How Many People to Invite to Your Wedding, Based on Data

Plus, six questions to ask yourself that'll help narrow down your list even more.
sarah hanlon associate editor the knot
by
Sarah Hanlon
sarah hanlon associate editor the knot
Sarah Hanlon
Associate Editor
  • Sarah is an Associate Digital Editor for The Knot, with special focuses in fashion, pop culture and wedding trends.
  • Before joining The Knot Worldwide, Sarah was a contributing writer for Bravo at NBC Universal.
  • Sarah has a degree in journalism and resides in New York City.
Updated Apr 08, 2022

Before you can dive into fun wedding planning details like color palettes and cake flavors, there's one very important decision to make before anything else: how many people you're going to invite. Creating your wedding guest list is one of the first checklist tasks you should aim to complete, particularly because the size of your nuptials will impact nearly every subsequent planning detail. Of course, it's not as simple as picking a random number and rolling with it. Guests cost money, and venues hold only a certain amount of people. When combined with parental input too, choosing how many people to invite to your wedding can be a potentially sticky situation.

If you're dreading the thought of finalizing your wedding headcount, don't fret—we have quite a few hacks to help you determine the magic number. Read up on our guest list tips below, along with the six questions to ask yourself that'll help narrow down exactly who gets to make the final cut.

How Many People Should You Invite to Your Wedding?

Shortly after getting engaged, there's a good chance you'll wonder, "How many people should I invite to my wedding?" It's a question that plagues every single couple planning their nuptials. Whether you're envisioning a lavish estate soirée or an intimate ceremony at city hall, you'll need to choose how many friends and family to invite to your wedding day. The biggest determining factor, of course, is your wedding budget. The funds you have available for your big day will directly impact the number of guests you can afford to host. Start by evaluating your wedding budget (along with any financial contribution from family members) to get a general understanding of how that number matches up with the prices of venues you're eyeing.

Another place to turn to for help, though, is data. According to The Knot 2021 Real Weddings Study, the average wedding guest list size in the US is 105. Of course, this number can be influenced by a number of factors, such as your region, the kind of venue you want, your budget, and your overall vision for the big day. (If you only want an intimate backyard party, for instance, your guest list count will be much lower.) But if you're really not sure how many people to invite to your wedding, use this number as a starting point for your guest list conversations.

What's the Average Percentage of Wedding Guests That Actually Attend?

Another hack to figure out how many people to invite to your wedding is to consider how many guests will actually show up. According to various reports, the average percentage of wedding guests that attend typically falls between 70% and 85%. So, if you invite 100 people to your wedding, for example, you can generally expect 70 to 85 people to show up. Given this context, you might consider upping your target invite list by about 10% knowing that not everyone will likely attend. Of course, it's critical not to go too overboard if using this method—in the event that nearly all of your invitees RSVP "Yes," it's important to ensure you can still support that number of guests.

Questions to Ask Yourself When Making Your Guest List

In addition to the tips above, there are a few questions to ask yourself when determining how many people to invite to your wedding. No two couples are the same, which means your guest list count is highly subjective. Use these thought-starters below to further help you decide how many people to invite to your wedding.

Does your intended guest list size fit your budget?

In the early wedding planning stages, we encourage you to create a fantasy guest list with every single person you'd like to invite. Then, come back down to earth and ask yourself: How many people can I actually invite to my wedding? Your target wedding guest list number will be determined by how many people the venue can hold and what your budget will allow. Most venues have headcount minimums and maximums—in other words, they need a certain number of guests to host your event, but that number can't exceed their limits. This goes hand-in-hand with your budget. Can you realistically afford to host the number of people you envision? Take these considerations into mind as you and your partner embark on the venue-shopping process.

Can you separate invitees into multiple lists?

Guests will be cut—it's unavoidable. To ease tough decisions, separate the guests who must attend, like your favorite aunt or your partner's godfather, from those who don't. Those who absolutely have to be invited make up your "A list." Anyone not essential (such as a distant friend from college or a coworker ) should be added to the "B list." These are people you would enjoy having at your wedding, but who don't need to be invited in the first round.

Consider inviting approximately 10% more guests than your target number, since between 10% and 20% of those invited will decline. If more people decline than you originally anticipated, start inviting from the B list within a reasonable time frame—you don't want to give them the impression they were on the "maybe" list.

Will you be in touch with this person in five years?

Look at every single guest on your invite list. Who are they, and why are they being invited to your wedding? Will you still be in touch with them in five years? If the answer is no, you might consider leaving them off the guest list, especially if you're forced to make cuts. (If it comes down to it, use our guide on how to politely tell someone they aren't invited to your wedding.)

This question can be tricky if your parents or in-laws are contributing financially to your big day. There's a common saying that goes, "If you pay, you get a say." Whether or not you follow this tradition is up to you and your partner, but know that if loved ones are footing a portion of the bill, they may want some influence on the guest list. Be respectful of your parents and future in-laws and realize they're as excited about the wedding as you are. They want to share their happiness with good friends, so try and honor their wishes—or at least some of them. Here's one idea: If they're contributing to the bill, give each set of parents a certain number of people they can invite.

Do you feel comfortable having your coworkers attend?

You may be considering inviting a few colleagues to your big day, especially if you have close friends at work. Deciding which coworkers to include depends on how big your office or department is. If you work in a group of six, it may be seen as inappropriate to leave out one person. But if you have a huge team and collaborate with dozens of people, it gets tricky when it comes down to who gets an invite and who doesn't.

If you're good friends outside of work, you may be more likely to extend an invitation. As for bosses, superiors, and others you aren't as close with, don't feel pressured to extend an invite just because. Reflect on your individual relationship with each coworker, and determine how important is to have them at your wedding.

Do you and your partner want kids in attendance?

When planning an adults-only wedding, you'll need to establish guidelines early and only invite guests over a certain age. For instance, keep anyone under 18 off the list. If you can't decide whether kids are appropriate, consider the time and overall vibe of your event. Weddings in the morning or afternoon tend to skew more casual, so it might be more appropriate for youngsters to attend if you'd like. An evening event may be more likely to be a child-free affair. If guests make a fuss and say they won't be able to come to your wedding without their toddlers or infants, express your regrets but tell them it would be unfair to others you've said no to.

Who *absolutely* needs to be there, and who doesn't?

Perhaps you've answered all of these questions, but you still have 300 names and a location that holds 175. While you might feel bad about taking names off the list, you and your partner need to develop parameters for cutting that won't make you feel terrible. (For starters, read this bride's reflection on how she cut her guest list from 120 to 30.)

You'll both have to consider which of your acquaintances are important enough to be at your wedding. Focus on people who are relevant to your life now, and who will be relevant five years from now. Know that you don't have to invite couples you're not close with anymore, and you certainly don't have to extend an invitation to someone just because you went to their wedding. At the end of the day, your wedding is all about you and your S.O., and you should only invite the people you absolutely want to celebrate with.

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