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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 planning a wedding, did you know that your guest count has the single biggest impact to your budget? 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 to a nice dinner and a nice night club 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 tablecloth,  the fork in their hand, the flowers on their table, and oh, the drinks they order from the bar are on you too. 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, it makes it worth taking a long hard look at your guest list. Ask yourself, “Is this person truly close to me? Is this someone I am inviting because I just want my wedding to feel big and grand? Is this someone I am inviting because I feel like I have to, to avoid conflict” If you just can’t imagine having your wedding day without every. single. one. of your super close 250 besties and your budget can support it without you having to give up things you wanted for your day, 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 or friend whose more of an acquaintance that you haven't actually spoken to in months, might really help that bottom line.

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

As of 2023, a basic wedding costs a minimum of $400 per guest so let's pretend you only have a $30k budget. So how many guests will your budget support without having to make too many sacrifices to the quality or your vision?


Here's how to figure it out:


30000 (your budget) divided by 400 (the average per person cost) = 75 guests


You can also do the math in reverse, based on a desired guest count of say 150, to know what your budget needs to be:


150 guests x 400 cost per person = $60,000 minimum budget


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. Do I have regular communication or interaction with this person?

  2. Is it immediate family or extended/distant family?

  3. Would I spend at least $400 to take this person out for a nice evening?

  4. Can I imagine my wedding day without this person there?

  5. Why am I really inviting them? Do I feel obligated to invite or do I really want them there?

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


Simply put, no. We know this can be a touchy subject. Oftentimes, parents are heavily involved in the budgeting and are helping to pay for the wedding so there is an unspoken expectation 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 giving parents a hard limit when it comes to their friends or invite list. 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 total invitees to be limited to no more than 10% of the total guest count. In the end , the day is about the two people getting married and they should have a guest list filled with those people that are most important to them.


In our experience, estimating just about 75% 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 popular destination city, that could bump up the numbers a bit as well. So if you send invitations to 200 guests, you can estimate that about 150-160 of them will actually attend the wedding. Send out 100 invites and 70-75 should be expected. You get it!

It’s okay that sometimes you just need to save the most

intimate pieces

of your life for those who mean the most to you.

And remember that you don’t owe anyone an apology for making the choice to do so!

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