How Many People Will Attend a Destination Wedding?

A few months before we ordered our invitations we finalized our invite list. Initially you might think this would be a quick task since we were hoping to only have 75 people. But think again! It wasn’t at all.


We really had to pare down and limit the invites. This was fine with me and my groom since we really wanted a small, intimate wedding but the parents were a little tricky. Each of the parents had different ideas about who had to be invited. My parents are divorced and have small families on each side, while Mr. P’s parents are married and come from large families. Our unequal family size complicated things because it had to be “fair” in terms of number of invites, but it also had to be fair in the degree of the relationship. My parents couldn’t be inviting their co-workers while Mr. P’s family wasn’t able to invite his aunts!

Basically, after Mr. P and I decided on our must-have people, and then we asked our parents who was on theirs. First I asked my mom. She was super easy and understanding saying whoever I wanted was fine with her. Phew! What a relief. My dad wanted to invite all of his friends—it was so sweet because he was so excited. But I had to explain that the venue could only seat 100 people, and really we only wanted 75, so he had to select only the most important. To that he replied, “they all are important!” My in-laws really wanted to include all of Mr. Pashmina’s family and all of their extended network of acquaintances, but from the beginning we knew to be ready for this. So, we had to explain that only immediate family members would be invited (meaning no second cousins and beyond) but if they really wanted someone outside that, then they could let us know. We calculated that each set of our parents could invite up to six of their closest friends. Mr. P’s parents are constantly going out with about twenty people, alternating parties at each others’ houses. Initially they felt it would be rude only to invite a few of them but there was no way that 20 of their friends were going to make the list for our small wedding, so we had to stay firm. All of these guidelines made our parents happy enough. My mom invited her best friend (who was already on my list), my dad went over his six friends, while Mr. P’s parents ended up only inviting 4 people from their group—the two closest couples. Then they gave me all their addresses and I added them to my running Google Doc list.

The only thing left to do was decide on something I had been putting off. My co-workers: would I invite them or not? It was a cross-country wedding—should I not invite them because it would be so far to travel? Would it make them feel pressured to go and use their precious vacation time? Should I invite them because it would be very unlikely that any of them would actually go, but it would be nice ask to them? I finally decided that yes, I should ask them to be nice. But then I wondered if I should have only invited the people I hang out with outside of work, or everyone (about 30 people)?  After lots of deliberation I decided to invite everyone in my department—close to me or not—and then the people that I hang out with outside of work. This felt right to me.

So, how many people in all did we invite for our 75 person wedding? 138! They say that about 85% of the people you invite will attend. But this figure goes dramatically down if you are inviting people from out-of-town or if it is a destination wedding. uses this calculation to estimate your actual attendance: (# of out of town guests * 65%) + (# of local guests * 90%) = total # estimated to attend. I figured that since we were in the middle of a recession, that the people we were inviting were spread out all over the country, and that it was a destination wedding on an island that we were not going to have a very high acceptance list. Hopefully enough people would be able to come to fill our 75 person payment to the venue! But we were doing what all the wedding websites say not to do: inviting more people than we  could actually have!

So, we crossed our fingers and hoped that the perfect number of people would come. Not too many that there wouldn’t be space, and not to few so we would be paying for unused meals!

How did you decide on your guest list? Was it tough? How many people did you invite compared to the number that actually attended/plan to attend?


Mrs. Pashmina

NYC/Catalina Island, CA
Wedding Date:
July 2010
Completely Customized Cupcakes
Across the Shoreline: Glory Bound
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  1. Member
    Miss OBG 1279 posts, Bumble bee @ 10:56 am

    We’re having a semi-destination wedding (it’s about a 6 hour drive for most of our guests), and we’re debating the same things as you are. As an example, I invited four friends from high school, with their boyfriends, assuming either they’d all come or no one would. Turns out they’re all coming and have talked about renting a place together! I’m excited that people are excited, but I’m glad we didn’t invite more people than we could handle or have to feel anxious when our guests RSVPed yes. Good luck!

  2. ostrich Member
    ostrich 2402 posts, Buzzing bee @ 10:57 am

    what perfect timing! we’re sending out our invites next weekend! we’re inviting 75 ppl for our DW and are hoping to have anywhere from 50-75 (max). the only reason we’re not inviting more is because we’ve had some friends who actually had a much higher turnout for their DW because people also considered it their vacation. so we’ll go with round 1 and have a B list as we receive the responses :) excited to see the turnout for the pashmina wedding :)

  3. Member
    Farfromachildbride 1044 posts, Bumble bee @ 11:17 am

    We, too, had a desintation wedding and were surprised that 50% of our invitees came to celebrate with us – 60 out of 120 invited. It was perfect for us!

