Learn how to estimate your guest count for your wedding or event with our comprehensive guide!
The early stages of planning an event can be overwhelming: Where should you start? When should you start? How do you choose a venue, or a caterer, or determine how much these elements will cost you, or how much space you will need?
An easy starting point is your guest list. Once you know the number of guests attending your event — just a general estimate will do! — you can use that figure as a guide to the rest of your planning.
In this blog, we’ll cover everything you need to know about estimating your guest count for an event, and even provide advice regarding catering portions, RSVP expectations, and more!
Don’t forget: The Heritage Center of Brooklyn Center can accommodate meetings, social events, galas, and weddings from 20 to 1,000+ guests in our indoor and outdoor spaces!
What To Consider When Estimating The Number Of Guests Attending
Estimating the number of guests attending your wedding or event can be tricky, even when you feel you have a fairly strong idea of who you’ll be inviting. After all, it’s very unlikely that every invited guest will attend! To help you estimate how many guests you should be planning on hosting — and how that number will affect key elements like choosing a venue, catering menu, and more — we’ve broken down our top three factors to consider while planning your guest list and determining your final guest count: Venue capacity, RSVP expectations, and catering.
Venue Capacity and Restrictions
The guest capacity of any potential event venue should be top of mind as you narrow down your choices to the top two or three. You don’t want to accidentally book a venue that can’t accommodate all your guests or a venue that is too big for your group!
If you’re ready to start looking at venues, try to estimate your guest count to a multiple of 10, so you can have a general sense of the capacity you’re looking for. If you’re planning an event with a pre-determined venue (like a corporate event for which your company holds a multi-year contract with an event space,) that will inform your guest count in terms of its upper limit.
Be sure to tour any venues you’re especially interested in, and ask the event planner or site manager about any restrictions, and about how guest capacity changes with various room set-ups. A venue may be able to accommodate 120 guests for a seated reception, but an additional 30 guests for a cocktail-style reception, for example. If you know your group will be no smaller than 150 guests, that’s an important detail to be aware of!
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The Heritage Center Of Brooklyn Center’s Space Calculator
We know planning a wedding or event can be stressful — that’s why we created our very own wedding guest calculator for your convenience! It offers all the information you need to calculate your space needs for any event. We’ve done all the math for you! Try it out if you’re looking at event venue spaces in the Twin Cities!
Invitations and RSVPs
It goes without saying that the best indicator of your final guest count is your RSVPs. Tally up the “Yes” and “No” responses and boom! You’re done! Sounds simple — but there’s still some estimating and guesswork that goes into getting there.
First things first: You’ve got to nail down that guest list, and bear in mind that not everyone will RSVP “Yes.” What percentage of invited guests attend a wedding or event? Well, it’s not an exact science, but various reports suggest that 75-85% of invited guests will attend your event. If you want to get really specific, event planning experts suggest you estimate the percentage of wedding guests that attend based on the guest’s location: Roughly 85% of local guests, 55% of out-of-town guests, and 35% of destination wedding guests will actually show up.
So, what do you do with that information? Build in contingency plans for those “No” RSVPs. We recommend creating categories of guests within your guest list to help you visualize a realistic final count.
Create Guest Categories
In an ideal world, everyone we invite to our exciting event would attend, but let’s be honest: We all know that sometimes, you have to invite folks that just aren’t going to show! By creating informal guest “categories” within your overall list, you can get a better sense of how many guests will actually be in attendance.
For corporate events, try three groupings:
- “Mandatory,” for guests from your company or organization who will be there as part of their professional duties.
- “Likely,” for industry peers and guests who have either attended the event or similar events in the past or shown advanced interest in this event.
- “Possible,” for guests whose interest and/or availability you cannot gauge for one reason or another.
You may also consider adding a fourth category, “Courtesy,” which indicates guests that will almost certainly not attend but need to receive an invitation as a professional courtesy.
For weddings, three groupings will also work, though their definitions will be slightly different:
- “Mandatory,” which in this instance includes the couple, their parents and siblings, the wedding party, and any other relatives who must be in attendance.
- “Likely,” for close friends and extended family not included in the “Mandatory” grouping who are nevertheless very likely to prioritize attendance.
- “Possible,” which can have two potential definitions:
- Guests who will possibly attend, but whose interest/availability you are unsure of. You could also call this the “Wild Card” category.
- Guests who you will possibly invite, but only after sending out a first wave of invitations to guests in the first two categories. This method is popular for couples who have chosen a venue with a food and beverage minimum, who therefore need to have a minimum number of guests present. When invitees in the first two categories RSVP “No,” the couple can then send an invitation to someone in the “Possible” category to fill their place.
Event catering is typically priced “per head,” which is synonymous with “per person.” Plated meals will be priced per plate, hors d’oeuvres and appetizers are usually priced per serving, and buffet-style or family-style meals will be priced per tray, i.e. “$100 per tray, feeds 80.” Therefore, if you’re trying to determine how much food to order for catering at your event, you’ll need to know early on how many people you’re feeding. This is also essential to setting and managing an event budget, as food and beverage is often the largest expense associated with hosting an event. Remember, if your event will include photographers, videographers, a live band, etc., it is considered good hosting etiquette to budget and plan to feed them in addition to your guests!
As you are requesting quotes from caterers, a general estimate of your guest count will be enough to determine whether that vendor is within your budget. As you get closer to finalizing your menu with your chosen caterer, you will need to know how many guests, if any, have dietary restrictions, allergies or special dietary requirements that will need to be accommodated. You can request this information from your guests on their RSVP cards, within your online RSVP system, or by reaching out to guests individually.
Host Your Wedding Or Corporate Event At The Heritage Center Of Brooklyn Center
When you’re ready to find a venue that can accommodate your guest count with style and ease, we’d love to host you at the Heritage Center of Brooklyn Center! We have decades of experience as a venue for meetings, social events, galas, and weddings from 20 to 1,000+ guests in our indoor and outdoor spaces. Contact us to connect with a friendly member of our events team and start planning today!