Planning the Guest List: How to Know How Many Guests to Invite to Your Wedding in Nigeria

Not sure about how many guests to plan to invite to your Nigerian wedding? This post will walk you through the 8 simple steps to knowing exactly how many people to expect at your wedding in Nigeria, as well as how to divide the invites between both families (the bride’s and the groom’s side). You’ll learn how to estimate the ideal number of wedding guests, you’ll find the answer to ‘should a wedding have equal number of guests invited from bride and groom sides?’; I’ll show you how to make sure that the number of guests you set to invite will be within your affordability (aka budget); how to put together a master guest list in a way that makes  writing the invitation cards very easy. Read on.

bride in blue aso oke and veil
Photo Credit: Fola Lawal Nigerian Wedding Photography

The number of wedding guests to invite depends on your budget, as there’s a big relationship between your guest list and the budget you have – the more guests you invite, the more your budget will increase. During wedding planning, determining the appropriate number for your guest list is critical to getting your wedding reception budget right as well as knowing how many invitation cards to print. A guest list will give you a clear idea of the venue size and quantity of food & drinks you require, hence how much to budget for those – so that you will be far from over-spending or under-estimating your wedding requirements.

So, when planning how many wedding guests to expect, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

Step 1: Set the Maximum Number of Wedding Guests

Ensure to plan your maximum guest size with your fiance before getting excited and start using your phone and Facebook to verbally invite everyone – only to later discover that you simply can’t invite all of them.

So, sit down with your fiance to take the pre-wedding planning quiz in order to ensure you’re on the same page about ideas about the tone and style of your wedding, such as:

  • Get into your heads: What size of wedding have both of you always dreamed of? A small, intimate one or a big owambe-type talk-of-the-town big society wedding?
  • What is the maximum number of guests you expect to invite? Just speculate: 100? 200? 300? 500? Write it down – that’s how big your guest list should be.

Step 2: Estimate the Guests by Type

  • THE A-LIST: This is your must-be-invited persons and comprise of your very important and really close family members (both bride and groom’s side) that you don’t want to miss your wedding. you want to see at your wedding at all cost – you just can’t imagine the wedding holding without them, and you would definitely shift the wedding date for their sake.

The best way to estimate this number is to count your must-be-invited relatives – the aunties, uncles, cousins and so on. The idea here is that: Nigerian families are usually very large and if your count reveals that both of you (bride and groom) have 100 must-invite relatives and you want a 150-guests wedding – that means you’re only going to invite 50 friends (since you already have 100 must-be-invited relatives on your guest list). So, you want to make a good guest-imate and don’t want the hall to be filled with only family members searing and friends standing – because you didn’t expect it and rented a small wedding venue.

  • THE B-LIST: You should also fix a number for how many friends/ colleagues/ neighbours to invite – so that you get a good idea of the total essential wedding guests and friends to invite.
  • THE C-LIST: C is for the Contingency guest list. It’s a good idea to budget for an extra 10 to 30% more guests, if you don’t want the usual embarrassing surprise of wedding 

    food and drinks getting finished and many important guests leave without tasting anything – because in the culture is about ‘how big was your wedding (in terms of the number of people that attended)? The fact is that you will see your friends inviting extras – their cousins and friends of friends – so budget for it early. The more, the merrier in weddings used to be fun in the days of plenty but in today’s economy, having a crowd of uninvited, unplanned guests is not funny when you least expected it, and you budgeted food to match your pocket.

Step 3: Finalize the Guest List Number

Add up all the numbers – the number of must-be-invited relatives PLUS the number of friends and acquaintances you want to invite, PLUS the contingency list. That’s how to get an idea of how many guests to invite.

Step 4: Get Real – Match Your Guest List to Your Budget

It’s time to do the can-you-really-afford-it test? While it’s nice to invite everyone to your wedding, now, ask yourself this: can you really afford it? Do you have enough money to cater for them at the reception – bigger venue, food, drinks? Let’s be honest, you don’t have an unlimited budget to plan your wedding, so the fact is that you cannot afford all the money needed to feed and accommodate (venue) everyone you’ve ever met in your life. And, if you invite them and can’t feed them all, they will curse you – you certainly want to avoid that.

