When you imagine your future wedding, you might picture slow-dancing under the stars with a few loved ones close by. Or maybe, you see yourselves throwing the party of the decade with every one of your friends, relatives, and acquaintances there to witness your commitment.
Weddings come in all shapes and sizes, and you can customize your own to accommodate just as many (or few) guests as you please. But what if you’re not sure what size of wedding you want?
Luckily, weighing the pros and cons of your wedding guest list length can help you choose the number of attendees that’s right for you and your budget. After that, you can move on to other exciting tasks—like finding your dream venue, sampling your favorite cake flavors, and of course, actually tying the knot.
Factors to consider when choosing your guest list
Perhaps you’ve always known you wanted a beaded lace gown or a navy blue tux. But the question of “How many people should I invite to my wedding?” might not arise until you’re actually in the planning stage.
One of the most useful wedding guest list tips is to determine how big or small your wedding will be as early as possible. Fortunately, there are a few components to help inform the number of guests you should invite:
— What is your budget? The amount you’re willing to spend on the venue, catering, and other factors can significantly influence how many people you should invite.
— Where is your venue? If you already have your heart set on a certain location, consider how many people that venue can comfortably fit, or the max amount of guests allowed as decided by the venue itself. If it suits the number of people you’re inviting, fantastic! Otherwise, you might want to consider other potential venues or discuss changing the number of invites.
— How many guests from each side will attend? The average wedding accommodates about 100 of the spouses’ closest family and friends. But since this day symbolizes the blending of your families, the total guest list count might be larger than you anticipated.
The elopement: 3–5 people
Sometimes you just can’t wait to be married—or you simply prefer a laid-back, personal celebration where you can focus completely on your spouse-to-be and the few guests you invite. If you fall into this category, then an elopement might be the perfect answer.
While some elopements involve a spontaneous trip to the courthouse, they can also be carefully planned. Either way, the goal here is to embrace simplicity and enjoy the ease of fewer wedding planning responsibilities.
Pros of an elopement guest list
For those who like to live sweetly and simply, there are many pros to an elopement guest list. Consider the following benefits:
— Affordability: The fewer the guests, the more affordable the wedding (meaning you can potentially make a big splurge on the honeymoon, or anything else you want).
— Flexibility: You can literally get married anywhere you want. Want a wedding in Ibiza? Fabulous. Always wanted to say “I do” under the Aurora Borealis? Do it.
Cons of an elopement guest list
Although an elopement is a quick and easy way to get married exactly how you want to, there are some potential drawbacks. Keep these points in mind as you plan:
— Fewer people to share the memories: Once the day is over, you might wish that you had more family and friends there to celebrate your special day.
— A smaller crowd: While you might not regret skipping a miles-long receiving line, you might miss out on other traditions like tossing the bouquet or making your grand entrance at the reception. Of course, if you prefer to make new traditions all your own, this could actually be a benefit.
“Floréal” by Putnam & Putnam for Paperless Post; Image by Taylor Devynn.
The micro wedding: 10–20 people
Looking to invite some of your nearest and dearest without making it too big of an affair? Enter the micro wedding. This wedding size affords you plenty of the affordability and intimacy an elopement offers, but with the benefit of a few additional attendees to help you commemorate the big day.
The added guests can mean a touch more planning is needed, but you can still keep things plenty personal—like planning a family dinner instead of a grand gala and using personalized invitations that feel true to you.
Pros of a micro wedding guest list
In addition to being ideal for couples with a smaller budget, here are some other benefits you can expect from a micro wedding:
— Plan as you please: Who’s to say you have to partake in each traditional wedding event in a certain order? At a micro wedding, you can have your first dance whenever you like. Care to skip straight to dessert and cut the cake first? Go right ahead.
— Personalize your approach: A micro wedding provides the ultimate opportunity to make every aspect of your wedding special, starting with personalized save-the-dates and invitations. If you’re looking for something a little more custom, like a watercolor painting of your venue or motifs that illustrate your wedding’s theme, reach out to our personal design services to bring your perfect, personalized invitation to life.
Cons of a micro wedding guest list
As with all wedding sizes, there may be some caveats with a micro wedding. Consider the following factors:
— Deciding who to invite may be difficult: Although you’re including the people closest to you, many of your friends and family still won’t be in attendance, and they may wonder why they didn’t make the cut.
— You may still need to find a venue: While elopements may allow you to skip venue rental entirely, micro weddings sometimes require more space than you might have in your own home or backyard.
Image via With Love and Embers; “Ruhlmann” by Paperless Post.
The friends and family: 25–75 people
If you couldn’t quite narrow down your list to fit within the realm of the micro wedding, worry not. You can expand your nearest-and-dearest list to include extended friends and immediate family, and have a small-scale wedding that still feels plenty grand.
The friends and family category is exactly what it sounds like—friends and family make the cut, but others like coworkers, long-lost acquaintances, and former teachers do not.
Pros of a friends and family guest list
A celebration on the smaller side, but with a little more room for all those you care about? Sounds like a dream to us. Shower yourself with the perks of a small (but mighty) wedding:
— You get the best of both worlds: Enjoy the company of those who matter most to you while not having to plan for a wedding party on a grand scale.
