So, as you guys know, Stallion and I invited 241 people to our wedding. (I’m dying. SO. MANY. PEOPLE.) But how many of them will actually show up?

There are a couple different rules of thumb you can follow to estimate your wedding attendance:

  • You can assume 100% of your guests will show. Obviously, this is unrealistic, but it gives you a nice cushion in your budget, which is always a good thing. We did this when looking for venues – better to have room to move around than to have everyone squished in like sardines, you know?
  • You can follow the 80% rule. I’ve seen this statistic thrown around in pretty much every wedding planning resource on Earth, so it probably holds some water. According to this method, Stallion and I will have 192 guests attend the wedding.
  • Destination wedding? Word on the street is that you can assume a 65% attendance rate. While Cape May isn’t what comes to mind when most people think of a destination wedding, it may as well be for our guests – the closest guests still have to travel two hours to get there. According to this method, we’ll have 157 guests make the trip.
  • Got a mix of local and out-of-town guests? Combine the above attendance rates by taking 80% of your local guests and 65% of the out-of-towners. We don’t have any local guests, so this method doesn’t apply to us.
  • Review each individual guest, assign them a statistical probability of attendance, and use the weighted head count to estimate your total attendance. Obviously, we took this route. Anything involving fun with Excel is a must-do in my book.

In the interest of full disclosure, I did not come up with this method myself. Actually, I thought I learned about it from another Bee blogger, but I can’t find anything in the archives. I first read about it back when Stallion and I got engaged, a year and a half ago, and I promptly filed it away in my brain without bothering to note where I found it. But wherever it came from, I’m sharing it with you all now, because I think it’s a pretty handy way to estimate your head count.

Anyway. Like I said, review each individual guest on your list. Are they probably attending, maybe attending, or probably not attending? We dropped each guest into one of these buckets, and then we assigned each bucket a statistical probability. The “probably attendings” were weighted at 90%, the “maybe attendings” were weighted at 50%, and the “probably not attendings” were weighted at 10%. Add up the weighted head count, and you have your estimate!

Here it is in action (personal photo):


  • Columns A through C are pretty self-explanatory.
  • Column D has the percentages that correspond with our probability buckets. Leslie and Ben are probably attending, Mona-Lisa is probably not attending, and Ron could go either way.
  • Column E was populated by multiplying the guest count in column C by the probability in column D. Not an Excel wizard? The formula is simple: =C5*D5 (assuming you’re calculating for Leslie and Ben in row 5). Once you’ve calculated it in one cell, click the lower right hand corner of the cell and drag it down to populate the column for the rest of your guests.
  • Cell B1, the total number of invited guests, is the sum of column C, using the formula =SUM(C:C)
  • Cell B2, the estimated number of guests attending, is the sum of column E, using the formula =SUM(E:E)
  • Cell B3 estimates the percentage of guests attending, using the formula =(B2/B1)*100

In conclusion, of the 15 guests I invited from Pawnee, I’m likely to have 9.5 attend, giving me a 63% attendance rate. Gee, I wonder who the half person will be.

This method is good if you know your guest list well – your best friend from college, for example, is way more likely to attend than a distant cousin you haven’t seen in 15 years. And if you’re not sure about a particular guest, that’s what the maybe/50% bucket is for.

Under this method, Stallion and I have an estimated head count of 160, giving us an attendance rate of 66%, which is right in line with the standard 65% estimate for a destination wedding. (In other words, our detailed analysis of the guest list was more or less pointless.) Since RSVPs are still coming in, I can’t say for sure where we’ll shake out numbers-wise, but so far, things are pretty much in line with our estimates. Not that that’s saying much, considering the RSVP deadline is still a month away.

How did you estimate your wedding attendance? How close was your estimate to the actual attendance rate?


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