back to All Things Wedding

How Many People Should I Invite to My Wedding?

by Clean Origin
Last updated on October 9, 2023

Putting together your wedding guest list can be more challenging than landing your soul mate. While finding love takes time, it ultimately boils down to two individuals committing to share their entire lives together. However, the question is, how many people should I invite to my wedding? 

Everyone from the groom’s parents and the bride’s parents to your wedding planner and wedding stylist appears to have an opinion on your final guest list. Before placing names on a seating chart, you must first determine how many guests to invite to your wedding day. Here’s how to develop that one magical number that will guide you through dozens of tough decisions.

Decide on the Best Vibe

There is a big difference between a small gathering of 20 or so people and a big party with 300+ people. A smaller wedding ceremony is more intimate and allows you to spend more time with those closest to your heart. However, a large wedding party feels incredibly celebratory, and you can invite individuals from all walks of life. Your immediate family, extended family, childhood friends, first cousins, brothers and sisters, second cousins, co-workers, and even out-of-town guests, if she so desires, can be in attendance. However, you won’t be able to communicate with them all or even realize that they’re all present.

There’s really nothing wrong with requiring two witnesses. With an officiant, you and your future spouse will say your vows without any other guests at the wedding venue. It’s also totally acceptable to have a thousand wedding guests. It’s really a question of personal preference, but knowing how many guests will be comfortable is a critical element of planning your wedding day.

Always Have Your Wedding Budget in Mind

In 2020, the average wedding budget in the United States was $19,000, compared to $28,000 in 2019. (a drop likely related to COVID-era restrictions). It would be best to determine your wedding by what you can afford comfortably. It should also consider what allows you to include all the elements essential to you and your partner. Thus it would help to evaluate your guest count when planning your wedding.

Consider how you want to allocate those dollars once you’ve agreed on a budget. Let’s imagine you’ve set a budget of $5,000 for your ceremony. According to experts, food and drink should contribute to roughly 40% of your expenditure, so $2,000 for drinks and catering. In the United States, the average cost per person for wedding catering is $27 for a buffet and $40 for a plated meal.

If you provide a buffet, your $2,000 catering budget can accommodate roughly 74 attendees; if you choose a sit-down lunch, then the number of your guest list should be about 50 guests. When you’re a foodie who knows you want a three-course dinner given to your guests invited to your wedding at their tables, you’ll be happy to learn that your guest list is limited to 50.

Other budget factors are also related to the number of guests. More guests need a larger venue, extra printed invites, and other stationery, such as wedding programs and menu cards, and more rentals, such as chairs, tables, and linens.

Is It More Important to Have a Venue or a Guest List?

Some people would like to invite quite as many loved ones as possible to make a big wedding. However, some have their minds set on a particular venue, thus limiting their invite list for the big day. Frequently, one preference must take priority over the other. Most venues have a limit on the number of people they can host. A hotel ballroom, for example, maybe intended to hold hundreds of guests, yet the refurbished barn you found online is a total fantasy but only seats 75 people for a sit-down meal.

If the capacity of the venue is essential to you, it may limit the number of guests you can invite.

Kids and Plus-One Invite

When working on your wedding invitations, keep in mind that it’s not always only the people who are invited but also the ones who would like to be invited. It can be a significant other, and other times it’s a slew of kids. The wedding planning process mandates that you set the bar high in advance and hold all attendees to the same level.

If you plan to have a grown-up’s wedding reception, your invitation should state so. It’s allowed to say something like, “Please note that this will be an adults-only event.” It’s the same with plus ones. Traditionally, you should extend an obligatory plus one (the initial invitee plus one visitor) to:

  • Those who are married
  • Engaged couples, couples who live together, and couples who have been dating for a long time (more than a year)
  • Those that will be a part of your wedding party

VIP guests list who don’t usually know each other, such as your college roommate or work supervisor.

Keep in mind to include all possible extra guests in your wedding invite total number. Plus-ones are invited guests and have a place at your ceremony and/or reception until you discover the contrary via a lower RSVP number. Suppose you go over budget because of plus-ones. In that case, the proper etiquette is to reduce the preliminary list of invitees rather than eliminating plus ones and forcing them to attend independently.

Accounting For Those Who Did Not Show Up

Invitations to royal weddings often go ignored or are met with a courteous “thank you, but no thanks.” Therefore, the guest lists will only comprise the future in-laws, close friends, close family members, parents, friends, and co-workers. Unavoidable disagreements will arise among some of the guests. Others will announce their attendance but then cancel at the last minute due to illness, transportation issues, or heat stroke in the resort pool (hey, it happens!). The question is how much you should account for RSVP cancellations in your total invite count or send out a second wave of invitations to make up the difference after the initial RSVP deadline has passed.

Wedding experts advise only inviting as many people as your budget allows. You should send out 150 invitations if you’ve budgeted for 150 guests. If some of those potential guests cancel, feel free to send out additional invites to “second-tier” attendees, and only up to the basic 150-person limit. And be prepared for resentment; second-string attendees may find out they didn’t make the original cut via other guests or the late invitation date. It’s up to you to decide how much tension it will elicit or if the risk is worthwhile.

What Percentage of the Wedding Guest List Actually Attend?

Once you have answered the how many people should I invite to my wedding question, you still have another question to deal with. What percentage would you expect from your wedding guest list?

A guest count is used to order food and set your wedding reception venue and event programs. So, how would you come up with that magical figure? Requesting RSVPs from your guests will assist, but some will fail to respond to postcards or respond promptly. As a good rule, expect 80 to 85 percent of your invited guests to say “yes” to the wedding invitations. For a destination wedding, this figure varies greatly.

What Is the Average Number of Guests Invited to a Wedding Party?

Is it just you, or does everyone’s potential mother-in-law invite her entire office to your wedding? Most weddings have less than 200 guests. This is according to the American Wedding Study. The study states that the average number of invited guests attending a wedding is 167.