Narrowing the guest list is no one’s favorite part of wedding planning, but this expert advice can help take the stress out of your decision. Part of what makes your wedding day so special is knowing that all your family and closest friends will be there to celebrate and share the big day with you. But sometimes defining “closest” can be tough. At some point, every couple has to wonder, “How many people should I invite to my wedding?”
5 Tips For Nailing Down Your Guest List
Between budget concerns and etiquette, narrowing the guest list can be an exercise in frustration. Do you have to invite your groom-to-be’s boss? And does that mean that you also have to invite all his co-workers? Do your second cousins twice removed count as extended family?
Figuring out “How many people should I invite to my wedding” is a dilemma that almost every bride faces,” says Kiran Enns, director of operations for Bloom Acres, a wedding venue in Ontario, Canada. As a professional who has worked with many couples in planning their weddings, here are a few things she urges people to consider when determining their guest list.
Here are some things to consider:
1. How do you want to spend your big day?
Before you can address the question, “How many people should I invite to my wedding?”, it is important to consider how you want your big day to go. Initially, you may be excited to plan the biggest celebration your budget can handle (and who could blame you?) If you really think about it, though, having fewer guests means being able to spend more time with each of them. Your wedding day goes by fast, and brides don’t always consider the amount of time spent talking to guests — and that means all of them. The more guests you have, the more talking you’ll probably be doing, which means the less time you’ll have to spend soaking in your day and enjoying moments with your new spouse. A smaller guest list means more meaningful time to spend with everyone.
On the flip side, if you have a large extended family you are close to, it’s understandable that you would want them all to be there on your wedding day, and maybe having individual time with each of them isn’t as much of a priority on the big day. Or maybe you imagine your wedding day as an epic party, so the more the merrier. It really all depends on your vision for your day: small and intimate, or big and busy!
2. Is there anyone you don’t want to invite?
Limiting the overall size of the wedding doesn’t single anyone out for exclusion from your guest list. So it makes for an easy excuse when you have to break the news to your parents’ friends that they aren’t invited. “So sorry but we’re only inviting our immediate family and closest friends.”
3. What is your budget?
Budget is, of course, one of the major factors to take into account when you ask yourself, “How many people should I invite to my wedding?” The average cost of a U.S. wedding in 2021 was $28,000, according to a survey of 15,000 Americans conducted by The Knot Research and Insights Team (2022), and the average guest list was 105 people. That works out to more than $250 a head.
Obviously, your budget goes a lot farther when you’re planning a wedding with only 100 guests versus one with 200. Similarly, if your wedding budget is closer to $10,000, inviting fewer guests can be one way to save money.
When calculating your budget, keep in mind that experts estimate that between 15 and 30 percent of wedding invitees will send their regrets. So if you invite 100 people, only around 70 to 85 may actually attend.
4. Do you have a venue in mind?
Sometimes, couples don’t realize that the number of people they invite to their wedding may depend on where it is held. Many inclusive venues will require you to have a minimum guest count of over 100 or more people. You’ll usually find your per person price ends up around $150-200 USD, depending on the venue.
On the other end of the size spectrum, a growing number of “micro wedding” venues have been popping up. These tend to have limited capacity — some may only hold around 50 people — but offer a more couture setting. Micro weddings, which are defined as those that have anywhere from 20 to 50 guests, are a great idea if you still have a hefty budget and want something very fancy in an intimate setting. For $28,000 USD you could have a pretty extravagant wedding with 50 or fewer guests.
5. Do you want a relaxed vibe or something more formal?
Micro weddings tend to be much more relaxed compared to larger weddings. The more guests you have, the larger the event, and the stricter the schedule — otherwise you’re risking a chaotic day! Often, this means hiring a wedding planner or coordinator. With fewer wedding guests, you’re likely to have a more intimate celebration.
Some brides opt for a simple ceremony and light cocktail reception, then take the party to a different place, like their own backyard, for a bit of a dance party and some drinks. “The brides who have had micro weddings with us have no regrets,” says Enns. “They often say their wedding day was less stressful than they imagined and they spent quality time with the people they love while sticking to their budget.” It’s hard to imagine wanting more from your wedding day than that.
- The Knot 2021 Real Weddings Study. The Knot Research and Insights Team, 2022 (https://www.theknot.com/content/wedding-data-insights/real-weddings-study)