How Many Guests To Cater For At Your Wedding

Last year, a Minesota woman received a bill from a couple for not turning up at their wedding, although they had RSVP’d to say they would be attending. (A last minute babysitter issue changed their plans.)

The couple had given their wedding venue their final guest numbers and this was what was catered for. The food was subsequently wasted and the table setting not used so the couple were charged for the no shows.

While sending a bill for their meals seems a bit extreme, (certainly by Irish standards), it does raise the question of how many guests you should cater for.

In an ideal world, everyone would a) RSVP on time, b) attend if they say they’re attending, c) not turn up if they say they’re not attending, and d) not bring uninvited guests.

(Oh to return to the naive pre-marriage days when we assumed that all of the above happened!)

At The Red Door, we often get asked by wedding couples about what percentage of invited guests typically attend. Unfortunately, there is no completely accurate answer to this. A rule of thumb is 80 percent acceptance, but there are many factors that will cause this to vary per wedding. For example, the time of year and the location of the venue will affect the number of attendees. Only couples themselves can make this judgement as they will know who would have far to travel, who never goes to weddings, etc.

However, unless you’re using your venue to its maximum capacity, DON’T WORRY. If they’ve been in the wedding business for a while, they’ll know to expect slight changes to numbers on the day. It is worth finding out how many extra they will cater for and expect to pay for the number you’ve confirmed plus extras.

However, a bit of groundwork in advance will help you to give your venue as accurate numbers as possible.


Check how far in advance your venue requires final guest numbers by. Use this to set the RSVP date for your invitations. An RSVP date two weeks before the final numbers deadline usually allows sufficient time for follow up calls to non-responders. (Bear in mind any work or other commitments in this period that may prevent follow up calls and adjust the RSVP date if necessary.)

Stress the Importance

Get creative with how you word the RSVP section of the wedding invitation to stress its importance to guests. We once saw one that read, “RSVP by 5th June, or else bring a chair and a sandwich“!

Follow Up

One of the most stressful parts of wedding planning is chasing invitees for their RSVP. There are people who will just always be serial non-RSVPers. They are too busy to tick a box on the little card that you’ve kindly supplied, probably with a stamp, or text, phone or email.

Word of warning… If space is limited, don’t invite more than the venue can hold, assuming that some won’t come. This is too risky and you have heard of Sod’s Law…

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