If you’re engaged, you know that the #1 response you’ll get after posting your ring pics is “so when is the wedding?! I can’t wait!” Sometimes, this comment comes from people that you may have never considered inviting to your wedding, which can be awkward and a little overwhelming. So, how do you even start deciding who to invite? (TIP: save this blog post for once you are ready to start planning discussions with your partner!)
Sit down together over a latte or a glass of wine and get excited to start brainstorming your vision for your wedding day! The very first questions you should be asking yourselves are:
Keep the answers to the above questions handy! Before we guide you through the steps for deciding how many people to invite to your wedding, you’ll need to determine what type of wedding you are hosting; a destination wedding, a local wedding, or an elopement/microwedding. There will be various factors to consider based on your unique event type.
We are seeing a trend of about 70-80% “YES” rate for destination weddings in Hawai`i. And be careful on who you extend the invitation to out of courtesy – many people get super excited about going to Hawai`i and it may surprise you how many RSVP yes – despite the travel cost and time off work required! On the other hand, you may also receive some last minute drop-outs, so be prepared to deal with those as well.
TIP: Don’t plan on creating an “A” and “B” invite list. This became a popular trend during the pandemic, as it allowed couples to invite as many people as possible (in separate rounds) due to guest count restrictions at most venues. It isn’t practical now and will only put more stress on yourselves and your guests who are deemed to the “B” list (it’s not very polite, either!)
A typical local wedding guest count in Hawai`i ranges from about 150-300 people easily with an RSVP rate upward of 80-90%. Being family-oriented is a common trait of many of the diverse cultures that make up the demographic in Hawai`i, and it is expected that children will be allowed to be in attendance as well. When making your guest list, remember that inviting one specific family might lead to having to invite 2 or 3 more in the same circle, so weigh your options if you are trying to keep things more intimate! Some extra cousins/uncles may show up to the wedding, so it never hurts to have an extra guest table setup if you suspect the potential for some overflow.
TIP: We recommend open seating for larger local events as oftentimes guests want to move around anyways (especially if there are kids). Don’t spend too much time personalizing place settings with name cards, focus on having great food and entertainment instead (because we know that’s what your uncles are going to remember!)
An elopement or microwedding are events of 25 or less. They can be a ceremony only, with a restaurant or luau to follow, OR they can be a more traditional wedding with a full ceremony and reception at a single venue. Many couples were introduced to this concept during the pandemic, and it’s a trend that is here to stay. It’s a perfect option for those that want to keep things small, stress-free, and may even want to combine it with a fun destination!
TIP: When it comes to guest lists, we believe that less is more! Imagine getting to converse with every single one of your wedding guests. Simply include your immediate family and best friends and there’s your full invite list. Your money will go further with a small guest list, so you can focus on spoiling each guest OR putting the funds towards your first home! Alternatively, you can choose to do a true elopement and not include any guests. This is a super romantic choice that honors you as a couple, and allows you not to have to worry about dealing with any difficult family members on your special day (amen to that!)
OK, now that you know what category your event falls under, it’s time to get to work:
STEP 1: MAKE A LIST!
Next, make a comprehensive list of everyone you’d like to invite. We recommend using an excel spreadsheet or planning software such as the fabulous (and free!) one offered by The Knot to keep track of invites down the road and be able to easily add in contact info. If you are one of our lovely planning or coordination couples, you will get exclusive access to Aisle Planner (our favorite planning software) once your service begins with us! If you are teetering on whether to invite someone, ask yourself “Have I seen or talked with this person in the last year? Have the both of us made an effort to stay in touch?” Those questions alone usually help you get your answer! Don’t feel pressured to invite those that you’ve fallen out of touch with, they will most likely not be as offended as you may perceive. Weddings are personal and expensive, and people will typically realize that!
STEP 2: CALCULATE COST PER PERSON
Once you have determined your grand number (you may think of others that slipped your mind down the road, and that’s ok), it’s time to do some math! Take your budget and divide it by the number of guests that you anticipate coming. For example, if you are having a destination wedding in Hawai`i and inviting 100 people, you should anticipate about 70 RSVPs. Let’s say you have a budget of $50,000, divide that by 70 and you get $714.29 per person. In the current climate, we are seeing traditional weddings in Hawai`i costing about $500-$1000 per person on average (with a minimum base or starting cost set at about $20k-$25k, regardless of guest count). This base cost factors in set costs that don’t generally fluctuate much with guest count, such as venue fee, entertainment, photography, coordinator, etc. If your per person cost comes out to less than $500 per person (or less than $20k overall) it may be time to reevaluate your plans.
STEP 3: DECIDE ON A VENUE
You’ll need to find a venue you love that can host your full guest count. Do not invite more people than the max capacity at your venue, even if you are banking on some people RSVPing ‘No’. Venue capacities are in place for a reason, so don’t expect your venue to make an exception for you if you go over your count. Finding a new venue down the road or uninviting people sounds like a nightmare, so trust us on this one!
TIP: Ask your venue if they know how much couples typically spend when hosting weddings at the space. If they are unsure, contact some local planners that work at that venue often (check the venues’ preferred vendor list!) to make sure your budget/guest count is inline with what they typically see spent on a wedding at that location.
STEP 4: BOOK YOUR PLANNER OR COORDINATOR
You’ve accomplished a lot on your own! Now that you’ve perfected your invite list, solidified your budget, and selected a venue, it’s time to find your wedding planner or coordinator! It is important to secure this vendor early-on in order to take full advantage of their expertise and advice – it can save you literally thousands down the road. Having a hard time deciding on hiring a full planner, partial planner, or day-of coordinator? Check out our ‘Which Service do you Need?’ blog post for a fool-proof plan on determining what level of service you’ll need for your big day.
Ta-da!! We wish we could say the hard part is over, but with all the amazing vendor options available there are going to be some hard choices in your planning future. LET US HELP YOU! Pick our brains on all things Hawai`i Weddings by getting in touch with one of our Star Planners.