When it comes to wedding planning, there are certain tasks that are just more fun than others. Cake tasting? Fun. Choosing a gorgeous venue? So much fun. But figuring out how many people to invite? This can be a struggle. Whether your natural instinct is to invite everyone you’ve ever met, to make it an intimate event, or just something in between, it’s definitely not an easy task. Often, parents and in-laws will have opinions, too, which can complicate the process.
There are a variety of factors that come into play to help guide you in the right direction, though, and we spoke to two wedding industry experts who share tips about how to navigate this part of the process. To help you figure out what your final guest count should be, we break down a few things to think about when it comes to creating your list.
Meet the Expert
Things to Consider
If you need help figuring out where to even begin, consider the following factors when deciding on a number.
Think About Your Budget
The golden rule when it comes to weddings? The more people you invite, the more it will cost you. “A sliding scale exists based on the guest count for food, beverage, rentals, linens, flowers, stationery, and transportation, just to name a few,” says Katelynn Rowe, director of events at Jacin Fitzgerald Events.”It’s just an extra 20 people, right? Wrong. The trickle effect is real, and it is something to consider when you’re down to those last few people you’re on the fence about!”
Consider the Overall Vibe
Think about the various weddings you’ve been to in the past. When there are weddings with over 300 people, doesn’t the vibe feel different from a 50-person wedding? “If lots of dreamy details or personal touches are what you love most about weddings, then perhaps scaling the guest count back to accommodate being able to do more would be worth it for the big day,” advises Rowe.
Don't Assume People Will—or Won't—Attend
Throughout your planning process, you’ve probably heard someone say, “Oh I know they won’t come, so just invite them to be polite.” This kind of attitude can get you into trouble. Especially in the post-pandemic era. “Guests are more excited than ever to celebrate love and happiness,” reminds Rowe. “We are here for it, but so are they! If you invite them, they will come…so do not rely on the typical 75 to 80 percent return on RSVP rules, as they may not apply.”
Chances are, you’ve probably never invited this many people to a party before. Here's where to start.
Determine Your Budget
Yes, we already touched on this, but it really is one of the most critical components in figuring out what size your guest list should be. “We encourage our clients to have an honest conversation with the key players about their budget. Establishing your overall budget range will help you determine the price per head you're projecting,” says Jessica Sloane, lead planner and owner of Jessica Sloane Events and Experiences.
Make Your List
All great writers are told to write first, edit later. Take this same approach when making your guest list. Write down everyone you’d like to be present on your wedding day. It might feel very middle school-esque, but it’s an important step. If there are some people you’re on the fence about while making your list, put them in a separate column. You can decide later in your editing phase if you really want them there or not. “When you look at the numbers, it can help make prioritizing easier,” advises Sloane. “For instance, if you know that your projected cost per head is $1,000, you might reconsider inviting someone who is an acquaintance to save a little money.”
Think About Your Venue
No matter where you’re getting married, chances are your venue has a capacity limit. In rare cases when they don’t (like you’re getting hitched on private property), then you have a little more wiggle room. “Another capacity factor could be if there is lodging on-property that cannot accommodate your entire group as you had hoped,” Rowe points out. “This could be directly relative to adjusting your list to fit in the box of your dream venue.”
Who Gets the Final Say?
This is a tough one. Unfortunately, there’s no correct answer. As far as wedding etiquette goes, if a family member is contributing financially to the wedding in some way, they’re entitled to an opinion. However, if they’re only contributing to a portion of the wedding (like the catering or your attire), then their jurisdiction for decision-making falls in line with those specific elements. But that’s easier said than done right? “We do believe being collaborative amongst families, hosts, and between partners is the best way,” recommends Rowe. “While the decision of the hosts is very important, we also feel the couple’s vision of their big day should be reflected with equal weight.”
At the end of the day, everyone is going to have their opinion (about pretty much everything), but it’s you and your partner who are going to think back and care about who was and wasn’t there. So when the guest list going gets tough, think about who matters most to you and go with your gut.