top of page

The Guest List Matters...more than you know!

Oh the dreaded guest list– we're pretty sure it’s the bane of just about every couple’s existence when planning their wedding but we are here to help with practical advice and tips! 

When budgeting for a wedding, did you know that your guest count is one of the biggest factors to consider? Think about it. When inviting someone to your wedding, you are first asking them to come and witness your marriage and the commitment you are both making to each other. Yay! After those handwritten, heartfelt wedding vows are said though, you’re inviting them to a party. The party of your life, right? And that shindig comes with a hefty price tag.


Ask someone to join this kick butt celebration of yours and you are effectively taking them out to dinner — at a pretty nice restaurant. So, let’s take 100, 200 or even 300 of your closest friends and family out to a nice dinner in your town. What would the cost for that look like? Then consider this: instead of just taking them out to a delicious meal in a nice restaurant, you now also have to pay for the table where they are sitting, the chair they are sitting in and oh, the fork in their hand. You are building this restaurant right inside your venue for one night only. The ULTIMATE pop up. With each guest you add, that’s another chair, another fork, another glass of wine (or four).

Sounds a bit daunting, when put that way, right? We promise we’re not trying to scare you. However, we do strongly suggest taking a long hard look at your guest list. Ask yourself, “Is this person truly close to me? Or is this an acquaintance I’m likely to not have contact with a year or two from now?” If you just can’t imagine having your wedding day without every. single. one. of your super close 250 besties and your budget supports it, then more power to you! It will be an epic party for sure. But, if you’re planning your wedding with budget always in mind, choosing not to invite your third cousin’s boyfriend of the minute or your former first grade teacher might really help that bottom line.

Let's pretend you are back in school for a minute...stick with us here!

The average wedding costs a minimum of $288 per guest and let's pretend you only have a $20k budget. So how many guests will your budget support without having to make too many compromises to the quality, your vision or simply having to resort to dollar store DIY décor? Here's how to figure it up:

20000 (your budget) divided by 288 (the average per person cost) = 69.4444 guests


Likewise, if you have a bigger budget of say, $60k:

60000 divided by 288 = 208 guests


Invite the people that truly matter. Make sure your family is there. Make sure your closest friends (new and old) are there to celebrate with you. Think about people you keep in touch with on a regular basis. Who’s on your Christmas card list? Who do you call on their birthday (Facebook reminders about everyone you know don’t count)? Work acquaintances might need to sit out unless they are also very close friends.

As you put together your guest list, ask yourself these questions along the way:

  1. Have I spoken to this person within the 6 months?

  2. Is it immediate family?

  3. Do I talk to this person outside of work?

  4. Can I imagine my wedding without them there?

  5. Do they get a +1? Check out our article on this topic


Simply put, no. We do know this can be a touchy subject though, because oftentimes parents are heavily involved in the budgeting and are helping to pay for the wedding so there is an unspoken obligation that tends to get placed on the couple (who the day is supposed to be about) to allow the parents to invite whoever they want. We suggest trying to give them a certain number to shoot for when inviting their friends. For example, each set of parents gets to invite 10 people outside of family members that would definitely be invited anyway. We get it – it’s a big day for them too and they also want their friends to join in celebrating you. Remind them that there is a limit to the guest list (unless they want to book a larger venue and fork out more dough) and you would appreciate their invitees to be limited to no more than 10% of the total guest count. Allowing the guest list to be primarily those that are most important to the couple. In the end , the day is about the two people getting married and they should have the ultimate say in the final guest list.


In our experience, estimating just under two thirds attendance from your original guest list is usually a pretty safe bet. If everyone invited lives in town, that number might be slightly higher. If almost all of the guests are traveling from out of town, then it might be slightly lower. If you live in a hot destination city, that could bump up the numbers a bit as well. So if you send invitations to 200 guests, you can estimate that just under 150 of them will attend the wedding. Send out 100 and 65-70 should be expected. 


We highly recommend using one of the wedding platforms to make the task of gathering addresses less stressful. Many sites enable you to send an electronic address request that will automatically update in your guest list or make it a breeze to upload them on to your existing spreadsheet. One of our personal favorites is the ZOLA Guest List Manager

In the end, the most important thing is to make sure you are surrounded by those you truly love. How often do you have all  your people in the same place at the same time. The more intimate you keep that list, the more you budget (and maybe your parents) will thank you.

bottom of page