Creating the wedding guest list is one of the most challenging feats for newly engaged couples. There are so many factors to consider that all affect the total wedding budget. Figuring out which people to invite to their wedding may come down to financial decisions that aren’t personal, but that’s the typical experience for many pairs.
This article explains how the guest list impacts a wedding budget and how couples can approach their financial management strategies. It’s much easier to send invites when people know they can afford to celebrate with everyone.
How Big Is the Average Wedding Guest List?
Guest lists vary by the size of each wedding. Some people prefer more intimate ceremonies, while others want a massive party. Couples should consider their comfort levels in various-sized social gatherings to decide how big their wedding should be.
Small weddings average 50 guests or less, while medium-sized weddings range from 50 to 150 guests. Large weddings have over 150 attendees, including the wedding parties and immediate family members. Weddings are always personalized events, so couples should ultimately invite however many people they want to their ceremony.
What Is the Cost Per Guest?
Each guest has a price tag that affects a couple’s wedding budget. It isn’t the most romantic part of wedding planning, but it’s a realistic factor every couple needs to keep in mind. Guests need accommodations to enjoy the day or evening, such as:
- A place to sit.
- Drinks throughout the event.
- A complete meal.
- At least one serving of dessert.
- A thank-you gift.
Couples may also pay for other expenses, like shuttle transportation to and from the venue or printed invitations.
The cost per guest will vary depending on the wedding size and what each couple sets as their maximum spending allowance. It’s easier to decide how much each guest will cost after getting vendor quotes.
Research shows couples spent an average of $4,618 for their reception meals in 2019. If that total provided dinner for 100 guests, that would average $46.18 per person.
Vendors like catering teams often provide quotes for the price per guest with the couple’s food and beverage selections. Comparing those quotes is the best way to estimate the cost per guest for each expense and determine if the wedding can be bigger or should be smaller to fit the overall budget.
How Do I Choose Which People to Invite To My Wedding?
Deciding who to invite to your wedding is a personal decision, but brides can ask these questions to determine who should get an invitation.
1. Am I Inviting This Person for Me?
Brides often feel automatically pressured to invite people they wouldn’t normally consider because that person makes a family member or friend happy. Whether it’s someone’s plus-one or an extra guest, couples should remember to invite the people who mean the most to them. The family member or friend asking for the invitation will find plenty of other people to mingle with during the reception.
2. When Did I Last See Them?
If someone asks to attend a wedding but hasn’t interacted with the couple in years, they don’t have to get an invitation automatically. Wedding guests are the people who matter most to the couple because they’re in close, loving relationships with them. Childhood friends or distant relatives don’t have to get guaranteed invites just because they once knew the bride or groom.
3. Do They Add Joy to My Life?
Couples should only feel happy on their wedding day. Every guest should support that joy, so it’s best to avoid inviting anyone who would create tension or possible drama. If there’s any hesitation about asking a specific person to come, that could be a good sign they can watch the wedding on a live stream link.
How Many Guests Typically Show Up?
When couples send invitations, everyone gets the chance to RSVP. Industry experts estimate that couples who invite less than 200 guests can expect around 75%–80% to show up after confirming their RSVP form. That percentage shrinks as the guest list grows. However, the same authorities estimate 100% of invitees may now RSVP “yes” following the COVID-19 pandemic.
Couples who want to manage their wedding budget strategically can maximize the chance of everyone arriving for their paid-for meals and entertainment by sticking with a smaller wedding. Anyone who wants a big wedding can also discuss options like taking the remaining reception food or drinks home, so nothing goes to waste if some guests cancel at the last minute. Vendors may be able to adjust their included services or refund policies if couples give them enough advance notice to consider their requests.
Average Costs of Wedding Factors
It might be too early in the wedding planning process to request quotes from vendors. When that’s the case, review the average costs of wedding factors based on a recent industry report covering every aspect. Couples who got married in 2019 spent these national averages to create their dream ceremonies for their guests:
- Invitations: $560
- Venue: $10,500
- DJ: $1,200
- Transportation: $800
- Alcohol: $2,300
- Favors: $400
When added up and divided by an estimated 100 guests for a small ceremony, couples paid $157.60 to keep everyone fed and entertained at their dream venues.
That number changes per wedding, so it’s always customizable. If a wedding happens for free in a family member’s backyard, that eliminates the venue fee and makes the per-guest price add up to $52.60. Getting quotes from different vendors and considering every venue option is the best way to arrive at an optimal cost per guest for each couple’s budget.
Do Destination Weddings Change the Guest List?
Planning a wedding away from the bride’s hometown may affect the final guest list in a few ways. First, guests may not confirm their RSVP due to costly plane tickets or the challenge of traveling internationally with small kids.
Couples can offset these issues by helping with part of the ticket fees for close family members and friends. Gift bags for kids with travel activities may also make the trip easier for families.
Brides may also need to reconsider who they invite, depending on their preferred wedding ceremony and where they get married. For example, if a couple plans a wedding in Italy, they need two non-family witnesses to sign their Atto Notorio paperwork. It may mean inviting a few extra people than a couple originally planned or reassigning essential wedding roles like who’s the maid of honor or the best man.
Ultimately, couples can still invite whoever they want to a destination wedding. They should just expect to plan for travel-related challenges or country-specific legal wedding requirements.
Wedding Budget Management Tips
Anyone can save money on guest expenses by using budget management tips like these. Thinking through each factor will make it clear who to invite to the wedding.
1. Contact Numerous Vendors
Vendors set different prices based on factors like their size, distance from the venue and market price fluctuations. Get as many quotes as possible to compare estimates.
Spreadsheets will save the day when determining the final price per guest. Save each estimate and divide by the number of guests on a dream list that includes everyone who should be there. The best vendors for each couple’s wedding will become apparent right away.
2. Use a Separate Account
It’s much easier to keep track of wedding spending and stay within a set budget if the money has its own account. Creating a new savings account and granting both people in the relationship access is simple. It may even allow for a more sizable budget if it’s a high-yield savings account.
3. Avoid Any Pressure
Couples often face direct and indirect pressure to plan their wedding a certain way. It can complicate decisions and even make them go over their budget.
It’s crucial to remember every wedding is different. If a tradition or expectation doesn’t fit within a couple’s budget, they don’t have to do it. Skipping gift bags or hosting a potluck reception could be precisely what makes a couple happy. The event will be a success if it fulfills their wedding dream and sticks within their budget.
Strategize Any Wedding Guest List
Couples can easily figure out how many people they should invite to their wedding without worrying about going over their budget. Get quotes from potential vendors and calculate the cost per guest to determine the best number of attendees for any existing financial arrangement.