Planning a wedding can be a lot of fun, but it’s also a lot of work. And one of the hardest tasks is deciding how many people you should invite to your special day. When your guest list is too short, it may not feel like much of a celebration, too big and it can blow your budget.
So, how many people should you invite to your wedding? Is there such a thing as a perfect number?
The truth of the matter is, that perfect number will vary from couple to couple based on a few key factors. To make sure you enjoy your big day to the fullest, keep these tips for crafting the perfect size guest list in mind.
The Top 3 Things to Consider When Planning Your Guest List
When you sit down with your spouse-to-be to put together a guest list, there should be three key things on your mind: budget, venue and your own personal vision for your wedding day. More than anything else, these elements should shape the size of your list.
Let’s take a closer look at how each one should play a role in your decision making.
Your venue, more than anything else, will determine how many guests you can invite to your wedding. That’s why, other than putting a budget in place, we recommend looking for and choosing a venue before beginning any other task on your wedding planning list.
The venue is the most important part of any event, especially a wedding. Not only does it set the tone for your entire day, it affects how you plan your event. If you have your heart set on a specific location, it’s important that it matches up with the number of guests you wish to invite. If it doesn’t, you have two choices: find a different venue or modify your guest list.
If you are planning a large wedding, then choosing a venue that can handle a lot of people will be key. If you prefer a more intimate celebration, then you won’t need as much space, but you’ll still need to keep the venue’s minimum guest requirement in mind. Most venues will require you to pay by the person and will set a minimum to ensure they are making a profit on your event.
Whichever route you choose, be sure to remember your venue’s minimum requirement and maximum capacity number when working on your guest list.
While the average couple spent roughly $11,000 for a wedding venue in 2022 (and about $30,000 for the entire wedding), that doesn’t mean you have to follow suit. Your budget, and the amount you ultimately spend, should be a true reflection of what you can realistically afford.
Let’s face it, the amount you can afford to spend on the venue and catering will play a huge role in how many people you can invite.
Can you afford to host the minimum number of people your venue requires? Will inviting the maximum number your venue allows stretch your budget too far? It’s important to take these considerations into account as you and your partner decide on a venue and craft your guest list.
If, for instance, your venue charges $50 per person for a sitdown dinner and $20 per person for hors d’oeuvres during cocktail hour, your food costs would be $70 without even considering alcohol or your wedding cake. Add those on, and you’re likely looking at around $100 or more per person.
Once you have your per person cost worked out, multiply that by your ideal number of guests. If your total is within your budget, then your guest list is fine. If not, you’ll need to pare it down to a number you can afford.
3. Your preferences
While money can be the determining factor of the size of your guest list, your personal preferences and wishes are important too. While being on a tight budget may mean you can’t have a 150-person guest list, there may be ways to cut costs in other areas of your wedding so you can afford to invite more people.
Some ways to save on reception costs are opting for a buffet-style dinner instead of a plated dinner and avoiding expensive hors d’oeuvres such as shrimp and lobster during cocktail hour. Having a cash bar and forgoing a champagne toast are other great ways to cut costs.
If, however, your dream wedding is a smaller, more intimate affair, be sure to choose a venue that has a lower minimum so you aren’t forking over extra money per person invited.
How Many People Should You Invite to Your Wedding Based on Ceremony Style?
There is no one magic number when it comes to your wedding guest list. Your wedding will be memorable whether you have 150 guests or only 45 as long as the people you love are in attendance.
No matter what type of wedding you opt for, it’s important that you and your partner follow the golden rule of wedding planning: never invite more guests than you can afford. Going over budget and into debt is not a good way to start your married life together.
To help you determine what style of nuptials is good for your budget and will make you and your partner happy, let’s take a look at your wedding options.
If having a traditional wedding isn’t important to you, an elopement might be just the ticket. Not only does it eliminate a ton of planning, but you can take the money you would have spent on a wedding and put it toward an amazing honeymoon or a downpayment on a house.
When it comes to guests, other than an officiant and possibly a witness to sign your marriage license, you and your future spouse can go it alone if that is your preference or you can invite your parents and/or siblings.
While most people think eloping means saying “I do” in a government office, it doesn’t have to be. You can hire a private officiant to marry you on the beach, at your parent’s house or in a park. The choice is yours. Hiring your own officiant also means you can customize the ceremony to your liking.
A micro wedding is the perfect compromise between eloping and a traditional ceremony and reception. It allows you to invite all of your loved ones without having the stress of planning a big bash.
While a micro-wedding is more intimate and relaxed, it can still include all of the time-honored wedding traditions that you’d have to give up if you were eloping. You can have a traditional ceremony, followed by a dinner reception and dancing with your nearest and dearest if that is your wish or you can plan a less traditional celebration such as a backyard barbecue.
A small wedding can still give you that party vibe but it is definitely more affordable than a traditional wedding. At this size, you can likely invite extended family and all of your friends too.
While a wedding of this size does still require a lot of planning, it’s easier to host. Not only will you and your spouse have the time to talk to all of your guests, you’ll have plenty of time to dance and enjoy yourselves too.
For many people, this size of wedding hits the sweet spot. You can invite all of your family and friends and still have room for some extras like your mom’s best friend or your dad’s business partner.
And while up to 100 people can be pricey if you’re trying to keep costs down, incorporating some of the measures we suggested above such as having a cash bar can make it much more affordable.
With the average wedding in the U.S. having a 100-150 guest range and costing roughly $33,000, hosting a traditional wedding means you will need a fairly healthy budget.
Money aside, opting for a traditional wedding also means you will have tons of room on your guest list for family, friends, co-workers and friends of your parents. You’ll also have a good party vibe going at your reception with lots of people mingling and hitting the dance floor.
If you like things to be a bit extra, then a large wedding is right up your alley. With a wedding of this size, you can no doubt invite everyone on your list and then some; everyone from second cousins, to old school friends, to your favorite teacher.
This type of wedding is only possible with an extremely healthy budget, however. Whether you and your fiance have the money to bank roll it yourselves or you’re getting some help from your parents, you’ll need a budget of at least $50,000 to do it in style.
A gala wedding isn’t just a little bit extra, it’s a whole lot. If you like over-the-top celebrations with tons of people and a huge party vibe, a gala affair is definitely for you. Not only would you need a wedding planner for this level of wedding, you’d need an immense budget.
If this size of wedding is within your financial grasp, it’s the perfect opportunity to not only celebrate in style with friends and family, but to invite co-workers, business contacts, neighbors and anyone else you can think of.
Wedding Invitation FAQs
If you’re still undecided about how many people to invite or on how to plan for the guests who do RSVP, we can help. We’ve answered some of the most commonly asked questions to help you simplify the process.
What is the average size of a wedding?
Now that COVID is no longer dictating our social calendars, small weddings have become less common. An article by Forbes indicates that pre-pandemic guest lists sat at 131 on average. While that number dipped dramatically during the pandemic, guest lists have rebounded to come in at an average of 129 in 2022.
What is a decent wedding budget?
When planning your wedding, you should budget a minimum of $100 per guest. That price could go up or down depending on the food being served and if you are providing any alcohol.
If, for instance, you are hosting a wedding with a simple cocktail hour, a buffet dinner and a cash bar, $100 per person should be more than adequate. If, however, you’re serving fancy hors d’oeuvres and signature cocktails, an elaborate sit-down meal and an open bar, $150-$200 would be needed to cover the cost.
As a rule of thumb, the average cost of catering a 100-person wedding in the U.S. ranges between $8,500 to $10,000.