I remember way back when Mr. Star and I were trying to figure out how to cut our guest list to a reasonable size — about a year ago now! — what a tough time we had figuring out exactly how many people we could invite and what the chances were that we would end up with the number of people attending that we were aiming for. We wanted between 80 and 90 guests to celebrate with us on the big day, but didn’t know what that translated to in terms of how many people we could invite!
I couldn’t find a whole lot of helpful online chatter on the subject at the time.
Most often what people said was, “between 50-75% of the people you invite will show up; fewer if a lot of your guests are from out-of-town.” Well, that’s great, but 50-75% is a pretty damn big margin, and when you’re trying to decide how many people you can squeeze in down to the very last head, you might be interested in a little more hard data than that. I would have been, anyways. So I’m here to use what I learned about our guest list and RSVP percentages to hopefully help some of you out. Paying it forward, people!
We invited 121 people, 81 of whom will be in attendance. That makes for a 67% yes rate, which is right on target for what we were expecting. Sweet!
Some of the factors that seem to be involved in our (and your!) attendance percentage:
- How many people have to travel from out-of-state: Obviously, the more of your guests who have to travel, the lower your acceptance rate will be. We have 69% of our guests who are traveling from out-of-state, and 31% NYC-ers.
- How far people have to travel: Same goes for the distance people have to travel — if you’re asking your guests to travel cross-country or internationally, expect fewer people to come.
- How many people are “courtesy invites”: These are people you’re inviting just to make them feel all warm and fuzzy, but who you seriously doubt will actually be able/want to come. The more you have of these, the lower your acceptance rate. Less than 1% of our guests were courtesy invites, which helped boost our “yes” rate.
- How many people you are giving +1s to: I’m pretty sure you will have a higher acceptance ratio if you are including +1s, in addition to having a much larger guest list, period.
- How tightly-knit your family is: Some people have extended families who hardly know each other (like most of my family), and others have families who all gather together for Thanksgiving dinner each year (like Mr. Star’s). The closer knit your extended family is, the more likely you will have a higher “yes” rate, although there are definitely exceptions to this rule. In our case, the cost of traveling to NYC overruled the closeness of Mr. Star’s maternal extended family, but not the paternal side.
- If you’re inviting children: Not only will you have more invited heads if you’re including children, but more people who have kids will be able to come. Not inviting children caused a few of our invites to have to decline, which we expected.
- Your and your significant other’s cultural backgrounds: This wasn’t a big factor for me or Mr. Star, but I know that there are some cultural backgrounds that take weddings “more seriously” than others. From what I’ve heard around the boards and from talking to other brides, Hispanic and Italian families (in general) are more likely to do whatever it takes to get to the wedding of their third cousin once removed. I know this makes a big difference in the acceptance rate for some weddings.
- The economic times: Although I’m sorry to say it, we live in some tough times, people. Jobs are scarce, money is tight, and while everyone loves a good wedding, it’s a fact that the recession has left some families much less able to travel for them. As hard as it can be to get a “no” RSVP, you have to cut your cash-challenged guest list some slack.
- How much fun your wedding sounds!: Haha, just kidding.
I hope that some of what I’ve outlined here helps you to figure out just how many people you can invite. Creating a guest list is a tough project — Godspeed!
What was your acceptance rate if you’ve already gotten all your RSVPs back, or what do you expect it to be if you haven’t?
- New York City
- Wedding Date:
- October 2009
- Ceremony: The Kraine Theatre, Reception: Midtown Loft & Terrace