Calculating the Guest List


You’ve worked hard to compile addresses for all your friends and relatives, you’ve decided on what the invitations look like, and double checked the list to make sure no one was left out. Now, you have to figure out who will actually come to the wedding! Don’t worry, I’m here to help you determine your final guest list.


Fortunately this wasn’t the line for the food, just to “sign in”

No “Right” Answer

Figuring out the final guest list is a tricky business. Not many people send out rsvp’s, and- unfortunately- even fewer actually respond! Besides, it’s important to you because when ordering the catering you want to make sure that there is enough food for everyone; too little and guests are hungry which makes you look bad as a host, too much and there is excess waste in both food and money.

As a general rule, we tell clients that your guest list will be about 60% of all mailed invitations (for weddings). Now, there are a few slight exceptions to this rule and they as follows:

  • You might have more people come if both the bride and groom are from the same hometown/are AND if the reception center is close by
  • You might have less if the bride and groom are from different states OR if the reception center is more than a 45 minute drive.

Some people have said to me, “Well there is also a [name of university] game that night” or “It’s the first week of the deer hunt that weekend, what if less people come?” (believe me, I’ve personally heard both of those, as ridiculous as they may seem) Those are much smaller disruptions that it won’t affect how much food you have, but maybe how many wedding presents you receive.


Serving Size vs. Guests in Attendance

We are frequently asked about our serving size, especially for our appetizer buffets. We price our food per person, but we make the food to match the number of servings. Take, for example, our potato bites:

mini sea salt potatoes with a dollop of herbed cream cheese

These delicious morsels are literally bite size. You can usually pop a whole potato into your mouth at once! If we only prepared these per person, we would run out every time! When a customer orders these, we usually plan about 2 per person.

We have also had customers pad their serving size on appetizer buffets. One, in particular, expected 60 guests at a cocktail party. For most items she wanted us to plan for 60 people, but on certain items she deemed “popular” she increased the number to 90 or even 120.

Again, there are some minor exceptions and things to consider when planning how much food to prepare:

  • Think of the kind of people that will attend. Will there be a lot of hungry teenage-burly-football players or middle age/older women who are part of a diet club? For one, you might up the per person count, whereas the other could go down a little.
  • What time of day is your event? Is your event during 5:30pm-7:30pm? If so, you might want to pad the order a little bit because your guests will be very hungry! For events during atypical eating hours, you can assume that people won’t be as hungry
  • For buffets with more than 5 selections, the numbers won’t need to be padded as guests will pick and choose their favorite items. For buffets with less than 5 selections, you can count on guests taking one of each and/or coming back for seconds.


Hopefully I was able to steer you in the right direction in calculating a (more) accurate guest list for your wedding. We want to help you make the most out of your wedding and have a great time during it!


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