Preparing the wedding guest list is nowhere near as simple as writing down who you would like to invite. It’s often one of the most harrowing steps of the wedding process.
The precise size of the guest list is largely a function of your budget and the size of your ceremony and reception venues. The number of guests you include affects your costs more than any other element of the wedding. So you can trim away all you like by cutting out an hors d’oeuvre at cocktail hour, forgoing expensive liquor for the house brand. But a wedding boils down to a cost-per-head affair, and eliminating some of those heads is the single most effective way to bring a wedding on the budget.
To come up with a more accurate idea of the number of people you can afford to host, you need to figure out your fixed cost - location rental fees, music, photography, video, and the like. Then you’ll need estimates for the costs that will vary: food, alcohol, flowers, invitations, and the cakes. As you get further along in the process, your initial idea about the size of your guest list may change.
If yours is a hotel wedding, the catering manager will be able to estimate the price per head or give you the average cost per person. For an off-site wedding, a caterer should be able to give you a per-head estimate that include food, beverages, and rentals. Subtract your fixed costs from your total budget, see what’s left, and divide that figure by the cost per head to figure out how many guests you can invite. You may realise you need to reevaluate the budget, come up with some additional funds, or trim the list.