How Many People to Invite to a Wedding?


Even though weddings are a blissful occasion filled with love, wedding planning sometimes isn’t so pleasant. One glitch in planning seems to be how many people to invite to a wedding. Let’s face it, weddings aren’t cheap! Whether your budget is large or small, battles can still pop up over who and who not to invite. This article will help you negotiate a guest list that everyone is happy with and avoid tension in planning your special day.

How Many People to Invite to a Wedding?

Your guest list really depends on the environment and theme you are creating for your special day and your budget. It doesn’t seem as daunting when you think about it. If you’re having a small wedding, only invite family and close friends. If you’re having a large grand occasion, then invite everyone you know. Well, it isn’t always that easy. To make it easy, just follow these helpful steps:

Step One: Think About What Type of Wedding You Want

Before you can decide on a wedding budget, you have to know what you are planning for. Do you want a small ceremony by the beach with a sit down dinner at a local restaurant? Do you want a church wedding with all your family and friends? A lavish reception at a large hotel? It partly depends on how much you can afford, which we will get into later, and your preference for settings. Some good ideas for different size ceremonies are:

Small 0-100 Guests

  • Intimate ceremony at a Chapel

  • Beach weddings

  • A friend’s home

  • Parks

  • Museum

  • Small Restaurant

Medium 100-150 Guests

  • Church wedding

  • Small hotel ballroom or terrace

  • Large restaurant

  • Yacht/Dinner cruise

Large 150 +

  • Hotel grand ballroom

  • Local hall rental

  • Large parks and gardens

  • Historic landmarks

  • Arboretum’s

  • Mansions

Once you have determined the size of your venue and wedding, now it’s time to sit down and discuss your budget.

Step Two: Know Your Budget

Your guest list size will factor in to your budget and there are certain people you are obligated to invite, and others that you won’t necessarily have to. Mom may insist that you invite ALL of your cousins, and she is paying so you have to. You may decide not to allow children at the wedding so that will be a few heads less. Take a look at these things when you decide how many people to invite to a wedding:

  • Wedding Size/Location – You will need more money in your budget to feed 100 people a sit down dinner at a hotel. You will get away with less expense if you invite 150 to lunch in the afternoon. Going with a lesser reception will free you up to invite more people.

  • Reception Cost Per Guest – Most places sell wedding receptions as a package. You will most likely pay a flat rate per guest. You will choose a package that includes hors d’oeuvre pass, salad, entrée, cake, and champagne toast. They may even include a bar for cocktail hour. All of these things are included in a charge “per guest.”

  • Extras – For each guest you invite, you will have to count in the following: wedding favors, programs, welcome baskets for hotel rooms, and any other extras you will be giving away.

Browse through and call to ask the venues that you have in mind and know what costs you are expected to pay. Divide  your total budget by cost per person, then you can get an approximate headcount. 

Step 3: Narrow It Down

This is where things might get a bit tense for everyone involved. Don’t fret. There are some easy ways to compromise on the guest list so everyone is happy. Use the tips below when deciding how many people to invite to a wedding:

1. Family at the Top of the List. Start with your close family on top. Second is extended family. Then do close friends. End with acquaintances. When you need to take guests off the list, do this from the end of the list first.

2. Assign Numbers. Once you have decided on a total number of guests, break it down and divvy up how many each of you can invite. Divide the numbers like this:

  • Bride/Groom Hosting – 50% Bride/50% Groom

  • Bride/Groom/One Set of Parents – 75% Bride and Groom/25% Parents

  • Bride/Groom/Both Sets of Parents – 50% Bride and Groom/25% His Parents/25% Her Parents

This will ensure that everyone gets their fair share of invites. You can break up the percentages anyway you like. You can even do 70%/15%/15% or other combinations that will fit your budget.

3. If You Don’t Want to Invite Kids. You may be on the fence about allowing parents to bring kids, especially if they are relatives. Besides, saying clearly it’s an “adults only” event, one creative idea is to allow the kids at the ceremony, then assign a babysitter to watch them all at another location. Make it a “pizza and movie night.” The bill for a few pizzas is going to be way smaller than extra dinner plates.

4. Plus-One Rule. You may be counting all of your “single” guests as two since they may bring a date. Try writing “plus one” on the invitations that you know the person has a partner.

5. Invite Back Rule. If you recently attended a friend’s wedding, it is proper etiquette to invite them to yours.

Another way to make it clear who the invitation is for, make sure you write the names of each guest on the insert envelope. Also, give your guests at least 8 weeks so they can find their own childcare if they need to.

Note: Number Invited vs. How Many Show Up

On average, only about 75% to 80% of those you invite will show up. You can count close family and friends a for sure, but people you may not have seen for a long-time may skip on the wedding. To get an accurate count, make sure you send invitations out early (6-10 weeks before the wedding) and put a clear deadline for returning RSVP cards (3 weeks before the big day).