So you’re getting ready to tie the knot, and it’s time to decide who to invite to the nuptials. According to Zola’s 2023 First Look Report, the average wedding consists of around 130 to 150 guests, but let’s face it: the list can get much longer, and fast. In fact, this might just be the most hot-button decision you’ll have to make throughout the whole planning process. Because yes, your pick of gown, venue and menu might raise a few eyebrows, but no decision ruffles feathers more than a seventh-cousin-twelve-times-removed feeling miffed about their lack of calligraphed invitation in the mail. If you’re wondering, “how many people should I invite to my wedding?” without burning bridges (and blowing your whole budget on catering), read on for tips from Emily Forrest, Zola’s head of communications.
Here’s How Many People You Should Actually Invite to Your Wedding
Meet the Expert
Emily Forrest, is the head of communications at Zola, an online wedding registry, wedding planner and retailer. Forrest has been at the company for over seven years, where she oversees the marketing team, including corporate and consumer media relations, thought leadership, experiential activations and talent partnerships.
What Type of Wedding Do You Want?
Elopement plans? Dreaming of a 500-person, multi-day celebration? According to Martha Stewart and The Knot, you can expect that each type of wedding will generally issue the following number of invitations:
- The Elopement: 3 to 5 guests
- The Petite: 25 guests
- The Classic: 100 guests
- The Mega Wedding: 300+ guests
However, Forrest notes that nowadays, couples are focused less on the “type” of wedding (whether that be an elopement or a classic affair) and are simply wanting to plan an event that reflects who they are. “Many weddings have unique elements or incorporate new traditions and personal touches. We see an evolution of keeping with traditional elements but also creatively showcasing the couple,” she shares. “At the end of the day, personalization [and authenticity are what it’s all about]. For many couples, their wedding is simply about sharing their love with each other and their guests.”
What Is Your Budget?
Of course, money will always make the final call when it comes to decision making, so Forrest recommends that you think about this right from the get-go, even if it’s a bit of a killjoy.
“Setting a concise budget early on ensures that you know exactly what you can and can’t afford before deciding what you want. Couples should think about how they’re funding their wedding (for example personal savings or loans or help from family) and what event features they are prioritizing such as venues, entertainment or attire,” Forrest advises.
Zola’s data shows that on average, couples spend around $29,000 on their big day, but the figure fluctuates depending on geographical location. In New York, you can expect to spend about $43,000. Living in Idaho? That drops to $20,000. Zola’s findings also reveal that the things eating up most budgets are venues ($6,500 to $12,000), catering ($6,500 to $10,000) and entertainment, like live bands and DJs ($2,000 to $7,000).
What Is the Capacity at Your Venue?
Costs aside, your venue priorities will also dictate your guests list. While hundreds may comfortably gather in a ballroom, a charming country estate may have room for only half of that. Ultimately, you’ll need to decide what you will prioritize: having absolutely everyone there or choosing the idyllic setting of your dreams. (Although yes, sometimes, the stars align.)
How Many Guests Should You Expect to Come to Your Wedding?
Forrest shares that on average, a couple can expect that only 75 percent of their guests will attend the wedding. To ensure an accurate head count, you’ll want to request a RSVP that will give you enough lead time to plan with the caterer. Otherwise, you’ll be out a good chunk of money paying for a no-show or last-minute cancellation.
How to Account for Kids and Plus Ones
Does every wedding guest get a plus one? The answer is, it’s up to you.
“If you want to and can afford to have children and plus ones added to your guest list, send out the invitations! However, if you cannot afford the extra seats or simply do not want to extend the invitation, you don’t have to,” Forrest says. Being on top of those RSVPs will give you an accurate picture of the cost. You can also use a wedding budget tool—some are free, like Zola’s.
While you do want your guests to have a good time, at the end of the day, this is your wedding, Forrest says, so you need to make decisions that will yield the event that you want, not what you think others will appreciate. That means understanding that extending plus-ones may require you to adjust your budget in other areas. Whatever you choose, though, don’t lose sight of what it’s all about. “Your wedding is about your love with your partner and sharing it with those around you, and that can include whoever you choose.”