Ask any wedding pro, and they’ll tell you the same thing: the primary factor that impacts a wedding budget is your guest list. Costs will rise and fall according to the number of people who attend your wedding, so it’s only natural to seek out answers to what can be a complicated question: What percentage of guests typically RSVP “yes” to weddings? For guidance, we turned to a roster of pros to provide some hard numbers, as well as a nuanced look at what causes those numbers to rise and fall.
Meet the Expert
• Katie Brownstein is a wedding trends expert with Joy, an online wedding planning service.
• Nicole-Natassha Goulding is the founder of and lead creative for Chic By Nicole Weddings & Events. She is based in Toronto.
• Based in Chicago, destination wedding planner Kia Marie Jenkins is the founder of Kia Marie Events.
• Kim Newton is the founder of Kim Newton Weddings and a full-service wedding planner and designer based in the DC area.
• Emily Forrest Skurnik is the Director of Communications for Zola, an online wedding planning and registry service.
What Percentage of Wedding Guests RSVP Yes?
Anecdotally, you’ll often hear wedding pros say to expect around 80 percent of your total invited guests to RSVP “yes” to a wedding that doesn’t involve major travel for the majority of guests. So, if you invite 100 people, 80 percent will accept the invitation. Destination weddings, however, commonly see lower acceptance rates—per destination event planner Kia Marie Jenkins, the percentage hovers between 60 and 70.
The number of people who RSVP “yes” is the head count you’ll provide to your vendor team for contract estimates, but know that you may see a few more drop offs as the day gets closer.
A recent study conducted by event management software company RSVPify generally corroborates that 80 percent estimate, finding that, of couples who used their platform to manage RSVPs, an average of 83 percent of invited guests accepted their invitation, while 17 percent declined. However, a closer look at numbers from more recent years, and from different platforms, provides a more nuanced story.
Per data provided by Zola, a wedding website that offers guest list management tools, the numbers are a touch lower, with an average of 69 percent of guests RSVPing “yes” in 2019. Post-pandemic, those numbers have risen—to 72 percent in 2021 and then to 75 percent in 2022—and, per Zola comms director Emily Forest Skurnik, 2023 acceptance rates are already trending even higher. Fellow wedding planning website Joy shares rates that skew even higher than RSVPify’s, with acceptances averaging 89 percent in 2019 and 85 percent in 2022.
The bottom line: You can likely anticipate that between 60 to 85 percent of your invited guests will RSVP “yes” to your wedding. On the whole, acceptance rates are increasing post-pandemic.
Environmental Factors Impacting RSVP Count
As events continue to feel the impacts of the pandemic, several factors may impact how many people RSVP “yes” to your wedding.
Many couples put off hosting their wedding during the pandemic, which means more weddings are happening. (In a June 2022 survey conducted by Joy, 75 percent of respondents still had 1 to 3 more weddings to attend through the remainder of the year, and 20 percent planned to attend four to six more.) Understandably, the uptick in events may cause guests to have to decline some invitations.
On the flip side, rising costs and vendor limitations resulting from the pandemic are leading many couples to significantly prolong their engagement period. With wedding dates set further and further in advance, guests have more time and notice to plan on attending, which might lead to an increase in acceptances.
Alongside couples, guests are also feeling the pain of post-pandemic inflation. “Another reason for a slight decrease in RSVPs could be the financial strain for wedding guests,” says Katie Brownstein, a wedding trends expert with Joy. (In another survey conducted by Joy, 42 percent of over 1,500 participants indicated they were “somewhat stressed” about the level of weddings and pre-wedding events on their calendar.) While there are several strategies for stretching your budget as a guest, some might have to make the tough but financially necessary decision to decline your invitation.
At the same time, spending two-plus years cooped up at home has people in the party mood. They’re ready to put on a fancy frock, swipe on some makeup, and hit the dance floor. “Guests are looking for a good time and are ready to celebrate,” says Jenkins, so don’t be surprised if some of the invitees you aren’t as close with check that “yes” box.
Personal Factors That Impact RSVP Count
The size, location, and date of your wedding will also effect how many people attend.
Smaller Guest Lists
“Pre-pandemic, people were a little freer with plus-ones,” says Skurnik. “Now, couples have tightened up their guest lists because they want to be surrounded by their closest friends and family, the ones they got closer to during the pandemic.” When you combine this trend with rising per-person costs, smaller weddings and micro weddings are definitely becoming more common occurrences. And because guests invited to these smaller events are more likely to be part of a couple’s inner circle, they are more likely to RSVP “yes.”
Historically, hosting a destination wedding was an almost-always effective way to cut down on guest count without cutting down on invitations, because people were more naturally inclined to RSVP with regrets. “Factors that impact this are included but not limited to cost, travel, and time off from work,” says wedding planner Kim Newton. “Since a destination wedding is usually more than a one-day affair, this will impact your guests’ decision to attend.”
Post-pandemic, acceptance rates are still down for destination affairs—“There are a few travel restrictions to and from certain areas that may prohibit guests from attending,” says wedding planner Nicole-Natassha Goulding—but they are steadily on the rise. “Post-pandemic guests are ready to travel around the world to celebrate,” Jenkins adds. “RSVP rates are high, especially for weekend events.” So don’t be surprised if the acceptance rate for your destination wedding creeps closer to 80 or 85 percent, especially if you have a small guest list.
Day of the Week
While weekday weddings are definitely becoming more popular, they can come with lower acceptance rates. “Having a Thursday, Friday or Sunday wedding is always a great way to reduce rental costs, but it requires guests to take additional days off work,” says Newton. “This does produce a challenge when committing to attend and will affect your attendance.”
Goulding, however, notes that there is one Saturday alternative that might not impact your numbers. “Friday weddings are becoming a norm now, and I haven’t seen as much of a drop in attendance” she says.