Making and checking (and re-checking) the guest list is one of the most difficult parts of wedding planning. This FAQ guide will help you to get this stressful task done. And the question “How Many People Should I Invite To My Wedding?” will be answered completely.
All examples are taken from the experience of real people. To your question “Who should I invite to my wedding?” you will find here practical & logical answers and really working methods on how many people to invite to wedding and how to narrow down your endless guest list :).
If you prefer to watch video click below 🙂 Video and article are slightly different on information so make sure you checked out both.
Planning the Budget & Guest Count
How much does each wedding guest typically cost? And what will be my cost per guest?
You can find many reports with approximately equal prices for the average cost of a wedding in the USA. For example, it is about $31,437 for California in 2020 acсording to these data. Dividing the average wedding cost by the average number of wedding guests nationwide (it is 136) they got the average cost per guest – $231 for Californian weddings.
Using this equation for your calculation as well, you will know your personal cost per guest. This calculation can help you:
- to find a venue/ vendor with suitable prices,
- to trim the guest list, if a chosen venue/ vendor is not affordable and costs will exceed your budget.
For example, If you are planning to invite 150 people and your budget is $7,000 for dinner and catering service, you need to find a venue/ vendor that will cost you not more than $46 per plate.
What is the easiest way to cut the wedding budget?
There are some ways to keep your budget under control, among them is finding an affordable vendor or cutting the open bar, for example.
But as seen from the example above, a reception party accounts for a big (if not the biggest) part of a wedding budget. One table for 10 persons can cost you about $2000. And there may be people at this table that you hardly know. It will possibly make more sense to invest this money in something you really need and what can stay with you for a long time as a great reminder of your best day. And yes, wedding photography is one of these things :). Just keep in mind: more guests means a higher wedding cost.
Should I invite a bit more people than on my guest list as some may be no-shows?
There are better ways to deal with no-shows than to invite more people than you can afford. Below we will talk about it. You can not predict how many people will attend but you have to keep on budget. If you can only afford 150 guests, don’t exceed this amount. Any invitations out of your budget can cause you significant inconvenience if not a financial disaster.
If my parents paid for the part of my wedding (or even all), how do I deal with their invite list?
It is logical that if the couple is paying for the wedding they invite people they want to see. It may be not the entire extended family, but some close friends or coworkers which the parents may not even know.
If the wedding is paid by parents, they usually consider inviting more from extended family than you can expect, including their friends and people with whom they have any business. For your parents, it will be a great moment of pride to have their child marry and they want to enjoy it in full, with people closer to them. In this case, it will be polite and generous to ask your Mom and Dad in advance for their expectations and review their guest list. Together you can find a compromise suitable for both sides.
How do I discuss with the venue my planned guest number?
Ok, you found a place you dreamed to have for your big day. You can act this way:
1. Ask the prices for your minimum and maximum planned number of guests.
2. The venue will give you the prices, be sure that you still can afford your maximum number.
3. For which amount you will sign, remains your choice. But I knew some couples who invited, for example, 200 guests with the hopes to get this amount down. But they ended up at 250 and had to pay for all.
Therefore, I advise counting on the number of guests slightly above your minimum. It will not limit you a lot in your guest choice. If you will be over your signed number of guests, you will still know what to expect in the last payment. Also, if you will be below this amount, possibly you can get upgrades (or additional services) from the venue/vendor.
Starting the Guest List with Dearest and Nearest
How to give a priority level to each guest on the guest list?
There are people without whom you can not imagine your big day, like immediate family and best friends of you and your partner. Keep in mind that your parents also may intend to invite some persons from their closest circle. They all will be on a so-called A-List. Other guests will come on a B-List. It consists of the people that you will still be glad to see at your wedding but due to limited budget or venue capacity you can not put them into your A-list.
Some brides don’t like the idea of dividing guests into two lists, rightly assuming that it can hurt someone’s feelings if he knows he is in the B-list. But the truth is that we all have family members and best friends who are very close to us. And we have others such as distant relatives, coworkers, acquaintances, etc. who don’t belong to our inner circle. It’s normal to have this sort of hierarchy in your actual life and at your wedding.
Another important reason for making two lists is to keep the “no-show’ situation under control. The people from the A-list will receive your first round of invitations. Some of them will inform you they won’t be able to attend. When you’ll get enough regrets, start sending the second part of invitations – for the guests of the B-list. As you see, your A-list invitations will be sent quite earlier than those of the B-list. By getting the RSVPs of ALL invited you will get a quite clear picture of who will attend.