— Less pressure: While large weddings can sometimes feel like putting on a performance, a wedding of this size provides an intimate vibe. You can comfortably spend time with each guest without feeling like you’re on a never-ending mission to shake every hand at the reception.
Cons of a friends and family guest list
Of course, every rose has its thorn. While you might not come across any, here are a few potential downsides to a friends-and-family wedding:
— Paring down the guest list can still be a challenge: Even after you’ve whittled down your list, you might be crossing off some of the people you still want to see (but won’t have) at the wedding.
— No-shows might be a bigger deal: It can be more obvious with a wedding of this size if a few friends or family members have to decline. Fortunately, you can still keep your plans flexible by using online invitations that lets you track RSVPs in real-time, like Paperless Post.
“Raw Edge” by Paperless Post; Image by Julia Wade.
The classic 100: 100–120 people
It’s called the classic for a reason. As we mentioned above, 100 guests is the size of a typical wedding in the Western Hemisphere. It’s not too big. It’s not too small. It’s just right. In other words, it’s the sweet spot of guest list flexibility that balances wedding size and budget.
Plus, you’ll still have time to focus on some smaller details—like wedding invitations that suit your personality—while including those people you love but may not get to see every day, such as extended family, distant relatives, and old friends.
Pros of a classic guest list
Considering a classic 100 wedding? Here are some of the pros to going medium-sized:
— The more, the merrier: It really is the ideal size. You can invite the familial musts and all of your friends, and still have room for a few extras.
— You can balance your time and activities: You can make an appearance with all of your guests and still have time to show off your best dance moves.
Cons of a classic guest list
Even though 100 guests might sound perfect, there are a few potential cons of having a wedding of this scale:
— 100 can still feel like a lot: Once you’re in the throes of celebrating, you might feel like you have too many people to see and spend time with. In addition, you’ll need to account for the added costs of catering, seating, and cake.
— The right venue might be hard to find: Finding a venue for a medium-sized wedding can be challenging. You’ve got fewer guests than you need for a large venue (you don’t want it to feel empty), but more than you can fit in most small-scale settings.
“Verdure” by Paperless Post; Image by Saje Photography.
The supersized: 150-200 guests
Would you like to supersize that wedding? With a wedding of this caliber, you can almost certainly invite everyone you had on your list, plus some extras. You’ll have room for friends and family, plus ones, friends of your parents, college pals, and second cousins—and then some.
Pros of a supersized guest list
With a supersized wedding comes some substantial benefits:
— A bigger party, period: A guest list of this size is a recipe for an incredible time. Photo booth selfies taken after one too many glasses of Champagne? Check. Your best friend taking over as DJ to play some of your favorite bops? Yep.
— More help when you need it: With a supersized wedding, there are often plenty of people around to lend a hand. Do you need someone to pick up your Aunt Edna from the airport? Cousin Benji is on it.
Cons of a supersized guest list
Of course, along with supersized pros, there are also some potentially large cons:
— More guests means more planning: Considering all of the very specific details for a guest list of this size can be a monumental task. Even with a wedding planner, there is a lot to sign off on, from the hors d’oeuvres down to the type of wine glasses guests will be using.
— You’ll need a bigger budget: A supersized guest list, venue, menu, and more will equate to a much larger wedding bill.
Image by The Grovers; “Gentle Shadow” by Paperless Post.
The mega wedding: 300+ guests
There’s a big wedding, and then there’s a big wedding. This is the latter. If you want to share your love with everyone you know (and probably some people you’ve only met once or twice), then the mega wedding might be exactly what you’re looking for.
Your coworkers, your book club, the mayor of the city—the sky’s the limit when it comes to a mega wedding.
Pros of a mega wedding guest list
A wedding with many guests can also offer an amazing amount of pros. Enjoy some of the mega benefits of a very large-scale guest list:
— More connections: A wedding is one of the few things that can bring people together from all over the globe. This is the opportune moment to see family and friends you haven’t seen in years.
— You can include everyone: Since you have so many invitations going out, you won’t need to agonize over who receives one and who doesn’t. Paperless Post has a variety of tasteful and elegant invitations to choose from, so you can make the invites just as momentous.
Cons of a mega wedding guest list
Some of the pros of a massive wedding can also turn into cons. Here are a few to consider:
— Less time to spend with guests: Sure, you will have plenty of people to chat with, but with over 300 guests, it’s unlikely that you’ll speak to everyone at the wedding.
— It may be harder to say no: With such an extensive guest list, you have fewer excuses not to invite everyone (including the people you’d rather not invite).
Aside from the type of wedding you have, you should also think about the wedding venue, especially if you’re considering a destination wedding. With a destination wedding, you may need to factor in plane tickets and accommodation for invited guests in your wedding budget.
You should also consider that the guest count during the wedding ceremony might be different than at the wedding reception. Some guests might leave after the ceremony, while others could only attend the reception. Considering these factors, you have to ask whether your wedding budget could shoulder the additional expenses for these guests.
Whichever route you go, make sure to keep track of your RSVPs so that you can plan and budget accordingly and accurately. Paperless Post makes this element of wedding planning extremely easy with automatic RSVP tracking and guest messaging included in each invitation.