  4. Member
    moderndaisy 6691 posts, Bee Keeper @ 12:01 pm

    We were suprised at the number of ‘no’s we got. Only a few OOT guests actually came (including DH’s parents!) and so many locals declined, we were shocked. Overall I think we had just above a 50% acceptance rate.

  5. Member
    Miss Munchkin 48 posts, Newbee @ 12:21 pm

    ah we haven’t even started making a list and I already feel the dread of creating a guest list. I want a small affair of 50 people but we both have somewhat large families and a good amount of friends so it wont happen…hopefully we can do 80 people and hope many others will understand =)…I too will consider using the B list idea like Miss Ostrich did!

  6. Guest Icon Guest
    Ruby, Guest @ 1:25 pm

    I have actually heard with destination weddings the numbers are closer to 50%. We are inviting 200 and hoping for 100.

  7. mssushi Member
    mssushi 1479 posts, Bumble bee @ 2:27 pm

    We knew that most people either wouldn’t have the time (from work) or the finances to attend our destination wedding. So, with that in mind, we invited just about everyone. I think out of the 60 invites we sent out (about 130 peeps), only about 20 attended. Which was perfect for us.

  8. Guest Icon Guest
    Melissa, Guest @ 3:47 pm

    This has been the hardest part! We’re getting married in Sonoma (where FI lives and we will live together), but 95% of our guests will be long distance. We want 100 people max and are inviting 140. Some have already told us they can’t come…many others are thanking us for giving them the excuse to take a wine country vacation. Yikes! The venue can hold 120. This will stress me out for the next 6 months!!

  9. glasses Member
    glasses 2749 posts, Sugar bee @ 4:45 pm

    I was afraid of inviting too many people – we invited about 75, aimed for 50, and got a whopping 35. Doh! And it wasn’t even a destination wedding :(

  10. Member
    katjobin 77 posts, Worker bee @ 12:40 am

    We are inviting about 120 to our wedding, when the room holds 100 and we only wanted 80. I’m just hoping the sunrise ceremony 2-4 hours away for most of them well cause a good amount of no’s. That number doesn’t even include any cousins on my dads side, just all his sister and he’s kind of upset that my fiance’s mom is inviting some of her friends, when he can’t even invite all his family. Oh the joys of having disportionate family sizes.

  11. Guest Icon Guest
    Baseball Hats, Guest @ 2:11 am

    That is an awfully astounding column you’ve posted.Thanks a lot for that a fantastically amazing post!

  12. Member
    ktisthatbees 1686 posts, Bumble bee @ 1:34 pm

    Ha! This is crazy because we are inviting the EXACT SAME NUMBER OF PEOPLE and are hoping that the exact same number will attend. 138 and 75! Ours is s destination too; looks like we took the same crap shoot together!

  13. Member
    Zusie 937 posts, Busy bee @ 8:28 pm

    I know this post is a year old, but how many people ended up accepting? I’m dealing with very similar numbers.

  14. Guest Icon Guest
    bridebee, Guest @ 5:40 am

    I am having the exact problem! We are also having a destination wedding and invited 70 people and hoping that only 30 show up. However, everytime we talk with any guests they all seem to confirm verbally that they will be attending, yet not many have rsvped. My fiance is getting all nervous that our venue won’t hold our entire guestlist. On top of that, I felt obligated to invite my two coworkers who I hang out with most at work, and I’m hoping they know I won’t be hanging out with them during the week that we are on the island. I’m not babysitting anyone during my wedding or honeymoon. I’m feeling totally scared that 1. I invited too many ppl and 2. That they expect to be doing tourist activitied with me or want to be involved in wedding plans and such!

  15. Guest Icon Guest
    SMS1, Guest @ 2:12 pm

    This was such a fantastic read. I’m having the same problem – we are planning on inviting 200 people to a venue that can only handle 150. I think we are going to go with a B list. Also,70% of our guest list is from out of town (meaning either a 5 hour drive or flight). Do you think it’s safe to assume 40-50 people won’t attend? I am so anxious about it, I could scream. Everything has been a breeze but this!

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