If some of my friends are single, should I invite them with a plus one?
Obviously, married couples will be invited together. The same applies to engaged couples or living together for a long time.
What about singles? It is a kind of care for a guest to consider him with an extra person. By this way, you will make his time at your wedding more enjoyable. Imagine that a single will sit at the table surrounded by couples. But every guest with a +1 may easily double your expenses. In the case of a constrained budget, you have two options:
- If your single guest knows at least some people attending your wedding, you do not need to give them a +1.
- In a very special case, as an exception (for example, a single is a very close friend of yours or he does not know anybody at your wedding) you may give him a +1.
Should I invite the children of my family and friends to my wedding?
If you decided not to bring kids to your wedding, feel free to make this decision. Many couples make this choice because:
- Small children can be really annoying. And their parents spend most of their time keeping them from distracting other guests.
- Some venues charge half of the normal price for a kid. Some venues charge the full price for a kid past 5.
- The ambiance of the celebration changes when there are no kids around. Your adult-only reception can be formal and elegant like a ball, or you can keep it as loose as you want to make it.
However, keep in mind that some families having kids will not attend due to this restriction and this has to be OK for you as well. Not every family will accept to leave their children in the care of others.
Inviting Extended family & Others
How to decide who to invite to your wedding from your extended family?
Usually, a couple can have doubts about sending the invites for the members of for extended family if:
- they live away from relatives and don’t keep close contact.
- Although you are pretty sure some of your distant relatives wouldn’t travel, you believe they will be upset if you will not send invites.
- You can not invite all the relatives from your Mom’s & Dad’s side due to a constrained budget. If you invite cousins (uncles, aunts, etc.) from one side, others will feel offended.
Even in these tricky situations, there are some good solutions:
- There is nothing wrong with not inviting some distant relatives which you haven’t seen in the last n years. Just provide live streaming of your celebration to them and if desired send some favors. In general, live streaming is a perfect idea to expand your wedding audience in case of a small-format celebration.
- Another option may be frail and distant 🙂 promise to organize a family gathering after the wedding at your house for all the relatives who wish to celebrate with you. It’s totally acceptable to host a post-wedding party for the extended guest list you weren’t able to invite due to venue capacity and budget. Weddings experts recommend having such gatherings less than six months after the wedding. Very likely that even if you organize the after-wedding party most of the distant relatives will not come either but you will be free from any family dramas.
We were invited to a friend’s wedding. Do we have to invite them to ours?
Usually, if you attended a friend’s wedding within the past 12 months and you took an active part in wedding preparation (by being not just a tiny part of the whole “guest backdrop”), consider inviting them to your wedding.
Otherwise ask yourself: did your relationship change through the years since you attended their wedding? Do you still keep close contact? In simple words, do you care if your “no-inviting” will impact your friendship badly? People can feel offended and that’s the fact to be reckoned with. If you are fully aware of it and still don’t care, cut them from your list without much thought. Eventually, it’s better their seats will go to people you really appreciate.
How do I answer someone who isn’t invited if he asks about an invitation?
The best way here is to be as diplomatic as possible. One of the possible answers can be: “I’m sorry, but we have a limited amount of space, and I can’t invite everyone. I’d like to invite you, but we are looking at inviting family and our closest friends.” Explaining that the wedding is going to be small and intimate is one of the best non-offensive answers.
Which people can I easily cross off my wedding guest list?
Summarizing everything that has been written above, here I list people which you are not obligated to include in your guest list. It will help you to go through your wedding guest list one more time and get it down to a number you wish:
- extended family members which you haven’t spoken in years,
- people who invited you to their wedding but it was more than a year ago and you don’t keep contact since,
- kids of family and friends,
- plus ones totally unfamiliar to you,
- potential troublemakers,
- coworkers: inviting coworkers to wedding can be quite risky. Be sure that others uninvited will not feel hurt and after influence the working atmosphere badly. Otherwise don’t invite anybody of them.
- neighbors & simple acquaintances.
Solving wedding guest list problems
How to encourage guests to RSVP and what to do if guests don’t RSVP?
The traditional way to get a quick answer is a mail-in response card with the invitation, plus a stamped pre-addressed envelope. You still can do it, particularly for elder relatives. But for the younger guests, it’s better to send invites through emails, texting, your wedding website, or Facebook Events. The expression RSVP, in this case, is better to change through “Please reply by…”.
