How Many People Should I Invite To My Wedding?
Last updated 01/24/2023 byJonathan Defosses
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When planning out your wedding day, one of the most important things to consider is your guest list. The size of the guest list will likely impact almost every other detail of the wedding planning process. Of course, it’s not as easy as picking some random number and making it work. The reality is that guests cost money to be in attendance, and venues can only hold a certain amount of people.
If you dread the thought of ironing out how many will make the final invite list to your wedding, don’t worry. This article has compiled some valuable tips that can help you determine how many people you should invite to your wedding.
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Making the guest list
For some couples, this is one of the easier aspects of the wedding planning process. They plan to have a small wedding and view it as an intimate affair. They may plan to have a destination wedding, backyard wedding, or purely an intimate gathering and don’t want more than a few family members and friends in attendance. For other couples, finalizing the wedding guest list is the most complicated aspect of the wedding process.
If you are in the latter category, start by making your dream wedding guest list together with your fiancé(e). Once you write down everyone that you would love to be in attendance, sort through who must be in attendance. Then make two guest lists, an A-list, and a B-list. The A-list is for those that must be in attendance. The B-list is for other guests who you would like to attend, but do not absolutely need to be invited.
How many people should you invite to your wedding?
The short answer is “as many of the people you truly care about as you can realistically (and responsibly) afford. Before you go and send all your potential guests a wedding invite, there are a few factors to consider. The reality is that how much money you have available for the wedding day will directly impact the number of guests you can afford to invite.
Once you have an overall wedding budget, you will be in a better position to determine how many people you can afford to have at your wedding.
Average wedding cost
According to one report that surveyed 1,872,800 weddings, the average wedding costs about $27,063. Considering the average guest count is around 124 people, this means the average cost per person at a wedding is about $218 per guest.
That being said, there are certain cost factors that may not change whether you have 500 guests or 15 guests. The average wedding cost mentioned above includes expenditures such as the wedding dress, photographer, videographer, wedding planner, transportation to the reception, hairstylist, and makeup artist. With this in mind, make sure this isn’t the only calculation you depend on for your per-guest budget.
IMPORTANT! Keep in mind how greatly these numbers can fluctuate, both through inflation and due to natural events you can’t control. For instance, during the pandemic, these estimations were drastically different.
Costs that relate directly to the total guest count
Out of the total costs related to weddings, the most costly expenses on average are directly related to your invited guests. Between the venue, rentals, and catering — items that can vary in price depending on the wedding size — the average cost comes down to about $13,000. When you divide that number by the average guest count (124), that comes out to around $105 per person.
Here are some suggestions on ways to reduce your per-guest cost of the venue and catering:
- The venue. One of the most expensive aspects of a wedding is the reception venue. According to data used from the report above, on average people spent around $5,000 dollars on the venue alone. That figure doesn’t include rentals for the venue hall, which adds another $1,600. One way to reduce this expense is to find a venue that offers a packaged rental deal that includes the chairs, tables, and linens.
- Catering. The most expensive part of a wedding (on average) is the food and drink, which comes to around $6,200 for catering and bar service. For 124 people, this means you’ll spend an average of $50 per person. More extravagant food and an open bar will add to this cost. If you serve alcohol, one easy way to reduce the cost is to go with a cash bar instead of an open bar. According to the average, this could reduce your per-guest cost of food and drink down to about $33 per person.
Budgeting the cost per guest
Based on those figures, let’s say you want a large wedding with 250 people invited. You could end up spending upwards of $40,000 to fit that large of a guest list. As mentioned, there are ways to reduce the overall costs to have a larger guest list and still stick to your wedding budget. But keep in mind that you’ll have less flexibility in terms of your wedding ceremony, venue, catering, rental equipment, and personal wedding expenditures.
The bottom line is that a big wedding usually requires a big wedding budget. Some large weddings can take much more than a year to pay off the expenses. So take the time to plan and budget well so you can realistically stick within your means. If you’re determined to have a big guest list and need some financing help, you may want to take a look at some personal loans.
Depending on your financial situation, it may be best to save up for your dream wedding instead of getting a personal loan. One of the best ways to do this is through a wedding savings account. You can even earn a little extra on your savings through a high-yield savings account, such as those below.
