a delicate subject to navigate. With that famous saying “if you pay you have a say” you need to be careful to not come across as disrespectful to your parents.
Our advice is to give each set of parents a certain number of people they can invite. They want to share in your joy and show off how proud they are of you to as many people as they can.
This sets a clear boundary whilst also avoiding your parents bringing say 20 people and your partners only bringing 10.
Workmates or lifelong friends?
We spend most of our days with the people we work with so it’s understandable that you’ll probably want to invite some of your colleagues.
How you decide who to invite and who to exclude will largely depend on how close you are.
However, it could also be seen as inappropriate if you work in a small team to leave just one person out from your invites.
If you work on a large team of say 20 people it’s much more understandable that you won’t be able to invite everyone. It’s also unlikely that you’d be close enough to that many people anyway.
You should really make a judgment call on how close you are to these people. Do you see them regularly outside of work? If not, maybe leave them off the list.
The same can be said for bosses and superiors. If you don’t socialize with them at any other point we don’t think you need to invite them to your wedding.
Equally, if your work colleagues have never met your fiancee that could also be a sign that they shouldn’t make your guest list.
Children attending weddings, controversies and wedding vibe
Whether or not you allow children at your wedding can be a contentious subject but is definitely one that needs consideration.
Children can drastically affect the vibe of your day. Whilst some may be perfectly well behaved others may throw tantrums or get bored with the long day of a wedding.
You should aim to let your guests know your intentions early on and in their invite. A good rule if you don’t want young children in attendance is to set an age limit. For example, you could keep anyone under the age of 16 off your list.
Alternatively you could say children are allowed to attend the wedding service but not the late night party.
Obviously all these options create a whole host of problems for your adult guests. They may need to find child care for their children or may not be able to attend at all if that’s not possible.
However, it’s your day and if you want an adult only, sophisticated vibe then that’s your prerogative. A child free wedding can be much quieter and makes interactions with adult guests much easier.
On the other hand, inviting lots of children can make a wedding a lot more fun. It also gives you and your partner a chance to feel young again with the addition of a bounce house or fun family games to play during the reception.
Keep your response to any negative feedback on your decision upbeat and don’t waiver from whatever you decide.
You may have to explain to some of your guests who try and bring along their 13 year old son who’s very mature. Tell them that it would simply be unfair on other guests with children that you’ve had to turn down.
Should cousins be invited to a wedding?
Weddings are a great time for families to get together. Whether you meet up regularly or you haven’t seen each other since their christening, blood relatives should generally get an automatic invitation.
Again it depends on the overall vibe of the wedding you’re going for. If you’re having a small intimate wedding it won’t be appropriate to invite your cousin Arnold who you’ve only ever seen once.
However, if it’s a larger wedding with a family reunion type vibe, cousin Arnold will be the perfect addition.
When should you send out your saves the dates to ensure everyone can attend your wedding
One of the easiest answers in this article, the sooner the better.
As soon as you’ve confirmed your venue and the wedding date is set in stone, get those invites out.
Lots of people book their vacations well in advance. Those with children are also especially likely to plan to go away during the school holidays.
These need to be considerations you make when planning your wedding date. Equally, if you can get your invitations out a year to six months before the big day you’ll greatly increase your chance of a positive response.
If you’re planning a destination wedding it’s particularly important to get those invites out sharpish. This way your guests can even plan their vacations around your wedding so that it’s a win win for everyone.
What style of wedding are you envisaging?
Weddings come in all shapes and sizes. From small intimate elopements to lavish traditional 3 day extravaganzas.
Whilst budget will generally determine wedding size for lots of couples, for others cultural traditions will play a massive role. An Indian wedding for example could easily end up accommodating 400-500 guests.
See below for a rough guide to see which category best describes your wedding plans:
Extra small or Elopement 0-10 guests.
Maybe you’ve already had a legal wedding in the registry office and this is an opportunity to capture some gorgeous photos on a mountain top. It could just be you and your partner and a wedding photographer.
Or it could be just the two of you surrounded by your super close nearest and dearest. Whether that’s family members or simply your best friends.
Related Article: How to throw an amazing Elopement party
Small family and friends, 10-20 guests
A step up from an elopement with a legal wedding at a stunningly intimate venue.
This size keeps the budget super in check whilst you also get the chance to celebrate with those who matter the most to you. Think of your immediate family and very close friends.
Medium, 20-80 guests
Allows you to invite a fairly large amount of extended family and friends. You’re getting close to the average number of people that most invite to their wedding. More than enough people to have a really good party and catch up with distant relatives.
Large, 80-200 guests
Within these two numbers you get the typical pre pandemic 130 average guests. It’s a lot of people and will guarantee a party atmosphere. You’ll need to consider your budget very wisely with this amount of people.
If your parents are contributing financially it gives you an opportunity to allow them to invite some of their friends to share in the joyous occasion.
Extra large 200-500 guests
Weddings of this size are usually traditional, religious or reserved for celebrity couples.
You’ll lose the intimacy of a smaller or average size wedding and might not know many of your guests.
However, for this type of wedding your day will also be about the community to which you belong. It will give your guests the chance to mingle with each other, meet new people and at the same time share in your happiness.
What is the venue like?
Your choice of wedding venue could be an easy way to determine how many people you should invite to your wedding.
Is it going to be that stunning venue you’ve had your eye on for years but it only holds 80 guests? Or are you going to sacrifice your dream venue in favor of more people?
Almost all wedding venues will have minimum and maximum guest size that they are willing to accommodate. To put it bluntly this is to make sure your wedding is worth their while financially. Equally it will also be to do with health and safety such as fire regulations etc.
This venue imposed limit can be a good excuse for not inviting loads of people.
If you choose a venue that specifically can only accommodate 30 for example it’s easily explainable to your extended friends that didn’t quite make the list. “Sorry we would have loved to have you attend but we were limited by the number the venue could accommodate”.
Tough decisions have to be made
Ultimately the question: how many people should I invite to my wedding? will vary from couple to couple.
Tough calls will have to be made from you and your partner that keeps you both happy.
We think there are 3 major considerations that can help you to find the number you are most happy with and hopefully limit arguments.
- Budget (average guest will cost you $75 USA or £65 U.K.)
- Venue (capacity minimum and maximum)
- Style and atmosphere (the overall vibe of wedding you intend to hold)
Ultimately you shouldn’t get too hung up on the number of people you invite to your wedding.
The main thing is that you have a great time and invite people who you know will make that possible.
You and your partner should collaborate on all decisions regarding your guest list.
Equally be open to suggestions particularly from parents if they’re contributing financially. However, you should make clear that the final decision is yours as a couple.
You need to stay resolute and confident that you’ve invited everyone that is important to you.
So what are you waiting for? Start putting pen to paper and start creating your dream invite list today!