You have to reckon with the fact that some people will forget or ignore your deadline. The best solution here is to contact them personally by calling, texting, or emailing the day or two after your deadline for responses is passed. It won’t be impolite because you are quite sure that they anyway got your messages. For you as a host, a silent RSVP can mean only “no, I am not coming”. That’s why feel free to remind a person that “our wedding will be in two weeks. I haven’t heard from you, so I assume you will not be able to attend, right? Then let me send you after some pictures of our wedding”.
How do I invite guests to the ceremony only?
Although some guests will not feel excited to attend the ceremony without reception, the practice of it is getting more and more common. In some cultures, it’s totally OK. According to Mexican wedding tradition for example, people from all the town may share the big day with the couple during the church ceremony and in the street procession. They will not expect to go to the reception because it’s usually invitation only.
If you hesitate about the ceremony-only, a good compromise may be to offer guests light snacks along with the cake, champagne, and other drinks after the ceremony. This kind of cocktail-style reception will help your guests to RSVP “yes” to your invitations. Other ways to invite guests only to your ceremony are:
- Organizing the ceremony and reception at different locations. Some of invited guests will just come to the church, others will attend the reception party at the venue.
- Including in your ceremony invitation a very clear written wording “Wedding Ceremony Only”.
- Considering not inviting people from far away. To ask them to travel to only a ceremony will be quite an etiquette misstep.
Still, the trend to invite guests only to the ceremony many people consider as not proper etiquette and very rude. Maybe, it’s really better to keep the list short — close family and friends for both the ceremony and reception.
How do we let people know that they are no longer invited to our wedding?
The situation when a wedding is postponed or it changes its format (from a large scale to a small one) is not rare. It’s better to inform guests as soon as possible especially if you need to uninvite large portions of your guest list, for example, due to COVID.
Some websites offer good templates for Change of Plans Cards you can send your guests. On these cards, it’s well to mention that the wedding will be family-only and for others, you will send a live streaming video after the celebration.
How do we help our guests to save costs if we’re planning a destination wedding?
Just believe that a destination wedding WILL be expensive anyway, for guests as well. If you really wish to marry in an exotic area, just accept the fact that your destination celebration may have less guest count than the average wedding guest size.
Also, you can consider some of the options:
- pay for everyone’s travel, charter a van or bus to transport guests to the venue, at least try to catch reduced rates at a hotel, etc.
- invite guests only closest to you and pay only for them,
- have a reception in your hometown for everyone else after the wedding.
How to deal with no-show wedding guests (who RSVPed yes!)
The best way for a guest to hurt deeply the wedding couple is to respond yes and after not to show up and not to offer an explanation for the absence. What percentage of invited guests attend a wedding is clear from statistics: it’s at about 80％ of guests or sometimes even less. Unfortunately, 10 to 20 percent of the people who RSVP with a “yes” may not show up to the celebration. Assuming that an empty table for 10 persons may cost the couple about $2000 it’s no wonder that some newlyweds will regard no-shows as a high degree of disrespect toward them. Knowing in advance that guests were not coming, the couple could have cut expenses significantly.
Preventing no-show surprises at your wedding take into account:
- If you celebrate on a public holiday, remember that some guests may have their holiday plans.
- Your venue is within easy reach of the place where most guests live. Otherwise, consider paying for the guests’ transport.
- There is a minimum of out-of-towners on your guest list.
- If you have doubt about your guest list, consider giving the caterer fewer settings per table and reserve the closest tables for immediate family and friends who for sure will attend.
Keep these things in mind so that after the celebration you will not contemplate sending all the absentees an invoice for the missed meals as one couple from Minnesota did for their no-show guests :). Eventually, consider investing money in something that will bring you more joy on your wedding day than unreliable people. It may be a great live streaming, extra two hours of wedding videography (we are ready to organize it from any state or territory of the US), or a memorable send-off: just anything that makes your best day really amazing.
So, ready with your guest list but still don’t know what’s next? Here are our articles to help you with this.
Why a microwedding may be as beautiful as a large scale event,
how to find a good photographer and what to ask him,
how to plan the perfect wedding timeline,
why it’s important to make a First Look and in which cases it does not work, and lastly
how to make your wedding reception unique and unforgettable.