Questions to consider when making your wedding guest list
After you’ve considered your overall wedding budget, there are some other questions to discuss with your future spouse that may help you finalize how many to include in your wedding guest list. The following questions can help you determine how many guests to invite to your wedding.
Will you be in contact with this person in five years?
As you look at each guest on your invite list, ask yourself: Who are they, and why would you like them in attendance? Are these family members or “close friends” you’ll still be in contact with five years from now? Are there childhood friends on the list who you haven’t talked to in years or extended family that you’ve never met?
If you have wedding guests like this on your A-list, you may be able to move them to the B-list, or you could even remove them altogether.
Some people feel very strongly that, “If you pay, you get a say.” So if your parents are paying for a portion of the bill, this may apply to your parents’ friends. If your parents are not contributing financially and demand that you invite more people than you can afford, have an honest conversation with them and politely explain your budget. They may decide to contribute to the wedding to help pay for the additional guests.
Do you plan to invite children?
When planning an adults-only wedding, you’ll need to determine early on what age you would like to make the cut-off point. You’ll also have to decide whether you’ll make any exceptions for an immediate family member.
Here are some questions to consider before finalizing adult-only wedding plans:
- Do you plan to keep the age limit to 18 and over, or will you need to keep it to 21 and over?
- Do you plan to have a flower girl in the wedding party?
- Will some guests be offended if they won’t be able to attend the wedding with their toddlers or infants?
Do you already have a wedding venue in mind?
If you have your heart set on your dream venue, you’ll be limited to how many people can fit in the space. But remember that most venues book far in advance, even up to several years out. If you’re basing your guest count on how many can fit at a specific wedding venue, make sure the venue will be available when you want it.
Who really needs to be there?
Maybe you’ve considered all the questions so far, but your A-list still has somewhere around 300 names on it and you can only afford to invite 100 guests. Though you may feel bad taking names off the list, you and your partner must consider which of your invitees absolutely need to be at your wedding. Try to focus on people who are relevant to your life now and who you expect to be close to for years to come.
Remember that guests can still attend a wedding virtually. If you’re having trouble cutting down your list, consider asking some guests to attend through a live video feed. This can help you save money and still invite everyone you want.
Finalizing the guest list and sending out invitations
So you’ve set a budget, determined how many people you can reasonably invite, and finalized your guest list. Now it’s time to consider wedding invitations. Let’s say the venue you’re planning on renting can hold exactly 130 people. How many invitations should you send out?
You may consider sending approximately 5% to 10% more wedding invitations than your target number. Why is that? Although statistics vary, on average somewhere between 10% to 20% of invited guests will decline. While you shouldn’t count on this number to be exact, don’t expect every invitee to accept. So make sure you take this into consideration both when purchasing and sending out invitations.
How many days before a wedding should invitations go out?
Although there’s no hard fast rule, save-the-date cards can be sent out as early as a year in advance of your wedding date (if you’re planning that far ahead). Then, the official invitations can be sent out somewhere from six to eight weeks before the wedding.
If you’re planning a destination wedding though, that changes things. People need extra time to plan for a destination wedding. If possible, you should try to send out official invitations for destination weddings at least three months in advance.
What is proper etiquette for inviting guests to a wedding?
Wedding etiquette comes in various forms. For some, it’s customary for the father of the bride to pay for the wedding. In this case, traditionally, the father’s name would be included on the invitation. It would say that he’s the one inviting all guests. In other cultures, it’s common that the groom and his family pay for the wedding, and that they are the ones inviting all the guests.
Not every family follows these customs now in days. Discuss with your partner, as well as all parents involved how the invitations should look. Then decide on a mutually acceptable arrangement to send out invitations.
- According to some estimates, the average number of guests in attendance at a U.S. wedding is around 124.
- It’s best to only invite as many guests as you can afford according to your wedding budget.
- Although figures vary, each guest can cost anywhere between $80 to over $250. This depends greatly on the food served and whether you offer an open or cash bar.
- It’s common for around 10% to 20% of invited guests to RSVP no. Make sure to keep this in mind when printing and sending invitations if you wish to meet a target number of guests.
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