This Is the Average Wedding Guest List Size in the U.S.

After a year of minimonies, guest counts are back up.
kim forrest the knot
by
Kim Forrest
kim forrest the knot
Kim Forrest
Senior Editor
  • Kim writes and edits articles for The Knot Worldwide, specializing in etiquette and planning advice
  • Kim manages freelance writers for The Knot Worldwide
  • Prior to The Knot Worldwide, Kim was Associate Bridal Editor at Washingtonian magazine and Associate Fashion Editor at Conde Nast’s Brides Local magazines
Updated Feb 15, 2022

Determining your guest list is one of the most—if not the most—important tasks on your wedding planning checklist. The size of your guest list will affect your venue, budget and so many other aspects of your wedding day. As you create yours, you may be wondering what the average wedding size in the US is (and how yours compares). Good news: We've got the answer for you.

As you can probably guess, the average wedding guest count was greatly affected by COVID in 2020, but we're happy to report that it's bouncing back to pre-pandemic levels. According to The Knot Real Weddings Study, the average wedding size in 2021 was 105 guests. This is a major increase from the 2020 figure of just 66 guests, though lower than 2019's average guest count of 131 people.

It's important to note that nearly half of couples who married in 2021 reduced their guest count (though that's down from 80% in 2020), and the average wedding size varied greatly throughout the year. In the first half of the year, when gathering restrictions were still in place in many parts of the country and vaccinations were not widely available, the average wedding size was 94 people. However, as COVID cases declined in the summer and early fall (and the weather became more conducive to outdoor events), the average guest count averaged 110 guests. We anticipate that the average guest count will continue to increase during the 2022 wedding season.

If you're wondering how you'll decide what size wedding you'll have with so many viable options, consider where your event will take place. The average wedding size varies by location, which was particularly true in 2021—certain states and regions had gathering restrictions early in the year, while others did not. Here's a rundown of the average wedding guest count by region:

  • Northeast: 96
  • Mid-Atlantic: 112
  • Midwest: 128
  • South/Southeast: 93
  • Southwest: 112
  • West: 90

Destination weddings typically have smaller guest counts than hometown weddings. The Real Weddings Study showed that U.S. destination weddings had an average of 72 guests and those that took place abroad averaged at 54 guests, while hometown weddings had an average guest count of 110.

The average wedding size had been slowly decreasing before the pandemic. Our data indicates that the average number of guests reached an all-time high of 153 in 2007. For context, the number hovered at 136 in 2017 and 2018. It remains to be seen if the average guest count will reach its pre-pandemic level as weddings return to normal in 2022, or if couples are opting for small weddings as a general trend.

Your guest list size depends on how much you've budgeted for your big day, as well as the kind of wedding you want. These days, couples are focused on creating an enriching experience for their family members and friends, and spending more money per person. In fact, in 2021, couples spent an average of $266 per guest, which was an increase from $244 per guest in 2020 and $214 in 2020. Our data also found that, for 73% of couples, the most important factor while wedding planning was making sure guests were well taken care of and had a good time. In order to do so, 43% of all couples organized guest entertainment (like performers or fireworks). Health and safety was also an important priority in 2021, as 85% of couples incorporated at least one health and safety measure into their event, including providing hand sanitizer and spacing out wedding reception tables.

While large weddings will be possible in 2022, some couples will still opt for micro weddings. Often with these celebrations, their wedding budget aligns with the national average cost of a wedding ($28,000, not including the engagement ring). So, with fewer guests and a larger price point, they're able to spend more on features like interactive food displays, live entertainment or additional wedding weekend parties. Some couples also opt to host an anniversary reception—a larger celebration that follows an intimate formal ceremony or elopement due to the pandemic.

If you're still debating your guest list size, there's one particular vendor who will help you decide: Wedding venues have a maximum number of guests they can safely accommodate. If you're dreaming of saying "I do" at an intimate vineyard, you might not be able to invite every single person you know. However, if you're looking at a big hotel venue or a field out in nature, you may be able to open up the guest list.

Before you begin putting your wedding guest list together, be sure to sit down with all of the decision makers (read: people contributing to the wedding) and get on the same page. By having the talk early on, you can avoid any snafus or hurt feelings later on. And if you need help navigating those conversations, consider working with a professional wedding planner. These pros have years of expertise under their belts and can act as a mediator during tricky conversations.

Another reason it's a good idea to talk about your wedding size early on? Cutting people from your guest list can be extremely difficult and stressful—but a lot of couples face this issue (wedding invitation lists have a tendency to grow rapidly). Keep in mind that there are people you're not obligated to invite—even if you feel like you are. Once you've decided on a final head count, use The Knot Wedding Guest Manager to keep track of everyone.

Ultimately, as far as we're concerned, size doesn't matter—as long as your guest list includes those who matter most to you (and maybe a few stragglers from your mother-in-law's book club).

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