Wedding Venues and Your Guest List

If you are engaged, you have already been or will be faced with the dilemma of trying to solidify your guest list while pleasing one or more of the following: you, your significant other, your parents, friends, family, and co-workers. Do you keep it small and intimate and just invite close friends and family? Do you believe the more the merrier? Do you give everyone a plus one? Thus goes the drama of the wedding day guest list, but so often, you’ll need to choose your venue before you can figure out those sometimes-messy details. We’re here to talk numbers and venues, and how to strategically make the two work together like good wine and cheese.

You can’t think about your guest list without considering your venue. All venues have a capacity sweet spot—a point at which guests feel neither like they’re stuffed into the space nor standing in a vacant, cavernous room. It’s important to ask venues not only what their maximum capacity is, but what they recommend for the guest count to optimize the space. It’s your goal to find the ideal space that fits your vision and provides a comfortable, enjoyable experience for your ideal number of guests.

It’s always good to start by generating a rough list to get a sense of the number of people you expect to host. Be realistic, but don’t get bogged down in the details. Once you have a general invite list, expect a 10 to 15% drop-off (slightly more if you are inviting a large number of out-of-towners) in RSVP’s. In the end, it may help to get your list into one of these general headcount ranges:

  • Under 75
  • 75 to 125
  • 125 to 175
  • 175 to 250
  • 250 or more


DO NOT start searching venues without knowing how many people you want to invite. If you get your heart set on a venue or even sign a contract while your list is too vague, too ambitious, or non-existent, you may find yourself in a bind when you go to send out the invites.

Once you’ve determined which range your guest list falls into, you can start getting an idea of where you want to get married. It’s good to do some simple Googling to get an idea of what your options are. Don’t worry about setting up walkthroughs just yet; you want to get the lay of the land first. You’ll find that most venues will fall comfortably into one of these ranges (give or take 10 people).

Once you’ve done your first phase of recon you’ll have a list of venues that can accommodate your first pass at a guest list. This is a good time to revisit your guest list and make any changes so that you can get the most out of your prospective venues. Once the list is tightened up, it’s time to make contact with the venues you like, see if they fit within your budget, and if so, schedule a walkthrough. After your walkthrough, if you’ve fallen in love with a place and are ready to sign, make sure you review the contract carefully and understand the minimum and maximum capacities for the venue. Remember, you don’t want to end up cutting or adding guests just to meet the fine print in a venue’s contract. Take one last moment to review your list and confirm counts with any family members who will help contribute financially. Realize that at this stage in the game, your guest count will change, but since you have done your legwork early, those fluctuations should be slight and fall within the range of your venue’s capacities. Now it’s time to sign the contract and you can go home knowing that you have the perfect venue for your guest count!