How to Use Number of Guests to Calculate Your Wedding Cost

We always get questions from brides-to-be and grooms asking: I want to invite 500 people to my wedding, how much would that cost? I have N400k, how many people can I comfortably invite to my wedding? How much should I spend on wedding food per-plate? How much should I spend on venue – I am inviting 200 people? This post answers all those questions and also shows you how to calculate the cost of wedding food and venue, no matter how small or big your wedding budget is. This post is part of our FAQs about dealing with wedding guest lists when planning your wedding reception. Read on.

bride dancing guests watching
Photo Credit: Nigerian Wedding Photography by Obi

Nigerians love big, fat weddings BUT seriously, what can the size of your guest list really tell you about your Nigerian wedding? These days of bad economy, most Nigerian couples earn little and parents no longer assist that much in funding weddings. Today, most couples look to throw a classy wedding that matches their pocket. This post will show you how to know the number of people your wedding budget can feed and also how much tto negotiate with your caterer on cost-of-food-per-plate. Also you will find out how to know the type of wedding venue to look for, based on the number of guests you’re inviting. Continue reading...

Should I First Set a Wedding Guest List or the Wedding Budget?

There’s no right or wrong way to go about matching your guest list to your budget – neither method is better than the other.


If you set your wedding budget first, you can still break it down to your food budget, and then determine the per-guest cost, which gives you your maximum guest list.

For example: Let’s say, you only have a food and drinks budget of N135,000 and you want to know how many people this amount can feedAssuming, your caterer tells you s/he charges N1k per plate of food and N200 per person (for a drink plus a bottle of water, plus a glass of juice), and N150 for a piece of cake. When you add up all that, each wedding guest will cost you N1,350 for food, so that your wedding food budget limits you to having 100 guests. 

You can now multiply this per-guest feeding cost by the total number of people you want to invite, in order to get an idea of how much to reserve as your wedding food budget.

On the other hand, let’s say you only want to invite a maximum of 150 guests, but want to know how much per-plate to negotiate for food with a caterer. Let’s also assume that you started right by reserving/ setting an overall amount for your wedding, AND then using our wedding budget calculator to know how much to allocate to food and other areas.

Now, let’s also assume that our wedding budget calculator suggested that you reserve N135,000 for food and drinks. So, if you want to know how much to negatiate with wedding caterers per plate of food, all you have to do is to divide that your food budget (N125k) by the total number of guests you plan to invite (150) – and that comes to N900 per guest for food.

RELATED: How to Make a Wedding Budget from Scratch

ALSO: What Else Should I Budget for In My Wedding? (See Typical Expenses List)


Let’s take another scenario: if you set your guest list size first, say to 100 guests, and later set your food budget to N135,000 – without considering how many guests you have on your list. Dividing N135k by the number of guests (100) gives us N1,350 as the per-head cost of food and drinks at N1,350 or less.

So, What is the Best Way to Estimate Wedding Cost Based on Number of Guests?

As you can see from the two scenarios above, whichever way you choose to start from – budget first or guest list first, you’ll still arrive at the same correct answer. Use any method that feels comfortable to you to estimate your wedding budget. There’s no right or wrong way, or order – both methods are correct; so use the one that you like.

How to Choose the Right Wedding Venue Based on Number of Guests

Event venues and halls are charged by size, some by square meters. The bigger the hall, the more expensive. Now, lets look again at the scenarios above, now in terms of the guest list size versus reception size. Let’s say you found 2 venues and want to decide between a small city hall venue of N150k that seats 100 guests and there’s also a bigger events hall of N220k that seats 150 people.

My advice is to look at your budget – what can you afford? If you have a lean wedding budget, that could mean that you have to take another look at your guest list, as a smaller venue may not contain all of them. The truth is that you don’t have to invite everybody – cut down your list to your pocket. Besides, your wedding will look classy if you invite less people. Too many wedding guests (than you can accomodate) means some will not get food or feel hot in the venue and will leave cursing you.

My Advice: However, if you can afford either of the two venues, then choose the bigget venue that would give your guests a good amount of space to move around and dance, and bigger venues are more airy.

RELATED: How to Plan a Low-Key and Classy Nigerian Wedding

But, Other Things Can Also Increase Wedding Costs

It’s not only the venue cost that is affected by the number of guests you invite to your wedding. Other costs that can increase (as you increase the number of guests) are food, drinks, invitation cards and even the souvenirs (more guests = more souvenirs = more money). You can go here to read more about how a guest list shoot up the wedding budget.

Any wedding planner knows that one of the easiest ways to reduce a wedding budget is to cut down the guest list. And it’s as simple as this: if you’re faced with an overwhelming big wedding budget, trim down the guest list and you’ll see how the wedding budget will drastically reduce – try it and see for yourself.

Takeaways on Calculating Wedding Costs Based on Number of Guests

Here’s how your guest list number shoots up your wedding budget: the wedding venue can take up to 18% of your total wedding expenses, or more. Food and drinks at your wedding reception will be one of the biggest expense category in your budget, costing up to 21% of your overall wedding budget. The number of people you invite to your wedding is what determines how much you will spend on reception budget (food, drinks, venue). Few guests will eat less food and drinks and will require a smaller venue, translating to significantly lower reception budget and a smaller wedding cost.

In a country like Nigeria, where everyone assumes that every wedding is an open invite, how do you control your guest list size? That’s a matter for another blog post but one of the ways that the young couples are using is to have a destination wedding – can be abroad or in Nigeria (a different state/ city/ far from your house) – to make it a bit difficult for the uninvited to attend. Stay tuned for more tips on how to cut down your wedding reception cost by controlling your guest list.

So, that’s it from me on how to calculate your wedding food and venue cost based on how many people you plan to invite. What are the ways you are using to arrive at your wedding reception (food and venue) costs? Let me hear them in the comments section below.

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About Stella Anokam

Stella is the founder and Editor of this blog (NaijaGlamWedding). Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest. Submit your photos to be featured - it's FREE, because we love everything weddings, bridal showers, engagement shoots.

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