I mentioned before that we were looking for a venue that would hold 120 guests. This was probably the most important factor for us, because there were some amazing spaces that could only hold 60, and we needed to know upfront that those spaces just weren’t an option. So—how did we get to 120?
Just after we got engaged, Moo and I came up with a list of people we definitely wanted to invite and asked each of our parents to do the same. Then I reminded everyone about the lists probably five billion times, because I’m very impatient and they didn’t understand why I wanted the list so early. (If you are at all like me, you should probably just explain yourself in the first place and set a deadline. It’ll make everyone happier!)
Once we had all the lists, we put them together and added on a few extra spots just in case—this brought us to around 130 people. We knew that we could get away with a space that would hold 120 people, but that our ideal space would hold 150—this would give us room for all of our definite invites, plus those we may have forgotten and all the other wonderful people who we would really love to celebrate with if the space and budget allowed.
If you look on wedding boards or Google, you’ll find that 80% is the most common rule for attendance rates. You might also find formulas to help you determine how many out-of-town guests will come versus how many local guests will come and how many guests that is total. These give me a headache, but in case you like numbers more than me, here’s one formula I found:
Formula from Nina Callaway / Image and notes are mine
I’m going to be honest: I don’t think these numbers matter.
Every single wedding is different, even if the guests are basically same, because life changes and the guests are in a different situation than before. For example: my sister got married last November. In the time since her wedding, family members have graduated college, moved, lost and gained jobs, come back from deployment, and more. All these changes plus the fact that our wedding is at a completely different time of year play a big part in the guest count, so I can’t really use her attendance rate to figure out my own.
And I personally worry way too much to choose a venue that can’t hold 100% of our guest list. I don’t even want to imagine how stressed I’d be watching the RSVPs roll in. I really don’t want to think about how I’d handle uninvited guests showing up or RSVP’ing yes if we were already short on space. (Even though I don’t think that would be an issue with our wedding and guests, I’ve read enough stories about it happening to others to scare me.)
So for us, it made sense to just assume everyone was coming and to make sure we could fit all of them. It meant ruling out some gorgeous venues and learning to picture our wedding in different size rooms, but it’s one less thing for me to worry about now!
Did you go with the 80% rule or did you make sure you had space for everyone on your guest list?