So, the next step is to match your maximum guest number with the wedding budget you are working with – I wrote a post on how to do that, by using your budget to determine exactly how many people you can realistically afford to invite to your wedding.


Stressed about how to not-invite some not-so-close colleagues who you’ll not miss if they don’t attend? Then ask yourself whether all those people will make your wedding day more special or simply blow your budget? Choose one!

Know that every additional person you invite will add to your overall wedding cost – every head-count increases the catering cost (food, drinks) and reception space. The difference between 100 and 130 wedding guests is a bigger hall that may cost about 30 percent more, as well as an additional 30 percent cost on food and drinks.

So, if you have a tight budget, a smaller wedding will be suitable and it can be elegant too. Afterall, the essence of inviting guests is to have family members and close friends as ‘witnesses’ to your wedding – not about inviting everyone you know. Weddings are intimate, meant for family and close friends … and your third cousin from out-of-state will eventually forgive you for not receiving an invite.

STEP 5: Book the Wedding Venue

After you agree on a tentative number of guests, you then have a more realistic idea of the size of venue that will accommodate the number of guests you expect, as well as the budget you have set. Then, you can go book the venue.  Never make the mistake of booking a wedding venue before estimating your maximum guest list size. First, decide on the number of guests before booking the venue.

STEP 6: Divide the Wedding Invites

Now that you have finalized the maximum guest size for your wedding and a suitable venue that will accommodate that number of people, next is to split the total guest size between both families (bride’s side and groom’s side).

One simple way to do this is to divide the total guest list number into 3 equal parts – (1) between the couple (bride, groom) and (2 &3) the two families (bride’s parents, groom’s parents). Let’s say, you decided you want to have 300 guests at the wedding; you would divide the guest invites into 3 equal parts – 100 for the couple, 100 for the bride’s family and 100 for the groom’s family.

Next, the couple should split up their allocated number of wedding guests into two equal parts – 50 guests for the bride and 50 guests for the groom, as per the example in this case.

To avoid any confusion, before asking your parents and prospective in-laws to submit their guest list, it is a good idea to gently explain to them the total number of guests your budget can cater for, and how you all split the guest list equally – else, they may feel upset (as parents always like it to be a big, fat Nigerian wedding).

STEP 7: Write the Names for Your Guest List

Now that you’ve split the guest size, next is for everyone to start writing names of people they want in their guest lists. The bride and groom should also write their separate guest lists.

  • Either use a notebook or a spreadsheet software like GoogleDoc online / Excel or simply use our ready-made, fill-in-the-blanks wedding guest list template to complete this step – all you have to do is print out copies for you, your fiance and each family group – for them to write their guest list on. (Scroll down our wedding tools page to download the guest list template – it’s free).

Now start writing down the names and addresses – friends, family, work colleagues, classmates etc. Start with your closest family members and move outward – to friends, co-workers, neighbours etc. Don’t worry that the list is getting too long – at this point, just list everyone that you would ideally like to invite to your wedding, so that you can see if the total number in your guest list is more than what was allocated to you.

Step 8: Compile Your Guest List

Now, gather and combine the lists from both parents, you and your fiance. Compile these lists and you now have the master guest list.  Don’t be alarmed if everyone’s guest list is longer than the number you allocated to them – that’s to be expected. Later, you will trim it graciously until it matches your desired number of guests or close to it. In another post, I’ll show you simple wedding etiquette rules to follow to decide who should or should not be on your guest list.

Now, What Next?

With the master guest list, it’s easy to write your wedding invitation cards – especially if you want to ask others to assist you – the list already contains contact details of expected guests. However, you may need to trim the master guest list to match your budget.

When faced with whether or not to invite everyone – ask yourself whether those extra people will make your day special or just blow your budget. It’s better to organize a quality Nigerian wedding reception than to invite too many guests who will leave your wedding complaining about how the food and drinks didn’t get to them. Note that including everyone who really matters while not inviting everyone you or your parents know is not in your best interest.

  • Be sure to read our article on how to reduce a wedding guest list to match your budget.

What’s Your Guest List Like?

If you enjoyed reading this wedding article, I would appreciate it if you helped us tweet/ facebook/ instagram it to your friends.

So, tell me in the comments below – did you follow along with this article? Have you made your wedding guest list yet? Did the final master guest list match your original plan?

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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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